jmgoyder

wings and things

1. Sixteen Kilometres

on July 4, 2017

I have been wanting to write a book about our experience of Dementia for some time so this is a chapter draft. I am numbering them so I can keep track. Any feedback appreciated.

SIXTEEN KILOMETRES

When Anthony says he has run sixteen kilometres, fixed all of the fences around the farm, and found the rogue mouse, do I correct him? Of course not!
Yes, Anthony used to love running around the paddocks (for the sheer joy of running). He also used to love the fiddly aspects of fixing fences, and I vividly remember his hilarious determination to eliminate a mouse, using a fly swat, in the hallway of our house.
So, when Anthony talks about these things as if they have just happened, I go with the flow by acknowledging these accomplishments, hallucinations and memories. I only ever contradict Anthony, if what he is seeing, or sensing, is distressing to him (more about this later).
Anthony: There he is in the corner, Jules.
Me: Who?
Anthony: The baby.
Me: You mean Ming?
Anthony: That furry one there [pointing to the corner of the room where is nothing]
Me: So is it a dog or a child?
Anthony: A bit of both.
Anthony sometimes forgets that Ming (our 23-year-old son) is all grown up, so he often ‘sees’ Ming as a baby or toddler. This hallucinatory thing mostly happens when I am visiting by myself. When Ming visits by himself, Anthony often misrecognises Ming as a cousin, uncle, even a deceased relative. I had already prepared Ming for the inevitability of Anthony not recognising us so, when it happens to Ming, it’s okay.
To some people, the idea of not being recognised by a spouse or parent or friend is the last straw. It’s quite common for relatives and friends to stop visiting a loved one, because they aren’t recognised. So what! As long as you recognise him or her, then surely that’s what counts. People with Dementia don’t intentionally hurt the people they used to know so well; they don’t intentionally misrecognise.
Anthony: Where’s Julie?
Me: I am Julie.
Anthony: Oh, that’s right.
Maybe it’s the constancy of my visits, maybe it’s because, despite Anthony’s Dementia, he and I still adore each other, maybe it’s just luck, but Anthony almost always knows who I am. I am so glad that I’ve been transcribing our dialogues for so long because, even though these conversations are mostly short and sweet, they are like gold to me.
Not long ago, I entered his nursing home room after days of not being able to visit because I was sick. It was the best welcome I have ever received (from anyone):
Anthony: Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. I was just trying to conjure you.
Me: Oh, Ants – I’ve been so sick!
Anthony: Yes, I know. The kids told me.
Me: Are you okay?
Anthony: I’ve been running.
Me: Again? No wonder you look so tired! How far did you run this time?
Anthony: Sixteen kilometres.

 


12 responses to “1. Sixteen Kilometres

  1. Anonymous says:

    Perfect first chapter. Can’t wait for more!

  2. Shaping up already!

  3. So poignant and sweet. Lovely.

  4. Judy says:

    You can run with this! I love it. 🙂

  5. susanpoozan says:

    Don’t alter a word, it’s perfect.

  6. when my friend no longer recognised me, she at least remembered I was her friend.

  7. tootlepedal says:

    Useful and interesting.

  8. Anthony can run further than I, but I bet I can over take him on my bike!!!

    You know I think you are a brilliant writer Julie. I think this story needs told. And retold….

  9. ksbeth says:

    this is so good, and what a great way to begin )

  10. tersiaburger says:

    Beautifully written my friend

  11. I hesitate to interject, but as I read, I felt the “running anecdote needed something else to transition it into the dialogue.

    acknowledging these accomplishments, hallucinations and memories. I only ever contradict Anthony, if what he is seeing, or sensing, is distressing to him (more about this later).
    ……………..perhaps set up this dialogue with another sentence.

    Anthony: There he is in the corner, Jules.
    Me: Who?
    Anthony: The baby…………….

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