I have called this ‘I wouldn’t bother’, because this was something my Dad said an awful lot, when he didn’t want a fuss. And I know now that he would not want to make a fuss about his dementia either.
Who would have thought that something like dementia would hit the most intelligent and intellectual man on the planet, my Dad. My Dad, who was humorously nicknamed ‘the Oracle’, since when he spoke, he always had the right answer for everything. But, suddenly, he did not know his own home of 46 years or the garden he had tended and the trees he had planted and he did not even know the names of his children.
This just seemed unfathomable to me. And we adult children, now all in our fifties and sixties, have had to deal with this blow. I miss him terribly and three and a half years of him living in a nearby care home, does not make it any easier.
I lie, actually, it does get ‘easier’. Nothing compares to those early days, when he appeared so distressed and chain-smoked, cadging cigarettes from the care staff, when I had never seen him smoke. (A pipe and St. Bruno flake in the 1960s yes, but never ciggies).
I missed, and still miss, the big, strong man; the Dad, who made me fly high in a ski lift in Austria and held my hand and made jokes, when I was afraid of heights and who mopped up with his hankie on the ferry boat, when I was sea-sick.
He was a bit like Sir John Gielgud in Brideshead Revisited – measured, slightly absent at times in conversation as I was growing up, often behind a newspaper, interested in any news, documentaries and science, but who also loved Dennis Potter dramas and strangely, Sondheim show tunes. He had an eclectic taste: Porgy and Bess, Paul Robeson, the Beatles, Debussy and Satie, (and his Gymnopedies).
Dad had a deeply artistic side. He was a prolific photographer and won many trophies and competitions. In fact, two of his large, framed prints grace our city’s hospital corridors.
We would ingest a glass of wine or two on a Sunday with lunch and I would lie on the living room carpet in the sunny spot, ‘listening with Dad’. He was contemplative, an agnostic, whilst my Mum is Catholic. But my Dad was always a deeply spiritual person. And each summer, he would drive a family of six all over Europe with a tent – four teenagers - sheer hell! But it was wonderful. As always, he calmly got on with it.
He had a wry Merseyside sense of humour.
‘Don’t you worry your pretty, little head about it,’ he once said to me. I was delighted he had called me, his only daughter, pretty, but then it was ruined, when he said ‘and when I say, pretty little, I mean pretty little’. He found it hard to express affection, a man of a certain generation and era. But he can now in bucket-loads, as he becomes teary just holding my hand. The affection was there all the time. I can see it now at last.
But where has he gone? Has HE gone, or is he still in there? What is going on in his head? He seems relatively peaceful day to day and sleeps a lot and does not seem distressed. I am sorry I can no longer access the clever, funny, introverted spirit, he used to be and hold conversations with him, though sometimes, I swear it is there. I suppose he is still just ‘getting on with it’.
If I ask whether I should do this for him or that, I hear him say:
‘I wouldn’t bother………’