“I remember” he protests “I do, I do” with an intense frown across his face. Spoken with such conviction but strained in such a way that it’s obvious he’s trying to convince himself.
“I’m sorry, but to be perfectly honest I don’t think you do” she replies touching his arm ever so gently.
“What? Why?” he questions looking at her. His head cocked to the side with these wide sad eyes the kind a puppy makes at you when it’s begging for scraps.
“I’m sorry dad, I mean what you remember and what actually happened seem worlds apart. I think you’re confused, maybe even remembering someone else’s life or one that never actually existed. One from your own imagination” she tenderly places her hand across the top of his and lays her head on his shoulder.
“I don’t understand” he mutters looking puzzled, his eyes moving side to side as if searching deep inside for the answers “I remember vividly, like it was yesterday May”
“Dad, I’m not May, I’m not mum” she pleads with him, willing him to remember her. Welling up, she tries desperately to hold the tears back. “I’m Jane your daughter” she adds. He turns his head towards her, for an instant she has a glimmer of hope, but then she sees his look is vacant. Straight through her as if she’s not there; or more upsettingly as if he’s not there anymore. “It’s me Jane, I’m here dad, I’m here” she says shakily, her voice trailing off as she realizes it’s pointless he doesn’t know who she is. He doesn’t remember her, he just sees his wife at a time before she even existed.
Sitting in silence, she once again places her head on his shoulder but this time she grips his arm tightly, holding on for dear life, not wanting to ever let go. Her lip quivers and a tear rolls down her cheek onto his woolen cardigan leaving a damp patch. They’re sat facing the garden of the care home, the birds are on the feeder. He loved watching the birds together she remembers them sharing this fascination for the whole of her life. As a little girl, standing at the French doors they’d watch intently trying not to make any sudden movements or too much noise. He’d even name the seagulls that flew overhead daily he’d say “here come Barnacle and Jemima” no matter if they were the same ones or not. Closing her eyes she imagines they’re once again rooted to the spot watching in peace together, the thought warms her heart, she has such happy memories.
Such a fun dad, he always joked around. She started reception class always telling all around her “my dad’s my best friend we make fun together, we be silly.” Growing up she’d had this cute little lisp, everyone would comment “aw bless” as she spoke. Nothing fazed her though, not when she had her daddy there, her tower of strength. Sure if she fell and hurt herself it was her mummy she’d run crying to, to kiss it better but “I love daddy most” she started saying at a young age. Her heart swelled full to the brim with the love she felt for her dad. It was fit to burst.
The care worker comes in the room breaks the silence and her day dream about happier times is interrupted. “How are we doing today Walter?” she asks, no response. Jane glances at her and shakes her head in dismay, then hangs her head heavy as if looking down at the floor. “He’ll have days like this more and more now Jane, I’m sorry to say. I know it’s not what you want to hear. But it’s important you prepare yourself for what’s to come. He’ll deteriorate rapidly, till there’s nothing left of the Walter you remember. It’s such a cruel disease. My heart breaks for all involved.”
“I’m sorry I need a minute” she says quickly standing she holds his head between her hands and gently kisses his forehead before rushing for the door. She has to get out of there, her heart is racing she can’t breathe. She makes it out the front automatic doors and drops to the floor wailing looking up at the sky before once again hanging her head. Burying her face in her hands stifling her screams, `she’s not ready, she’ll never be ready. Why this, why Dementia, of all the illnesses. I just want my dad back!’ she thinks indignantly as if she’s a toddler about to stamp her foot in anger in the midst of a tantrum.
Dragging herself to her feet using the wall to balance her she has a stern word with herself `Come on Jane pull yourself together’ she dries her tears composes herself. Wiping down her skirt straightening herself out, she turns to re-enter. `She’s all he’s got left, it’s her turn to look after him now. He deserves the same level of care he gave her growing up. It may not be fair but what in life is. He has his moments - he still has lucid times even if they are becoming few and far between recently. She has to hang on and focus on these glimpses of the old Walter. She has to be there to make sure she doesn’t miss these minutes. She’d never forgive herself if she missed even one second of these precious moments.’
As she re-enters his room he looks back at her `Jane where’d you go?’ she rushes over puts her hand in his.
`Nowhere dad, I’m here, I’ll always be here’ she implores tears once again filling her eyes this time tears of pure joy.
He pats her hand saying `That’s my girl’ looking once more out the window he says `look Jane there’s Barnacle and Jemima they’ve come to check on us again’
She likes this idea that no matter what happens there’ll always be a Barnacle and a Jemima flying overhead reminding her, her dad will always be with her. Forever watching over her, sending Barnacle and Jemima to glide across the sky above, checking in on her for each day of the rest of her life. She’ll never forget.
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So sad. Dementia is a horrible illness that no one can come back from. I had an aunt who had dementia. She had been so vibrant and then she was a shell. Unfortunately she died a few years ago. You captured the sadness and heartbreak. Just wanted to mention, if you can still edit, there are several typos. Just reread and you will catch them right away. You did a great job with this story!
Aw so sorry to hear about your aunt, such a cruel illness for all involved. Thanks for your feedback it is very much appreciated - not sure you're allowed to edit once it's submitted and contest closed - will check and change my end though - thanks so much xx