Tuesday, October 26, 2010

What's in a Name?

'We must send that book to David!' he says.

'David?" I ask. 'Which David?'

'You know, he had a birthday the other day.'

'My son David had a birthday in September.'

'No no, not him. My daughter's boy.'

'Oh, Jonathan! Yes you're right, we'll get it posted tomorrow.'

He decides to write in the book tonight. 'Dear David,' he says aloud as he picks up the pen.

'JONATHAN!' I yell.

'No, I'll just call him Jon.'

'J-O-N' I spell out, 'No "h"'.

He writes the message and gives me the book so I can sign it too. He has written 'John'. I can't rub it out without making a mess. Jon is 18 now;  I hope he will understand and not be hurt.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


I realise I'm angry with him for getting confused and forgetful. It's not a rational anger, of course. I know he can't help it. But my irrational inner self is extremely cross with him as if he could help it! As if he was doing it on purpose.

It's still mild really. While it has something to do with his medication and the state of his blood sugar, it's fairly clear by now that it isn't only that‚ or if it is, given that he has to have the medication and does have the diabetic problem, it comes to the same thing. Both diabetes and medication are monitored and well controlled, so it's rare for him to be totally in la-la-land as he was in hospital back in June. However, alongside the well-controlled mildness of his dementia is a very gradual worsening.

Until recently it was mainly cognitive, i.e. to do with practical tasks like using his computer, plus increasing but not excessive forgetfulness. He always has me to refer to if he loses someone's name, for instance, and then after I've given it to him he will remember it again for some time. At least, I consoled myself, he could still carry on an intelligent conversation about ideas. At least we could still enjoy discussing books, movies, politics....

Now the disease is starting to encroach on this area too.

I am getting to know the general blank look that comes over him when he's having a bad day. That's the sort of day when I get many calls to help him fix something that has gone wrong with the computer, only to find there is nothing wrong — it's just that he has forgotten some simple operation. ('Write it down for him,' said his daughter months ago. It's not that simple. Then he has to remember that things have been written down and where to find them. He moves things, even when they have designated places to live, and forgets that he shouldn't do this, and forgets to put them back, and forgets where to put them back....)

It was such a day yesterday. I was relieved when we sat down to watch a movie together, but the blank look in his eyes continued. It was 'Hawaii', about a stiff-necked missionary trying to change the Hawaiian people and being changed by them. Himself reacted as I did, as the audience was supposed to.  Then, when the missionary's wife was exhorting him eloquently to love the people, and I was moved to tears, he suddenly said to the actor onscreen,  in a rough, crude voice, 'Don't listen to HER!'

It was so out of character that my mouth fell open. 'How can you say that?' I asked him, even while knowing he could only say it if he had utterly lost track of what was going on. He gave no answer. I cried a bit more, not from the movie, then controlled myself. What good would it do to go on about it?

I found myself a bit short and snappy with him, until I noticed and stopped myself. Why hurt his feelings? He wouldn't know why I was angry with him.

But I realised I was furious. A 'How can you do this to me?' feeling. As if he would do it to me, or himself, on purpose. I'm going to have to come to terms with this one, somehow.

He does himself realise something of what is happening. At times, when he says things that don't make sense to me, and I question him, he will  say, 'I don't know. I'm confused.'  Sometimes we can sort it out; sometimes we leave it at that.