My Biggest Dementia Loss.

My parent’s marriage didn’t survive the war, the divorced as soon as my dad was demobilised and he returned to Belgium, where he had a son, born to a woman he had met there. During my childhood I saw him about 8 times up to the age of 13, after which we had no contact, beyond two very stilted phone calls,  for over 40 years. Like many children with an absent father I fantasised about him, idealised him and longed for him. When we met again at a family funeral, and it became clear he wanted to have contact me it was like all my birthdays, and Christmases and holidays arrived on the same day. We visited each other, I went to Belgium, he came back to Staffordshire, and for the first six months he telephoned me every day. Gradually the phone calls became less, but always once a week at least. Because his wife found the fact that he had been married before and had a child very difficult: Her wartime experience had affected her badly and she had emotional difficulties, we agreed between us that he would always ring me. And then suddenly the regular phone calls became less frequent and then stopped. I didn’t know why, I had no way of asking why. Given our history, how could I phone and say ‘Why have you gone again’ It broke my heart.

And then one day, while I was on holiday in Croatia, I had a phone call to say that he had died. By this time I had been diagnosed with Dementia but I managed to get from Croatia to Brussels to attend his funeral, where I learned that he had had Alzheimer’s too. Over the next months it all began to make sense, he hadn’t rejected me again, he had simply forgotten me. With so little mutual history to remember, and most of it recent, with so few reminders of my existence, why would he remember me when he was struggling with those who were there all the time. Dementia had taken my dad away from me, his and mine. My Dementia made me hold back from contacting him, fearful of what would happen, more fearful of rejection than I had ever been. Even as I write this I am crying, I loved him so much, the tie we had together were some of the most precious in my life and they were so few.

This is such a cruel disease. Don’t stay away from the people you care about who have Dementia, they need your regular contact and presence, without it you will lose each other before you need to. We need that regular contact with those we love – lest we forget.

 

4 thoughts on “My Biggest Dementia Loss.

  1. I’m sorry for yours, and your Father’s loss Shelagh.
    Someone we both know through work, often tells people that you shouldn’t assume that someone in the advanced stages of dementia doesn’t value contact from someone familiar. She explains that following contact with those familiar to the person, other people will witness that their mood lifts.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Gosh what a trauma. But so glad that you could eventually find out why he went silent again. Thanks for the advice. I plan to stay around for my mum as long as its beneficial to her, and reading your post makes me realise it may be beneficial longer than is obvious. Thank you.

    Like

  3. This : Over the next months it all began to make sense, he hadn’t rejected me again, he had simply forgotten me. With so little mutual history to remember, and most of it recent, with so few reminders of my existence, why would he remember me when he was struggling with those who were there all the time. Dementia had taken my dad away from me, his and mine

    Just wow and you are right, I regret not visiting my grandmother on a regular basis in the beginning of her diagnosis, and when I finally got the courage to visit more often she was at later phases.

    Like

  4. My dear sister
    you and I and the others _you know what I mean _ need more boozy lunches together.. More steak and kidney puddings.. Get in touch with the mad cat lady to arrange. love you xx

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close