Dad and Me

My Dad passed on many years ago. I like to think we were alike in many ways, though he might disagree. This post is going to be about the stuff I think I got from my Dad – traits he either passed on genetically or rubbed off via close proximity!

In a previous poem I wrote about how terrified I was by Dad’s night driving.¬†Actually his driving was good, but my vision was poor. I was fearful because I couldn’t see well.¬†In any case, I learnt a great deal about defensive and considerate driving from Dad.

Dad was an independent thinker and never took anything at face value. He always examined underlying facts and made up his own mind. He never just believed what he was told. On bad days, this bordered on paranoia.

Whilst Dad appreciated beautiful artworks, he did not go about acquiring them. He lived and dressed very simply. He was honest, never took what wasn’t his. And couldn’t tolerate those who connived and schemed and stole.

Finally, he understood too well the human condition, and helped those who helped themselves, and sometimes even those who didn’t.¬†He kept much of this secret during his life, and so I am still learning.

If he were still alive today, what would he think about living with dementia? I think he would hate the idea. I’m pretty sure he would instruct me not to prolong his life when the time came. In that way, he would be very different from Mom.

Mom has never acknowledged having dementia, and is contented to be looked after. She looks forward to every new day.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Intricate

Music boxes have always fascinated me. Mom used to have one with a twirling ballerina – I remember how the dainty ballerina would flip and lie down when you shut the lid and bounce up again when you opened the box.

When I was last in Japan, I was delighted to find a museum entirely dedicated to mechanical music. This was the Kawaguchiko Music Forest at the foot of Mount Fuji. Here are a few pictures of the inner workings of some of the music boxes, which are truly intricate. Hat-tip to the craftsmen who designed and made these.

This large music box is about the size of a piano and has three separate sections of notes. The large drum gives an indication of the length of the music. Note the additional bells towards the back
The museum shop was very tempting and the Japanese versions were a third the price of the Swiss ones.
Close-up of one of the boxes – note how tiny the protruding tines on the drum are

Posted in response to the Weekly Photo Challenge – Intricate

Bit by bit

I started this blog over 3 years ago, to have some sort of record of Mom’s progression with dementia. Nonetheless, if¬†I were to look back and read through what I’ve written,¬†the progressive losses would not be obvious at all. Most times things change very little from day to day¬†or from week to week. The pictures tell a different story though. Just looking at the pictures from a few years to a few months ago, and the contrast with reality today is stark.

4 years ago –

Mom is still living on her own, quite independently. She tends to overpack for her holidays, perhaps because she cannot quite remember what the weather will be like.

3 years ago –

Mom is living with me. She needs reminders to take her medication. She is over-friendly with strangers, and sometimes very fierce towards little children. Long walks start to tire her out.

2 years ago –

Mom is super observant, because she is now watching and copying what to do. At mealtimes, she copies my movements. She can still hold a conversation with some of my friends, and ask questions. She enjoys Dementia Day care. She tells me off, “I don’t like what you said just now”.

1 year ago –

She starts to be physically unwell. Climbing stairs becomes quite difficult. She starts to lose her appetite. Arguments start because she has forgotten what she did earlier in the day. Says, “Why do you ask?”

Now –

She is housebound, needs help with bathing. Eats with one utensil and one hand. Doesn’t like to go out, but smiles a lot. Says, “What to do? Life”.¬†Frequently says, “I don’t remember already, so long ago.”

4 years ago, she was independent.

Looking Back 2014…

I’ve had a pretty mixed year, I think. On the one hand, I’ve spent some beautiful times meeting old friends, traveling and seeing new places, tasting new foods. On the other hand, the lasting memory of 2014 will probably be Mom’s hospitalisation and the hairy ride before she was¬†discharged, and the difficulties we are now facing with repeated infections.

My relationship with Mom continues to evolve as we both change. Only last year, a friend remarked to me – you speak with your mother as though she were a child.¬†She didn’t mean it negatively, she just found it novel and a bit cute. I only hope she understood why it were so. I had used short sentences, simple ideas, and a sing-song voice, just as one would when speaking to a young one. This comes naturally to me, and I find Mom is less confused and more cooperative when I do this.

Another time, a friend said – She must be terrified at what’s happening to her. This idea was news to me. Mom¬†never spoke about her condition, and she never complained. In fact, she was more inclined to say she was okay even when she wasn’t, which is probably why we often miss the early signs of illness. Mom has a remarkable ability to accept the way things are and carry on. I don’t think she’s scared, more likely just baffled, especially at being unable to¬†do physically what used to come easily.

It’s strange¬†but a new insight into my relationship with Mom came from an acquaintance, who noticed my pet causes¬†had a common theme – You’re pro-choice! Why is this?¬†Could it be you felt you weren’t given a choice? Who took away your choice, was it your mother?¬†A door that had long remained close in my mind opened, and I¬†remembered what my mother used to preach¬†– that children should and can always be persuaded to do what was right.

The problem was, who defined what was right?

I did not always agree with Mom on what was right, but on occasion I was persuaded. If she didn’t fully convince me, I sometimes completed the job and convinced myself, following reason instead of my heart. Believing “I shall overcome”, I have suppressed my deepest instincts to do something else. This has led to some¬†pain, complications, duality.

This past year, I have reflected upon Mom’s influence in my life, and my own complicity in the decisions I made. I am more at peace with Mom, the niggling irritations that I didn’t understand have disappeared. A few years ago, before dementia was diagnosed, Mom said to me –¬†life’s like that, it’s okay.¬†I like to think she can still understand this much, even though the words are now missing.

Amazing Grace

Amazing Grace
 

Driving home one day, I sing along with the male choir on the radio, and as is always the case, I find my eyes tearing with this hymn:-

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me?
I once was lost, but now am found; was blind but now I see.

 

What is it about this verse that moves me ever since I first learnt it more than 30 years ago? Perhaps I identified with being a wretch, and needing to be saved.

Or perhaps it is the second line that drives home the message. Life is about epiphanies, life changing moments and lessons. Always learning anew, reviewing the past through new lenses as we figure things out. Hence we were always lost, always being found or finding ourselves. Always having blind spots, too preoccupied to notice what was really going on around us.

When I was young, I expected my children to grow and mature with every year that passed. Every year brought progress, new interests, a new understanding, a new way of viewing the world. Yet somehow, I never thought the young adult me would change every year too. Looking back, when I was 25, why didn’t I think I would be different at age 30? When 30, why did I expect I would be same at 40? Why do young people get married thinking the marital relationship will remain unchanging?

Every few years, something comes along to shake me up, and I realise I’ve been blind and lost, always realising it in hindsight.

What mistakes am I making today that I will recognise in the years to come? I can’t wait to find out. Meanwhile, I pause whenever I can, think things through, meditate a bit, and look for the truth that speaks to my heart.