Follow me on Twitter: @janemcintyre12



I'm Jane McIntyre, a voiceover and writer, formerly an award-winning BBC radio newsreader and producer. My blog covers life, love and loss; travel, coffee and chocolate; with some heartfelt pieces in the mix about my late dad, who had dementia. Just a click away, I'm half of the team behind - two empty nesters who whizzed round the world in 57 days.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Don`t forget me....

I write about loads of stuff on this blog. Family, friends, gin, chocolate, my dancing daughters, being an extra on the telly,running (really badly...) and my passion for travelling anywhere really...Trafalgar Square,Times Square, Rome, Marbella, Normandy (Nice is next ;)  ) 

Life is sweet, pretty much. And in the mix, is my Dad, who has Alzheimer`s. By chance, I`ll be with him on Saturday September 21st...World Alzheimer`s Day, so his partner/carer can get a much deserved day out. So here`s one I prepared earlier, with apologies to you if you`ve read it before. A piece about a trip to Kent six months ago. I`m driving through the night again in a few hours because I hate M25 jams....then I`ll sleep for a few hours and wake in time for breakfast with dad. So here it is....(Merry Alzheimer`s Day...!) If you also love someone who has this devastating condition, could you retweet this for me or pass it on another way? I hope you see those glimmers of hope and light today, too.

It was good seeing him.

I got there at lunchtime, armed with a promised picnic of treats. He was in his usual chair, angled, as ever, towards the television, glancing over, even though the screen was off.

Once a broad shouldered six footer, he`s frail now, so doesn`t tend to get up for visitors. But he returned my hug, kiss and smile and his eyes had that welcoming twinkle of recognition.

`Wasn`t too bad today on the motorway,` I ventured. `About four hours`.

`Oh?` said my dad; unwittingly about to deliver a low blow.`Where from ?`

And that`s how it is when someone you love so dearly, has dementia. It`s a slow decline, but you cling on to crumbs of comfort; feeling secure that they still know you. And they do, really. They just can`t be sure, any more,where you live.

I don`t know how he feels. But I sometimes imagine a huge jigsaw. As you grow from childhood to your adult years, more pieces are added. People, places, experiences.There are the really key segments; your family, your partner, your home. Stick them in the centre somewhere. Further out, holiday shots, pictures of the homes your children move to when they grow and leave; pieces showing the smiling faces of your grandchildren.

Then maybe, as the Alzheimer`s develops, it`s as if the pieces get removed, one by one.

Lunch came and went. Sandwiches, sausages, little pork pies, a box of profiteroles; coffee. The plates were cleared but dad`s padded lap tray stayed in position as I chatted with Phyllis, his partner. He didn`t really join in. He looked up often, towards the telly, but nothing doing there. He gazed back down repeatedly at the picture on his tray--some kind of farmyard scene.

My heart sank again, as I realised he was tapping his finger against the detail in the picture in front of him.

After about 15 minutes, and during a gap in the conversation, he looked up.

`Four`, he said, quite assertively, eyes bright, with almost child-like pride. `There are FOUR dogs in this picture`.

This is how it must be, I thought. To lose your mind. And that`s when it hits you. That the fog of dementia is becoming more dense; slowing everything down.

And when it lifts you: when a shaft of light pierces through the fog. When you find that spark, that memory or talking point from many, many years before, that cranks the memory back into action.

It was one we often return to. The Harrow and Wealdstone train crash of 1952, which claimed 112 lives. Back in the mix because Phyllis had talked about a local historian`s interest in the event, and in dad`s involvement. As I`ve mentioned in an earlier blog post, dad was a young PC on duty at the time, helping casualties. They put his picture, grim faced, traumatised, in the evening paper that night.

Bizarrely, this grim story became the shaft of light on this gloomy day. It put dad centre stage again, feeling a more adult pride this time, reliving the hours spent crawling under mangled carriages, part of the team heaving up the wreckage up to free victims, crawling into the tightest spaces to offer assurances and shots of morphine to the trapped.

`I could do it`, said my dad, who`d been digging coal at 14. `Just like those mines, see? Lying on your side. Squeezing along the tunnels. Squeezing under that train.`

Sixty years before.The darkest memories. The utmost clarity.

Two days later I came home and read the excellent blog by Duncan Jones, ( ).

His mum also has dementia, and he writes movingly about her decline, and the expected, but dreaded moment Duncan reached recently--suspecting, for the first time, that his mum didn`t really know who he was. Heartbreaking. And a moment you never want to experience.

I always feel I`m a few steps behind Duncan, but walking along the same route. Looking for those shafts of light in every conversation. Always wanting that twinkle of recognition in their eyes...

Comments on Twitter:

 Thank you for writing about your Dad; I lost my Mum to Alzheimer's - the longest goodbye.

Beautifully written & very moving > RT : OK it`s dementia. But don`t forget me... 

and 5 others retweeted you

1 comment:

  1. We lost Rob's mum to Alzeimer's, a very long and cruel disease, my heart goes out to you x