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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.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Dementia..or dating? : the choice isn`t yours

Two ladies; both out for coffee; each with a companion. The one on my right was probably late seventies. Neat grey hair; polished nails, car keys in the pocket of the dusky pink bodywarmer on the back of her chair--an Audrey, probably. She talked animatedly to a lady of a similar age about a new gentleman friend. He was `on a lot of committees`; a widower, who`d loved to go dancing with his late wife. He`d told her they `both deserved some fun and some friendship, now ,` and she`d agreed. In fact--talk had turned to holidays; a cruise together, maybe. The friend nodded; made approving noises; pointedly stirring her latte in a lull as you might a wind-up radio...egging her on; keeping the confidences coming.

`Dolly` was a few tables away to my left, and a few years ahead; her wheelchair tucked in tight. The young woman opposite called her Nan, and gently encouraged her to try a corner of her scone, dabbed enticingly with butter and jam. The older lady`s expression hardly changed as she ate; almost obediently. No voice was heard. Her thoughts seemed locked away; her eyes, distant, as Dad`s had become, in the later stages of his Alzheimer`s, in the days when he could still just remember how to eat; and sip from an open cup.

Audrey favoured a route that took in Sicily, or somewhere like that, but they`d only just started looking.The onboard facilities these days were incredible. So, too, cabins with a balcony, but they cost a bit more. A pause; then a neat deflection of the inevitable question to follow: offering to pop up for a piece of flapjack for them both, and another drink--her treat; anyway, they had half an hour on the car park ticket.

Dolly was being encouraged to pick up her paper napkin and blot a splodge of raspberry jam from her chin; no, up a bit; no, hang on; her granddaughter would come round. Dolly leaned her face back and closed her eyes, childlike; trusting, as her skin was wiped clean; roles reversed.

Audrey edged past, tray laden with more coffee; the promised treats; a morsel more about the mystery man, maybe, for her waiting friend.

I got up to pay, needing, somehow, to connect with Dolly and her carer as I passed their table. It`s been a year since Dad died and I`ve avoided even glancing at people with`s hurt too much. I knew what a major effort it must have been to get Dolly ready; to explain to her what the morning had in store. And I knew, for both of them, what the months ahead have in store for them, too. My throw-away comment about the delicious scones in this place was met, as I guessed it would be, by a blank expression from Dolly; food consumed five minutes ago, forgotten. She turned, instead, to the familiar, for now, face of her granddaughter, and told her they probably needed to go back and get ready for bed.

A look back as I left, took in Audrey`s friend, agog now, stirring her coffee briskly; excitedly, to a stiff froth. And Dolly being told gently that she was just confusing night and day again; the way she did sometimes.

Two people.Two parallel lives. And how they can diverge, for all of us, with one roll of the dice.

+I wrote about Dad`s dementia pretty much all the way through its progression, to his death last year. Please click on the `Dad has dementia` link on the right hand column for more. Or click on the other stuff...about chocolate, or holidays, or being a TV extra....or that French bloke on the beach in Nice. Thanks for dropping by!

Comments on Twitter: Thanks for these, and the retweets :)

This is a lovely post. And the last sentence sums it all up. x

Beautifully observed, Jane ....

So concise & poignant, it might be a short story, via

Isn’t it wonderful? The juxtaposition of the two fit and able ladies with the dementia sufferer works so well.

Yes - I read this when you tweeted it earlier & can't stop thinking about it. Incredibly effective

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