Going Away

A story of dementia and denial – from 2015. Lena’s symptoms have been mild so far, but there’s movement.

Going away
... drifting away from me ...

It hadn’t been a good week.

Fiercely striding away in front of me through the park, head down, focused, Lena just wouldn’t let it go.

– So you think my parents are dead? Well they’re not. How could you think that? You don’t know them.

This time I didn’t respond. I wished I hadn’t before.

I’d been talking about the trip to the Lake District I’d planned, on a whim, for tomorrow. For the twentieth time today, the news was new to Lena, but this time, instead of being delighted, she began to worry.

– I think I’d better tell my Mum and Dad. I think they said they were planning to go to the Lake District, and they said they wanted me to go with them.

I was gentle but firm.

– No they’re not going.

– Yes they are. They told me.

– Lena, your Mum and Dad died 15 years ago.

– What are you saying?

– You were there with them when they died. First your Mum, then a few weeks later, your Dad. You went back to Sweden to be with them.

– They’re not dead.

– We went to the graveyard when we were back in Stockholm last month, and we lit a candle for them. In the snow, don’t you remember?

– Of course I remember. But that’s another thing. They’re not dead. You don’t know them.

Stupid. I was stupid. What’s the first thing anyone tells you about Alzheimers? Don’t try to argue. You’ll never win. And don’t upset them. If they say something is true, let it be. Lie, if necessary.

But lying’s hard. And besides, I wanted to stop Lena drifting away from me, to haul her back into my reality.

All the way back to the house she was angry with me. And that’s unusual.

In the taut silence, I was having second thoughts about the trip. That recent week in Sweden had been good, surrounded by the warmth and love of Lena’s closest friends and family members. But even then she’d been on edge all week, asking every night why we weren’t going back home to our house.

In the short time since, Alzheimers had moved on, and today’s conversation took us past yet another marker. Was I making a mistake taking her out of her  everyday comfort zone again – even if it was just for two days, one night?

How will the trip go? – to be continued …

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