Saturday, 23 June 2007

Bothered and Bewildered

We saw our elderly friend James yesterday, who was thrown into a stuttering panic by the unexpected arrival of his doctor, and was further confused when we turned up. We asked if he wanted any shopping done, or anything mended (everything’s falling apart in his house).
‘Ah – yes,’ he said and took us into the kitchen where he’d been trying to get the video to work.
At that point the doctor left, and the phone rang. This was evidently too much and poor James got into an even worse state on the phone, waving at me frantically. I thought he couldn’t hear because of the noise of the TV, and tried to turn it down. No luck. James waved even more frantically so I went over.
‘Who are you?’ he shouted. ‘What’s your name?’
I told him and he shouted the information down the phone before returning to the kitchen. ‘You look bewildered,’ he said, putting a comforting hand on my shoulder.
I wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry, but opted for the former.

Himself finally got the video working and we were about to leave when one of the cats walked in. I was horrified – she was so thin and scraggy, and he’s always adored his cats. I found some catfood and put down a large plateful which she tucked into with relish. James came and stood beside me, looked down at the cat.
‘She’s very thin,’ I said.
‘She’s very thin. The cat.’
James looked down at the floor and seemed puzzled, but whether because he hadn’t noticed the cat, or hadn’t noticed how thin she was, I wasn’t sure. ‘Oh,’ he said blankly.
I’d love to have both cats, or even just one, but two animals in a one bedroom flat is pushing it, I think. Added to which, I don’t expect Buster and Mollie would welcome Intruders, so I rang his neighbours to ask if they’d keep an eye on the cats. As they don’t like cats I feel this is a bit of a liberty, but what else can I do?

Having fixed everything that needed fixing, it was time to go and poor James looked Harrowed, so I suggested he should have his afternoon rest. He insisted on seeing us off, and as we got into the car, he stood there looking like a little boy and said, ‘You must curse me.’
We comforted him, but I felt that words were inadequate. So what do you say? How do you help someone whose brain is in such turmoil?

Writing fiction, it’s vitally important to get inside your character’s head in order to be able to write convincingly. This is always a challenge, but I dread to think what’s going on inside poor James’s head. It must be so frightening not to be able to communicate. As we drove off, I thought, how does he survive in a world without access to the right words?

On that note I must go and help search. Himself has lost a photograph of an old jazz band he was in and had promised to take it to cousins this evening where we are having a Musical Evening. The photograph went missing after Himself took it out of its frame weeks ago (why the hell did he do that in the first place?). Of course he can't find it now and has been looking since 8am. As you can imagine, tempers are somewhat Short by now and it is, of course, all my fault.

'It's gone,' he cried. 'You've thrown it away.'

Note he has absolved any responsibility for this and now the entire flat has been turned upside down. Oh, for a peaceful life....


Cornish Dreamer said...

I felt so sad reading this account FP. It's so cruel that someone who was once perfectly capable has so many problems remembering things now. I expect he feels afraid and as your title says: bewildered.

Thank goodness he has such good friends as you guys.

Good luck finding that photograph.


Flowerpot said...

thanks for that, RT. It is terribly sad and nowadays I think most of us know someone with dementia. Is it more commonplace or are we just more aware of it?

Louise Mitchell said...

What a touching posting. My mother-in-law is a bit like your James. Her short term memory has completely gone. Last weekend her friend visited her on Saturday afternoon and she went out to a concert in the evening. On Sunday her daughter took her out and brought her back to us for dinner. When we took her home I said: "You've had a busy weekend, haven't you?"
"Yes, I have!" she replied. Then there was a pause. "Why?" she said, "What have I done?"! Oh dear! We laughed but it's all very sad really.

debio said...

simply the worst affliction of old age - how sad...

Mopsa said...

Wishing you peace and quiet. And you have been memed - feel free to ignore...

Flowerpot said...

well, mopsa, this is new to me - I'll have a go though!