pear tree log: I started this blog to keep my younger son, Jonny, in touch with life in Lincolnshire, while he spent a year working in China. That year turned into five! Now he is home and training to become a physics teacher. This is simply a patchwork quilt of some of the things I enjoy - life in rural Lincolnshire, our animals, friends, architecture, books, the gardens, and things of passing interest.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

From a Beautiful Princess to an Old Woman

Princess Alexandra in Hong Kong
As a girl I loved princesses and horses, not necessarily in that order.  We spent a few years living in Hong Kong and this photograph, which dates from around 1961/62, is of lovely Princess Alexandra (who was out on a royal visit) show jumping.  I was in seventh heaven watching them.  She competed on two horses, she was beautiful, and she didn't mind little girls chatting to her.
I was deeply impressed.
I came across this letter just a couple of days ago.  I had sent it to my aunt, the gist of it being that Princess Alexandra had been out on a visit, we'd seen her quite often, but that she wasn't quite as nice as my aunt!   (I think I must have been talking about inner beauty.)
This is a photograph of my dearly loved, late uncle John and my aunt.  It was taken about 40 years ago.   Since John died we have spent a lot of time trying to help Nicki settle into her changed life.  She is not an easy woman.  She becomes more difficult as time goes by.
This photograph is my uncle with his older brother, Danny.  Shortly afterwards Danny was killed, at Dunkirk.

While we were visiting Nicki today George remarked on what a handsome pair of young men John and Danny were.   She seized the photograph and told us that it was of her and Danny, she'd paid for the photograph, did we know that?  We were a bit surprised at her vehemence, but let her carry on.  

We made some tea, had a chat about this and that, then the subject of the photograph came up again.  This time she knew that it was John and Danny and that John had paid for the photograph.

Before we left it had reverted to being her and Danny.  

Sometimes she is very vague, sometimes very irritating.  Today she was scary.   It was as though she had become John (in her mind).  

Were we wrong to just let her get on with it, or should we have corrected her?  I don't know.  

How can there be such a quick flip between the two states of mind?


  1. My Dad has Alzheimers, it seems it is not uncommon for memories to change back and forth.
    Jane x

  2. What scares me is her insistence that she serviced Spitfires and other aircraft during WWII. I can't help but wonder how many pilots got to 12,000 feet before realising that the wing bone was connected to the nut bone?

    It's truly sad that she is moving beyond the "using a notebook for a memory" stage.

  3. I love old photos..everything seems so simple then

  4. You definitely did the right thing in not correcting her. And, especially in the early stages, the memories and reasoning are not consistent. It's difficult but you find yourself getting to the acceptance stage and just nodding your head a lot. My heart is with you on this (well, on all things)!

    The letter, by the way, is charming and heart-warming, as are the photos!

  5. Jane, I am sorry to hear about your Dad. Thanks for the information.

    Owl, Well, she did her best! She has gone from using notebooks to using scraps of paper now. They are dotted around all over the place, little random scribbles about 'fur stoles around the neck' and 'King Edward's potatoes', 'Dr Kumar just a teenager when she was a doctor' ...

    John, I know what you mean!
    I always love looking at old photographs, they are sometimes very revealing though.

    Mitch, Phew! That is a relief to know. I just kept hoping that George would go along with it too - luckily he did. I'll have to do a bit of reading on the subject and try to make sure that we get a little more help with her.

    Back in those days we seemed to write lots of letters. Luckily for me, my aunt kept most of them and I was able to save a huge pile of them from the rubbish bin. It was a treasure trove because it contained dozens of letters from my late mother, which I get a lot of pleasure from reading now and then.

  6. I think it's wonderful you help with an aged relative. And also beyond price, letters of your mother's. The old folks want someone to listen and validate, and it's an easy thing to do.

  7. Joanne, people find her difficult to understand, so they avoid her. It's actually quite easy (as long as you don't mind constant repetition) because there are only three or four things that she likes to talk about. I can't tell you how thrilled I was to get my hands on those old letters.

  8. When my mother-in-law began to get confused, she would sometimes think that her son was her husband. I don't think we need to necessarily correct the confused person, just try not to get them agitated. And you're right, dementia can be scary.

  9. Love the old photos.

    I think your instincts were right. And she's lucky to have you. Seems to me if you just listen, do a lot of agreeing and nodding, and don't take anything personally, you bring a great gift to her.

  10. Jenny, I haven't come face to face with this problem before, so we are just feeling our way around it. I really appreciate what you say, thank you! We were both bewildered at the episode yesterday as it is the first time she has done that.

    Janet, Thank you! Our role does seem to be to listen - though I have to pay attention because she expects me to answer questions and fill in the gaps! Luckily it is also easy to distract her and nudge the conversation in a slightly different direction if my attention has wondered!!


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