My Dad’s a Goldfish – they told us this would happen

They told us it would happen. We’ve read about it, were expecting it, knew it was the disease, not to take it personally, but – it still hurt.

I had gone up to give dad his breakfast and as he was munching on his cereal with banana I mentioned it was my birthday.

“Oh, many happy returns,” he said.

“Thank you. Do you remember the night I was born?” It is one of those stories I’ve heard many times. They lived, then, on Islay, a small island off the west coast of Scotland – famous for its whisky. My mother (not the step-monster) had passed her due date and was restless and becoming anxious. The nurse/midwife was called, examined her, told her nothing was going to happen for a while and left – for the pub. Some time later it was obvious things were happening and the call went out for the midwife to come back.She was eventually tracked down but by then the doctor had also been called. My mother was apparently in an extremely stressed out state. When they tried to give her an injection (I’m assuming Pethedine) her muscles had become so tense the needle wouldn’t go in. Clearly an unforgettable occasion.

The Goldfish laughed. “No, why would I remember that?” he asked.

“Well, you were there,”

“No! What would I be doing there?”

“Because you were there the night I was born.”

He laughed again. “Why would I be there?”

“Because you are my father and you were there the night I was born.  I’m your daughter.”

He shook his head and I realised, at least for then, I was not his daughter.

Who did he think I was? Some random woman who came to give him tasty meals?

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20 thoughts on “My Dad’s a Goldfish – they told us this would happen

  1. Oh, Mary. That is heartbreaking. I am sorry this time has arrived. I dread it when my Mom doesn’t recognize me. So far she recognizes all the kids and grandkids, but struggles to recall every name. Damn, damn, damn…. Hugs to you.

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    • It was a very strange feeling, Julie. I knew he couldn’t always recall my name – called me Sunshine – called everyone Sunshine which was a clever cover-up for a while but this was different. I felt like I’d lost my identity in some way. Thanks for the hugs – much appreciated.

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    • Hello Lynn, thanks for dropping in and commenting. Yes, although we knew it would happen, it is sad when it does. I keep wondering who he thinks I am. Sometimes he does know me but it varies from day to day.

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  2. Mary, I have known your dad all of my life as my parents were great friends of your mum(Rose) and dad and this makes me so sad. Your dad also used to come out to see my husband years ago when he still did AI.
    I too feel like this somedays as my mum has dementia, but she isn’t here in our town anymore, a family member moved her out of a local nursing home and moved her away to a new one a fair distance away and now when I phone her or do get the chance to visit she thinks I’m either her mother or cousin but says I’m to blame for taking her away.
    I know it’s her illness talking, but it does hurt, as she would be mortified to know what she was doing.
    You and Ann keep your chins up, your doing all you can. God bless xx

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    • Hello, Ruth. Thanks for dropping in and leaving a comment. I remember your parents (our dads played dominoes often) and am sorry to hear about your mum. We do have to keep reminding ourselves it is the illness making them forget who we are. Keep in touch.

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  3. Hi Mary,
    Ouch… I can’t relate to this as a daughter, but as a granddaughter yes. I can remember once telling my grandmother how I had missed her so much, during one of the many times she had to be hospitalized, and she said, very annoyed, “YOU did? Why?” And I knew she hadn’t a clue who I was. She looked at me like I was a complete stranger! I didn’t know what else to say…
    *big hugs*
    P.S. Happy Birthday 🙂

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    • Hi April, It is weird. I keep wondering who he thinks this stranger is and why she is bringing him dinner. Sometimes he knows who we are then it’s like the recognition fades. Thanks for following – and for the hugs!

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    • What a lovely video, Nancy. Thanks so much for sharing it. I’ll pass it on to my sister. The moments when dad knows us are very precious – yet it is something we once took for granted.

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  4. I’ve heard of this quite often and always thought how devastating that must be when our most loved ones, don’t know who we are. My elderly relatives to date, have been in the opposite situation. Mentally 100% on the ball, but physical bodies falling down around them. I never thought I’d say this, but when my mother was still 100% mentally, right to the end, but her physical body dying, I prayed that some sudden onset of severe dementia would strike and that she wouldn’t know who we were. Because it seemed that as long as she knew we were her children, she believed we needed her, and she wasn’t for leaving us. But of course, it’s such a blessing if people have mental AND physical faculties intact for as long as possible. Either way, it seems heartbreak is unavoidable and that we’re all in the queue for our share of it. Thinking of you Mary, and may the moments he forgets you be fewer than the moments he knows exactly who you are, unless of course he reaches a stage in many years to come, where not knowing would for him and perhaps you, be a blessing. xxx

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    • Thanks for your comments, Janette – thoughtful as ever. I sometimes wonder if, as we live longer than our once-allotted three score years and ten, we haven’t made the aging process fraught with difficulties not there before.
      I’m thankful dad doesn’t dislike or fear the stranger I become from time to time.

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  5. Sorry you had to face this Mary.

    MIL forgets my name and the fact I am married to her son, but not who I am altogether (though in my case, it would be almost easier for me if she did).

    But that’s MIL and not a parent – different kettle of fish.

    Sending you an internet hug.

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    • Thanks for the hug! I’ve been feeling well-hugged today in a virtual sense. It was your Wotsit post whcih reminded me of the first time I realised dad didn’t know me. My husband has had some uncomfortable times when he didn’t know him despite the fact they used to play golf together.

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      • Btw, this has been playing on my mind over the past few days, and – cut to the chase – I really hope I did not unduly offend the other day – I would hate to jeopardize a burgeoning internet friendship, particularly when we have so much otherwise dementia-wise in common… xx

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  6. I think you’ve found on earlier occasions that you aren’t known – but you are recognised for your kindness; I hope you will be known again, and continue to be recognised for your kindness. It’s an odd come-and-go thing, and when the sun shines, or the wind blows, you have a loved and known place in his world. On other days, not. All of it hurts.

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    • Thanks for your response, Jenny. You are right, it does hurt, even when I know it is part of the illness. On the plus side, it is such a joy when he does know me. That joy is something I wouldn’t have experienced if he didn’t have dementia. It would be a given and taken for granted. It still hurts, though.

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