The plan was for me to manage on my own for two weeks so I could see exactly how much care we required, what sort of care and when it was most needed. When I moved in I think I was in a state of shock, not quite believing this was really happening, nor comprehending just how different my life was about to become.
None of us were sure about how such an enormous change in his circumstances would affect the Goldfish. What I found myself coping with was not his usual behavior but his greatly increased confusion about his wife not being around and his daughter suddenly sleeping in the spare room and always being around. Although for the first few days he didn’t specifically ask where the step-monster had gone, it was pretty clear he was looking for her, especially during his night-time wandering through the house.
What should we tell him? Wee-sis was horrified when I suggested we tell the Goldfish the step-monster had died. She pointed out he would grieve for her then forget and ask again where she was so there would be a continuous cycle of him grieving each time he was told his wife had died. “And wouldn’t he ask about a funeral?”
“Well,” I said, “we could take him to a funeral. He wouldn’t know it wasn’t hers.”
“What if we bump into her in the street or the supermarket? How would he react if he thought she’d died and she suddenly popped up in Tesco?”
I asked how he would feel if we told him the truth – that she’d left him to live on her own, in her own house because she couldn’t cope with his dementia. I felt learning his wife had deserted him would be much, much harder to bear than news of her death. None of us could tell him the truth. We finally decided that, when asked, we’d say she had gone to visit her sister for a holiday. I’ve never lied to the Goldfish in my life. And now, the Step-monster was making me become a liar – and I’m sure he knew it.
In the evenings, if we weren’t actively engaged in playing dominoes or painting or doing a jigsaw the Goldfish was restless, getting up and walking towards the bathroom and back. When I asked if he needed to go to the bathroom, he said, as he set off again: “It’s the only place I can go.” He just wanted to move. He insisted at one point on going out and opened the back door. It was bitterly cold and he came straight back inside. It did remind me I needed to switch on the door sensors when we went to bed. On that particular evening he finally sat down and amused himself by taking all his sweets out of a bag, lining them up on the arm of the chair, putting them back in the bag, taking them out again, eating some then putting the remainder back in the bag. I was sitting next to him, laptop on my knee trying to finish a magazine article. I take my hat off to anyone who could concentrate on work under these circumstances!