Role Reversal

I apologise for the long delay from the last post. I’ve been away. I had planned to continue with feet (a follow up to the last post) but I haven’t written it up yet. Next time. For now, here’s a poem written after one of those nights, which seemed endless at the time.

Role reversal
Three a.m. – out of bed again.
Radiator stone cold. We stand
arms linked while I whistle
Red Red Robin, which you
fail to recognise.
I try Colonel Bogey.

Another, about toothbrushes, pink and blue,
who meet by the bathroom door,
elicits a smile. Memory glimmers –

It’s a tune you used to whistle
when I was tiny, to make
me wee before bed. Now,
urine bottle held over a willie
no daughter expects to know so well,
I whistle for you
my entire repertoire.




19 thoughts on “Role Reversal

    • I can smile in amusement now, Janette, but at the time I didn’t find it remotely funny. I do remember feeling quite upset because I thought he was implying my whistling was so bad the tunes were unrecognisable.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Yes those last barriers that break at the end, I wonder who they hurt most. My experience with my dad, similarly difficult for us both. I hope the fact your dad didn’t know may have eased the difficulty for you both.

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    • Thanks for your comment, Geoff. What is still a worry is not beig sure he didn’t know. I’d like to think he didn’t. Sometimes I think we pretended what was happening was perfectly normal while we were both feeling acutely uncomfortable.
      And now I’ve revisited the episode I have that blasted Red Red Robin as an ear worm – still it could have been the one about the pink and blue toothbrushes!

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  2. I understand. I’ve been there, done that for both father and father-in-law – both compos mentis. I thought they were very brave to cope with my ministrations, but I, too, found the role reversal, though unexpected, came naturally after all.

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    • It is surprising what we can do when we have to do it. If anyone had told me years earlier I would one day be wiping my dad’s behind I’d have said, “Never going to happen.”


      • Indeed. My unfortunate father-in-law had had a rough deal from life; he could be charming, kind and funny but was often angry and resentful, so we always trod carefully. His last two years were a nightmare of hospital visits with leg ulcers, MRSA and C. diff present at all times. He bore this with amazing stoicism as he did all our efforts as we became his nurses. I could never have imagined doing this for him.

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  3. A meaningful read ~ my mother just mentioned how a friend of mine returned home to “babysit” his mother and she said to me “you know one day, you’ll be doing the same…” I wanted to hug her out of love saying I’d be more than proud to. The good with the bad ~ it is how to live and love life. This post here made a great impression on me.

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    • Thank you. I never thought I’d have to “babysit” my father. I wish I hadn’t had to do it. I wish he hadn’t got dementia and sometimes didn’t know I was his daughter. But, there were good things in it. I was able to spend much more time with him and show him I loved him. I hope he knew that. I’ve said before and it’s worth saying again, even in the very last stages of dementia, my dad – the essence of him – was always there.


      • I think dealing with dementia would be so difficult, but I do have to say how your words and post help me understand not just the difficulties but as you say right here “and show him I loved him” ~ nothing more important. And the belief his essence loved having you there.

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  4. Your poem says it all, Mary. Looking back at the situations that that we found ourselves in, it still seems surreal and bewildering. I can’t even remember the last time that Dad had been able to stroll into the loo and for it not to have just a simple happening. I feel so furious that an illness can cause such difficulties for our loved ones. Dad had always been meticulous in his appearance, even wearing his smart tie to mow the front lawn and then goes through such ordeals.
    I think the only comfort is that our loved ones were in their own safe little world and that the bond that those type of situations make will last forever.

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  5. I remember this feeling so well Mary particularly when I went from being a daughter to her mother in the last few weeks of my mother’s life. It was surreal seeing the small girl behind the facade that she had built up over her 90 odd years. I only hope that there is a kind hand when I need it.. your dad may not have recognised the whistling but he would have recognised the love. xx

    Liked by 1 person

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