My Dad’s a Goldfish – our last Christmas with him



Christmas 2013


I suppose the approach of Christmas will always now be tinged with sadness. Our last Christmas together was 2013. From time to time during 2014 we thought he’d make it to the next one – and he almost did, dying three weeks before.

Christmas 2013 was unforgettable for several reasons. For one thing, Wee-sis and I felt it might be the last Christmas in which the Goldfish would be able to participate and enjoy it all – how right we were. However, at one point it looked as though we wouldn’t even see the Goldfish over Christmas because the step-monster’s daughter decided her mother and the Goldfish should come to her on Christmas Day. As they always go to the step-monster’s son on Boxing Day we were not going to see him other than a quick visit.

Much discussion and gnashing of teeth followed this announcement and Wee-sis (because she is so much more diplomatic than I am) was sent to negotiate with step-monster’s daughter. It was agreed Christmas dinner would be at my house. The step-monster decided to go to her daughter’s house instead, which rather pleased us. She would only spend the time moaning about how she hates Christmas and how glad she’ll be when it’s over.

Then, two days before Christmas the step-monster dropped a bombshell by announcing she was leaving the Goldfish and going to live in her own house. She’d inherited it from her mother and had been letting out for many years. She wasn’t going to say anything to the Goldfish! Nor was she going to move out until the end of January because she needed to get it decorated.

Throughout the last minute organisation for Christmas – the wrapping of gifts (nothing for the step-monster this year), shopping for food, planning the day – the worry of what was going to happen kept intruding. However, we put our fears for the future to the back of our minds and planned a lovely Christmas Day for the Goldfish.


The much-loved Yorkshire terrier – with her head balanced very precariously!


He had a wonderful time opening his gifts. His favourite was a toy Yorkshire terrier we’d seen in the garden centre. The previous year he had admired it but in those days my ignorance of dementia was limitless and I had dismissed the idea of buying it for him. The following year on our regular pre-Christmas jaunts to the garden centre there were piles of toy dogs – but only one Yorkshire terrier. I didn’t hesitate. It went into the basket along with the Guinness chocolate he (and I) loved.

All through the day, he petted and talked to that dog as it sat on the arm of his chair. When we took him home, we put the dog beside him. Next day, it had been moved out of reach. I put it back on the arm of his chair. Next day, it had been moved out of reach. The step-monster couldn’t bear to see him stroking it as if it were a real dog, couldn’t bear to see the Goldfish behave like a child. I still have the dog. He sits on the back of the sofa. His head his hanging off now but he was hugely loved by the Goldfish for many months.

The Goldfish had a really happy day, surrounded by people who talked to him, grandchildren, nephews and nieces and partners came to visit him and he thoroughly enjoyed his Christmas dinner (with wine) – and had two puddings – and a couple of drams of malt whisky to finish the evening.


I, along with Wee-sis and my son, watch with pleasure – and some amazement –  as the Goldfish tucks into his last Christmas dinner.

Now, with Christmas rapidly approaching I am so glad we made the last one we had together something really special to remember.

37 thoughts on “My Dad’s a Goldfish – our last Christmas with him

    • I actually thought mine wasn’t bad to start with and only began to see how she really was when dad’s dementia worsened. I made excuses for a long time – she was in denial, she couldn’t cope, even thought she might have the start of dementia herself – but realised she was unbelievably selfish.

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      • Reading here, Mary, it certainly seems as if the “step-monster’s” moniker is *almost* appropriate. Being one with a sailor-mouth at times, I might append a choice word or two myself – or replace it entirely with a particularly ugly label. Not EVEN to allow your dad the small enjoyment of a toy dog? TRULY unforgivable.

        I’m sorry there will be no more Christmases with him to report – although, after seeing what caring for his second wife’s dementia-fueled actions did to my Dad (my Mom died), I also am aware of the guilt that comes with the relief that it is no longer necessary to watch after him as he continues to struggle with, even, life basics that we all believe we can take for granted.

        Sending admiration an prayers.
        (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMore dot com)
        – ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder –
        “It takes a village to transform a world!”

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  1. Ha that’s great and it’s oddly encouraging to know you too have had to fight with a monster: mine is packaged in a traditional pantomime mother in law costume but the principles are the same. And the last dinner, how resonant is that? Dad had his diagnosis in Feb 05 and the prognosis wasn’t much beyond a few months. However stubborn old goat made over a year in the end so Christmas 05 was as precious as they come. Indeed he was in good spirits and while eating anything significant was beyond him he sure didn’t have a problem with fluids! His tipple of choice from far too many holidays in France was calvados but that Christmas conscious it might be his last, he indulged in some malt too: he loved the peaty Laphroaig and the shaper Talisker by choice but frankly he’d have pretty much sipped anything that year! Lovely memories Mary.

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    • My monster gave the impression of a sweet old lady, struggling on, doing what she could, being nice to everyone – but underneath was twisted and selfish to the nth degree. How great your dad had such a good last Christmas and enjoyed a malt or two. Our two dads could have had a good chat about their favourite whisky. Dad liked Laphroaig but had a soft spot for Bowmore, where lived for ten years. Once, when we’d run out of malt I gave him some supermarket stuff. He didn’t drink it. When I asked if he didn’t want his nightcap he said: “I do. But that’s not whisky.” We need to hang on to the good memories.


  2. Oh, this tugged my heart. My mom’s dementia has progressed (digressed?) to the point of not remembering anything beyond 5 minutes. But when I see her for Christmas this year (she’s in a lovely Memory Care place), I’m going to bring her a stuffed dog for a gift – she always LOVED my goldens- and hope that it will give her some peace as the Yorkshire toy dog gave your dad. Blessings to you and your family. Merry Christmas. xo

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  3. So nice to see your Dad there sitting enjoying his Christmas dinner Mary. And to hear of all the other little moments of enjoyment he had, even if forgotten minutes later. He still lived through them, was made content by them, was engaged with them, and lived them. Nice to think that in other moments of confusion, forgetfulness or discontent, these moments were still there, somewhere in his experience. xx

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    • Thanks for your lovely comments, Janette. He really did enjoy his food, especially puddings. Looking at the photo of him tucking in it’s strange to remember that about six months later we had to spoon-feed him. Even then he seemed to enjoy what he ate!


  4. Special celebrations like Christmas are deep in our psyche I think, so even people with advanced dementia often relate to the dimly-remembered ritual of it all. Remember the good times this year Mary – hope you have a great day with your family. Jx

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    • Thank you, Jenny. You are right about how deeply ingrained is our sense of ritual – possibly from long before Christmas was Christmas. I’m lucky I have a large store of good memories. Have a great Christmas. I’m sure you’ll enjoy sharing in your first grandson’s first Christmas. x


  5. Lovely post and it brought back memories of my own. We sprung my father-in-law from hospital for the day (on what turned out to be his last Christmas). Both my daughter’s ex-boyfriends came with them and stayed over Christmas, they were wonderful and very funny and we all had a wonderful time.

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    • What a wonderful memory, Hilary, and I bet you are so glad you managed to spring your father-in-law from hospital for that one last Christmas. I wish you a happy Christmas and all the best for 2017. Thanks for your support.

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  6. There is nothing quite like tradition, almost a stabilizing force that feels so natural and comfortable ~ and for my family it is Christmas. These seem to be the same reasons this last Christmas with your father was so memorable and impressive, your father dove right into the day. “…surrounded by people who talked to him, grandchildren, nephews and nieces and partners came to visit him and he thoroughly enjoyed his Christmas dinner (with wine)…” This is what the holidays mean, something intangible but so important. Wonderful post Mary ~ and wishing you a terrific 2017.

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    • Oh, thank you, I’m pleased you enjoyed the post. The downside to traditions is, of course, when someone is no longer there in their usual place – which is why I’m glad to have stashed away some happy memories.
      I hope you have a good 2017, too, wherever your decision takes you.


    • Hi Rob, when dad first showed an interest in the toy dogs I hadn’t realised how much he really wanted one. He always had a dog until the last one after which he felt he was too old to have another. He clearly missed having a dog. However, I saw it though my eyes as a lifelike but clearly toy dog. By the following year I could see that it was actually real to dad. He spent hours patting it, brushing its coat, talking to it. It now sits, with its head practically falling off, on the back of the sofa in my study. One day I’ll throw it away but not yet.

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