My Dad’s a Goldfish -The X factor

cropped-goldfish-87-1254566814ncva1.jpgI enjoy a good drama series (as long as it isn’t too gory as I’m a bit of a wuss in the gore department) and I’m hooked on Holby City but other than that and the news I don’t bother  much with television. When I was caring for the Goldfish, though, I watched an awful lot of television.

The Goldfish was a keen golfer before a combination of dementia and decreasing mobility made him stop – though he never admitted he didn’t play any longer. It was just that the weather was too cold, or too wet or some other contrived excuse for not being on the golf course. However, he enjoyed watching it on television. I’m not a golfer. The DH plays golf – a lot – and he and the Goldfish played together occasionally and then had a post mortem of the entire 18 holes when they came home. Yawn!

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The Goldfish loved golf – after he retired he played almost every day.

I have to say it for non-golfers, following golf on the telly is akin to watching paint dry. Mostly, what the Goldfish watched was on satellite and I’m sure we saw the same tournaments over and over again. I learned more about golf than I ever wanted to know but if the Goldfish was happy, I was happy. A rather lovely documentary about the late Seve Ballesteros was shown several times and each time, the Goldfish would tell me about when he followed him at some match or other. He didn’t realise Seve had died and after the first couple of time, I stopped telling him.

At least the Goldfish was always aware that he was watching golf on television. Once, when he still had some mobility, we were watching football (soccer). He got up and shuffled off. “Are you going to the loo?” I asked.

“No, I’m looking for the football. We’re playing.” Maybe even for an ardent golfer, football is more exciting?

As the Goldfish moved into the later stages of dementia, he understood less and less of what was on television. He’d never been a fan of soaps and he gave watching anything with a storyline as he could no longer process it, nor could he follow documentaries; even golf didn’t hold his attention for long. He did enjoy music and seemed to take real pleasure in watching the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, beating time on the arm of his chair as the marching bands strutted their stuff.

Astonishingly, he was totally entranced by the X Factor – at least I think it was the X Factor. The talent show where the contestants who have come through the first rounds are packed off to boot camp and then whittled down again. We hadn’t watched any of the first rounds so I didn’t have much of a clue about what was happening, never mind the Goldfish – or so I thought.

He was totally caught up in the drama of the eliminations and the progress to the next round. He seemed to enjoy hearing the music. He laughed out loud when successful band members were jumping up and down in excitement, as delighted for them as they were themselves. He sounded so gleeful it made me well up. He was teary-eyed on behalf of those who were sent home.

I’ve always said we were lucky the Goldfish retained his sense of humour right to the end. That evening, I realised how much more of him – his emotional responses, his empathy for others, and the core essence of him – remained intact.

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32 thoughts on “My Dad’s a Goldfish -The X factor

  1. I love your blog about your dad Mary. I am finding it fascinating that I am learning more and more about him and I am comparing him to my mum who had vascular dementia. Music was a massive part of mums life and even though she was forgetting everything else, she never forgot how to play the piano or how to sing. There must be something in the brain that Alzheimer’s/dementia triggers about music. I’ve noticed that a lot of people seem to like music that have it. Very strange.

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    • The part of our brains where we store music is the last to be destroyed by dementia and past memories and experiences are embedded there. Sally Magnusson has set up a charity called Playlist for Life to get people to create playlists of favourite music. Here’s a link if you want to have a look: https://www.playlistforlife.org.uk/aboutus/the-idea/#3104
      It really is fascinating to see the effects of listening or singing along to music on people with dementia. And, yes, your mum would remember how to play the piano and the words of songs even if she hadn’t sung them for years. To my astonishment when I took dad to Musical Minds he knew the words of every Jim Reeves song!

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  2. I should feel sad when I read about what your dad went through Mary, but always I come away with my faith renewed in humanity – our humour, warmth, essential kindness, endurance and love. Thanks

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  3. Nice to hear of your Dad appreciating and responding to the firm beat of the Tattoo music. No surprise that he would latch on to it, given that in other ways there was nothing firm to hold on to at all. It’s a shame that so often, when dementia – type conditions set in and take hold, many assume that this includes emotions, and that the person doesn’t FEEL anymore, when nothing could be further from the truth. It’s the same with people with profound learning disabilities where there has been damage to areas of the brain. But the idea of them not ‘feeling’ things is more to assist the workers who would find it hard to bear the thought that their charges are feeling sadness, joy, envy, frustration etc. Easier to think ‘they’re unaware, and quite happy in their own wee world’. Good old X Factor despite what many feel about it -if it gave your Dad pleasure then it is SOOOO worthwhile! Hopefully others are now having the same feelings about it!

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    • Thanks, Janette. You will know much more than I do about the effects of music and why it does affect us so profoundly.
      Sometimes I’d think dad look terribly sad and worry about him not being able to express his feelings but seeing his reaction to the X Factor made me realise he could show, if not talk about, his emotional responses. The fact that those emotions were on behalf of other people made it all the more special somehow.

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  4. A lovely post Mary and that picture of the split-screen Morris Minor always brings back happy memories of my first car. We back onto a golf course never play and agree with you: it spoils a good walk in our opinion. As you will know from my Blog we’re currently into Enid Blyton and The Famous Five – to recall a young girl (Maureen) sitting in the corner following the exploits of her heroes. Soaps are what you use for washing as far as we’re concerned!

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    • Thank you, Paul. I’ve never understood the appeal of golf either but dad was very keen for many years. I know from your blog how much music means to Maureen. I loved the Famous Five books, too. At family gatherings I was always the child sitting with her nose in a book!

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    • Thanks, Alice. I have to admit to feeling very, very bored watching all that golf. I tried reading or working on my laptop but dad seemed to need to know the golf – and he – had my undivided attention. But, there were good moments, too.

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  5. Oh dear, yes, watching golf is like watching paint dry. My ex-chap was into golf though he didn’t play. He kept buying old golf clubs as if he was going to play at some point! In the twenty years we were together, it didn’t happen! The only enjoyable occasion I’ve had that involved golf was when I was touring a play with Max Wall and John Carson. One evening we went out for a meal and the golf stories they all told had me in stitches. This was in the ’70s and I’ve never forgotten it. Hysterical!

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    • Maybe he was buying them as an investment, Sarah! Some old golf clubs make a pretty penny at auction.
      And now I’m having an awestruck moment at the thought of my friend on stage with Max Wall and John Carson! What was the play? Anyway, I’m glad the golf stories were funny – dad’s never were. He and the DH could go discuss the entire round, stroke by stroke.

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  6. I understand what you are describing. We took my mother-in-law (with dementia) to see the film Shakespeare in Love when it first came out. She had been an English teacher and had put on several Shakespeare plays and we thought it might give her some pleasure . We were astonished. She loved it, seemed to follow the story and got allusions we had not even seen. I always felt it was one of the best things we ever did.

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  7. Excuse me, I love watching golf! And it can be very exciting, honest!

    I do understand why non golfers would find it boring, though. As for music – yes, my Mum could sing along to all the old favourites, right to the end, when everything else had gone…

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    • Oh, Jenny, I’m sorry! But, really, while I can just about imagine having a go at playing it (only just about) watching it was painful. I did enjoy the documentary on Seve Ballesteros – seemed to be such a lovely person – though after the seventh viewing of it I could have recited his life story.
      I took dad to Musical Minds, run by Alzheimer Scotland for anyone with a memory problem and it was truly amazing how dad and others sang along. By the time I drove him home – five minutes – he’d totally forgotten where he’d been but his spirits remained high for a while afterwards.

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  9. Thanks for sharing, Mary. It’s good to get a glimpse of the person behind the illness. It perhaps also explains why the show is so popular. It does connect at an emotional level rather than at an intellectual level, especially if we see it from the point of view of the contestants. Keep enjoying the moments.

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  11. I’ve loved these posts, Mary. Having had two aunts live with us with Alzheimers in their last years and then watching Mum degenerate mentally was upsetting. But you’re so right; the music and smogs went last. In fact, my eldest aunt, who was a brilliant ballroom dancer in her younger days, always insisted on my dancing with her – and got very cross if I forgot the steps.

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    • Thanks, Judith. It really is amazing how music stays with a person when almost everything else has gone. The story of your aunt insisting you dance with her reminded me of a lady who attended the Musical Minds sessions. She came in a mini bus with others from a care home and their carers. As soon as the music started she was up and dancing round the room, arms waving as though conducting an orchestra. One of the carers, clearly very embarrassed, kept trying to make her sit down. The organiser had a wee word with her to let her know it was perfectly all right for the woman to enjoy herself in whatever way she wanted. She added hugely to dad’s entertainment.

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      • Oh , that’s lovely. Losing one’s inhibitions must be one of the very few (the only one?) benefits from losing oneself. Which is what dementia does. The person you know is gone forever, yet is still physically there.

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