My Dad’s a Goldfish – In the garden centre cafe

I know it has been a very long time since I posted on this blog. I haven’t completely abandoned it but life – various writing projects, a temporary job over the summer, a new book out – has got in the way. I am now, finally, working on pulling the Goldfish blog posts together to form a coherent (I hope) memoir.

I have also been writing more poems – I call them my dad poems. I’ve posted one or two here in the past and this is a fairly new one although I wrote a blog post about the event a while ago. I’m experimenting and really would appreciate comments on whether it works or not. Has the story been pared down too much? Does it work as a poem or does the story only work as prose?

In the garden centre cafe
You only manage one bite of banoffee pie
before you need to ‘spend a penny’.
I push the wheelchair to the toilets
but you want to go in alone
totter off, stick in hand while
I wait.

And wait.

Should I bang on the door?
Find someone to break it open?

Finally, you emerge, sadness
in the eyes which meet mine.
You hand me
with quiet dignity your underpants
sodden.
I place them with equal care
in my handbag.

You settle in the chair. In the loo
I use up all the hand towels
to dry the floor.

When I come out you have forgotten. Sometimes
I’m glad for the dementia. We return
to the banoffee pie; your favourite.

 

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72 thoughts on “My Dad’s a Goldfish – In the garden centre cafe

  1. The poem works very well and highly effectively as a complete story Mary. A memoir from all the Goldfish posts will be required reading for those who have had the story in bite size chunks and will be both funny and poignant for anyone starting afresh. I hope you enjoyed the Summer job and the getting out of a new book.
    xxx Massive Hugs xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, David. I’m pleased you think it works as it is. It’s tempting to keep tweaking at a poem, adding bits or removing them, never quite sure if it says what it’s meant to say. Arranging those bit size chunks into a proper narrative arc is proving a challenge but I’ll get there. Over the summer I was a museum attendant at Robert Burns House museum in Dumfries, which was really interesting. I hope all is well with you.

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  2. For anyone who has even the slightest experience of someone with dementia, this will not only work, it will pluck at the heartstrings, bring a lump to the throat. You say so much in so few words, and manage to make one incident explain a whole condition.
    Outstanding, Mary.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Write the poems too, Mary; same tale, different tones of voice, different emphases. Interestingly, a review of “Sundowning” a couple of days ago shows that these concerns have migrated to the stage too. First hand accounts are telling – and I believe, now used more in training.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I guess most people died younger, before they actually showed the signs of dementia. It’s perhaps the price for living longer lives, Lucinda? It certainly affects many more people nowadays – those who get it and their families and friends.

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  4. It works very well as a poem. Presses a lot of emotional buttons! I’d be interested to see it expanded into a short story too, maybe with the poem on the left hand page and the story beginning on the right. And other poems and short stories similarly – using the poem as the skeleton of the story.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Jessica, you’ve given me something to think about. I was sure I had written up the episode in one of the blog posts. I tried to look it up to see how it compares with the poem but I can’t find it now. I think the post had a more humorous slant.

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  5. Personally I think the poem works perfectly just as it is, Mary – very poignant and beautifully written. Sadly my own dad has only relatively recently been diagnosed with vascular dementia, so for me it’s a sobering view of things to come in the future for me and my family…

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    • Thanks for your kind comment, Ruth. I’m pleased you think the poem works. Sorry to hear about your dad’s diagnosis. It’s tough but not all doom and gloom. We shared some funny times, too. Do what you can now to create memories to keep for later.

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  6. It’s powerful Mary. I like how the banoffee pie is in the first and last lines, and in between something quite awful and sad. I’m also struck by the wet pants incident as a metaphor for the way in which so often, pleasantries (banoffee pie) are used as a way of wrapping up tragic circumstances.
    Carer ‘how are you today my sweetheart?’
    Person ‘not so good, I want to be back in my own place, I miss my own things, my own bed, my own food, my family, and I feel miserable here’
    Carer ‘Never mind, you’ll feel better tomorrow and look at the lovely day it is’. Just an example, but so often, sweetness and pleasantry is used as a way of coping with the sad, tragic happenings, which the listener has to tuck away out of sight, hoping no-one has heard or seen, and that they’ll just go away. You didn’t let that happen, as here you are sharing the event and the sadness of it, in a way that others can relate to, judging by the comments. It’s hard for me to fathom what’s more awful – the fact you’ve wet your pants, or the fact you did it and forgot about it so quickly. x

    Liked by 2 people

    • I was glad he could forget about it. He’d have been very embarrassed and possibly humiliated at the loss of dignity so I’m glad he could go back to enjoy his pie. I don’t think he was pretending to forget. I like your metaphor thinking. I have a poem I might post sometime called Not was, is. It’s about how people so kindly asked after him, saying things like, ‘he was a lovely man’ – when he was still alive!
      Thanks so much for commenting. I always value your thoughts.

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  7. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blogger Daily – Thursday October 25th, 2018 – Carol Taylor #Foodwaste, Colleen Chesebro with Ritu Bhathal, and Mary Smith #Poem | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine
  8. The truth of life is often poignant and you have tapped into that so aptly, Mary. Very touching. As a cousin said to me recently, “It’s not inspiration which gets me out of bed in the mornings. It”s my bladder…!” xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much for dropping by, Hilary, and for your lovely comment. I’m sure I’ve written the story somewhere on the blog but this is it pared down to a minimum. I was worried I might have lost something in the process but it seems to have worked.
      I hope you are well and busy in a good way?

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  9. Well you’ve managed to bring tears to my eyes Mary. Sadly, I have worn your shoes when my aging husband went through his terrible bouts of illness.
    Nothing to pare here, a heartfelt tale on loving and aging. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I base my critical commentary on my respect for your skill as a writer.

    So, I’m giving you what I look for when I ask for criticism.

    Regarding your question, does it work as a poem?

    You’ve captured a moment and you’ve captured it well.

    The moment is one of confusion and terrible anxiety.

    On a technical level a poem is about the pacing and parsing of language.

    For instance, what if you remove the line, ‘Anxiety builds’, from the following verse:

    “I wait.

    And wait.

    Should I bang on the door?

    Find someone to break it open?”

    Does removing the line improve the poem based your goal as the writer?

    If the answer is yes, strike it and if no, restore it to its proper place.

    🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  11. You could hone the poem, like a piece of flash fiction, tighten it; so less is more. Place it beside the bigger story so the reader gets both your powerful prose and the poetic rythm of the sadness of dementia. I struggled to type this through the drops that snook outside to blurr my way. The beauty for me is the moment the reader realises he is spared humiliation by the disease that brings it.

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  12. Oh Mary, tears in the eyes and a lump in my throat. I wouldn’t change a word, but then, it is not my work. I love it as it is, once again you have opened a window for us to witness the journey.

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  13. Mary this is a powerful piece of writing I have shared it with two people and like me reduced to tears. It works on so many levels the pathos , indignity, kindness and love. I was reminded of what a long shadow your Dad has cast . On a teaching level would you be happy for the Alzheimer Scotland Policy and practice centre based at UWS to use your poem obviously credited to yourself
    Jenny Henderson

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    • Thanks so much, Jenny. I really appreciate your feedback and comments. I realise as I’m typing this you will be at the Annual Celebration Lecture, to which I was invited but couldn’t go. I’d have loved to be there to hear you being applauded for your work. Well done. As for the poem, I’d be honoured to have the Alzheimer Scotland policy and practice centre to use it.

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        • It was lovely to meet you yesterday, Jenny. Of course you can use the poem as a teaching material for the Snowdrops dementia project. I’ve just had a look at the website and it looks good. We need to meet up for a proper chat, including what can be done about the DVD!

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  14. I definitely think of this as a poem – tragic, but full of love and… pie. Oh my, brought a glitch to my heart, as I remember the one time my dad would allow me to drive him the 2 hours from his place in DE to my brother’s in MD. My dad didn’t suffer from dementia, but aging bladder (and bladder cancer). He dreaded that drive, and every 40 minutes would shout “Pull over!” and I would, on horrid 95, as he peed off the side of the road. He was mortified, and I knew I’d never again beg him to let me drive him to MD.

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