My Dad’s a Goldfish – For John M

A friend has recently gone into a care home. He has a rare form of frontotemporal dementia. It is progressive and irreversible. The brain’s frontal lobe controls planning, judgment, emotional control, behaviour, inhibition and its temporal lobe affects language, along with emotional response and behaviour.

We have been friends for over fifty years – from when he used to walk me home from school carrying my books. We did our homework on the phone. I helped him with English, he helped me with French. We shared so much over those growing up years. Our lives went off in different directions but we always kept the connection – until very recently.

He can no longer take care of himself. He is only sixty three.

I owe him a great deal for the windows onto new worlds he opened for me. I’d like to think I opened some for him, too. This is for him.

For John M

My family went to Fleetwood or
Scarborough for holidays but you –
you went to France, brought back
snails in a tin. We ate them
with garlic butter in the house
on Edinburgh Road. They were
chewy but delicious.

You played me Debussy’s
Clair de Lune, explaining how
he broke harmony’s rules.
Not a pianist, I didn’t understand
but loved the music.

You gave me Francoise Sagan novels.
I felt so grown up, worldly wise.
Introduced me to
the little sparrow, Edith Piaf,
to Collette, Camus:
opening windows onto new worlds.
I gained much from your love
of France and all things French.

Now, with clumps of protein
gumming up your brain,
you don’t read, conversation almost gone,
thought processes wrecked
you can’t remember
all you gave me.

I hope I let you know
before time ran out on us
how important you’ve been
and how thankful I am.

I think, though, you might
still remember those snails
and carrying my books home
from school.

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