Loïs A Wolffe | December 2022 | Melville Castle
5 – 4 -3 -2 -1
Five things I can see
Four things I can feel
- Hope (again)
- Linen table cloth (thick)
- Handcream (slightly slippy on my hands)
Three things I can hear
- My pen scribbling
- Birds outside
Two things I can taste
- Cinnamon pastry
One thing I can smell
- HOPE! And pastries
I am here because….
I love writing! (this added as an aside at the last minute)
I have begun to realise that I may have something to say, a story to tell and I really want to say it, tell it, learn if there is any wider readership for it.
I want to take some of the stigma away from dementia, want to open the conversation, and make it HONEST. And I want to talk about my relationship with Mum and with her dementia.
Lois & her Mum.
And to tell some of her stories, but to weave them through with mine.
I want to find a way to bring these things together.
I’m here to have some time and space to devote to thinking about this… no meals to cook, or to think about… no weekend chores, no guilt about what I’m not doing.
And no distractions (well, not so many)
I’m here to be inspired by others.
And to tee up a few more blog posts.
Go to https://shewolfinthevalley.com/ to read Lois’ blogs!
Why is creativity important to me?
I thought I had little access to creativity, thought I wasn’t the creative one.
James was the clever one; Andrew the creative one. I was the girl.
And then, to avoid inevitable comparisons to my two big brothers, I took science subjects at school and went on to study science at University. In my family of creative people – mum an artist, dad an architect – I demonstrated little in the way of what I considered creativity.
Through BOLD I discovered how much I enjoy it, and how it helps me to think and to express myself.
I guess it’s something that has always been valued in our family.
And now I value it for the process as well as the output.
We valued SUCCESS more, so I followed the academic route that I could win at.
What happens when we live in a place where creativity is not valued???
Lois being creative at bold Scribes.
What do I need to do the thing I like? (knitting in front of the fire)
Just a wee bit of time
And possibly to feel comfortable
What does BOLD mean to me?
A safe space to ….
- Try things out
- Be free
- Be vulnerable
- Be confident
… to be my best self… and allow/enable others to be their best selves
SPACES AND PLACES
The space I feel most me is….
I feel nurtured there, as though it will hold me, no matter what happens.
- Carrick Shore
- Cally Woods
- Garries Park
- The High Street
- The Mill Pond
- At the Rayburn
- In the playroom
- Anwoth Old Kirk
- Anwoth graveyard
I am recognised. My back story is known. I need give no expectations.
At our school “50th birthday reunion” I was in a room with people from my year at school, most of whom I hadn’t seen since June 1983 when I was 17.
And I realised there was the most beautiful freedom and liberty in being with people who only knew me before I knew who I was myself.
Galloway does this to me.
It accepts me for who I am – perhaps because my parents (at the heart of my Galloway) always accepted me, no matter what… they embodied the “so long as you are happy” attitude to parenting (once I’d got beyond the need for them to be there to nourish and support me and to keep me safe).
Ochre on Carrick shore!
Amused. I’m amused at where our imaginations took us with that word association game.
And I’m feeling hopeful and positive and optimistic about the day ahead.
I love how light this room is – how we have sight of the world outside but focus on one another, on what’s inside.
Six Word Stories
Diphtheria aged 3. Before penicillin’s discovery.
No more explanation – just six words.
My grandmother crying. She is pregnant.
Ship’s Norwegian captain; illicit love affair.
“It’s not a competition” (I lost).
Lucky stone. An anchor. For love.
Cello for sale. The music died.
I shout the loudest when…..
“Wait for me!!!!”
“Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeease wait for meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!”
I’m the youngest of three children. And one of the youngest of many cousins.
I always was shouting “Wait for me!”
And then one day, sulkily, “Life’s not fair!”
Mum glanced over at this sulky child of hers and concurred, “Yes, Life’s not fair.”. In my memory she also said “get used to it” but perhaps I made that bit up.
These days I shout the loudest when I sense an injustice.
Because as was confirmed to four year old Loïs, “Life’s not fair”
Extroverted types tend to rush to fill a silence.. in meetings at work they are the first to speak, often way before they have done any thinking.
Me and my fellow introverts?? We prefer to sit with our thoughts for a bit. The silence is our friend, allowing us space (that space in between?) to think through what we want to say.
It’s not better. Just different.
But the world rewards the extroverts.
WRITE A LETTER TO SOMEONE ABOUT DEMENTIA, WHAT IT MEANS TO YOU…
This is me, your daughter Loïs, but I am now 57 years old… and I have travelled back in time to talk to 57 year old you.
Don’t ask how, or why, just bear with me.
I know at this stage this seems almost impossible to believe, but shortly after your 90th birthday you will be diagnosed with mixed dementia (Alzheimers and vascular, if you’re interested). And I am writing to tell you that it is going to be ok. You will be alright.
As James and I have said to you so many times this last year – you don’t need to worry, we are here to do your worrying for you these days. I know, I know, 57 year old you doesn’t do much worrying.. but 90 year old you found lots to worry about. I think it was that you could no longer always make sense of what was going on in the world.
I don’t know how much you know about dementia, perhaps not much more than I did last year before your diagnosis.
So what are the key things to tell you? There is so much to say, but actually I wonder how much of it really matters? What I have learned through your dementia is that all that really matters in the end is love. And you know, Mum, that although we haven’t always voiced it, that you are so very loved by all of us.
I’m going to assume that your big fears about you having ‘a touch of Alzheimers’ as you put it the day after your diagnosis are the same as my big fears. Because I know how much we think alike.
My greatest fear was that you would no longer recognise me. Me! Your favourite daughter! And yes, I know that I am your only daughter, but it’s become one of our wee jokes – I call you my favourite Mum, and you call me your favourite daughter. Yup, I know, it’s not really that funny, but when you’re 90 it will become more amusing, trust me on this. And let’s put that fear to one side – you continue to know me, and if you don’t know who I am, I now know that you will always at least understand that I am a person who loves you and keeps you safe.
And my other fear is that you will change temperament, that you will no longer maintain your composure, that you will lose that ability you have to be firm but kind, so very kind, and always always fair (in a world that isn’t). What if your dementia alters your personality, such that you are constantly angry, or prone to outbursts? Shouty and swearing and hitting out at people, either physically or verbally? I don’t know how I would cope with that.
Perhaps you are worrying about what you will lose… what bits of you will be lost to all of us
- your easy conversation
- your curiosity
- your stories
- your ability to sketch and draw with such ease (especially horses!)
- how you can make a feast for a table full of family from what appears to be frugal scraps in the fridge)
- your ease of getting small children and animals to do what you want them to do
- and actually most adults too.
And yes. Most of that will go. Perhaps all of it. But none of that is really you. It’s just stuff you do.
You are still there. Here.
And I can confirm that 91 year old you with relatively advanced dementia is the concentrated essence of who you are.
Never have you been more loved.
But one thing – look after your teeth!
How am I feeling this morning?
I’m kinda sad. Kinda proud.
Sad because emotions are near the surface and I’ve been focusing entirely on Mum.
But proud that I’ve written some STUFF.
And oh my, this has been fun!
I find that quite problematic
It’s not my job to educate you
And THAT’S what’s wrong with society
How do I feel about the last few days?
I think I will be asking myself this question for quite some time… and never coming up with the ‘same’ answer, with the ‘true’ answer.
But that’s the thing, isn’t it? Things constantly change and evolve, including ourselves and our memories.
One thing I know I can say with confidence is that these few days has changed me (and I find that quite problematic!!)
But in what ways?
I feel somehow as though we are a room full of witches and we have, by being together unleashed our power and cast our spells on our collective group (again quite problematic!!)
I feel I have found my tribe. I feel seen. I feel free. I feel love (and if no-one sings at this point, I’ll be disappointed).
The time here has NOT been how I imagined it. It has NOT enabled me to sit quietly in a turret, in a cold castle wrapped in all my woollens, typing out the next couple of months of posts for my blog.
But honestly to sit alone in my room, that would have been such a waste… how would I have learned and developed by only looking internally at myself?
I need to hear other perspectives, other stories.
And to hear Magdalena’s Sound of Peeing song.
I don’t know if ever I’ve really dreamt of my future in that way “My dream house, my dream holiday, my dream man, woman, etc..”
But as I write this, I know that I’m fooling myself. Many years ago, Mum told me that I would inherit her house when she died. And while I’ve often dreamed of moving back home to Gatehouse, somehow, I had always thought I would rent out Mum’s house, to make some income from it.
And then a new possible life started showing up in my dreams. We could actually move to Gatehouse and live in Mum’s house. I realised I had never wanted anything so clearly, so viscerally. And all future plans revolved around this idea, this life which we would live one day…
Until they no longer did because there would be no house to inherit.
Care homes are expensive. It is a privilege to live in a society where Mum can be cared for, and with such compassion. But it’s also expensive. We are selling her house to pay for her ongoing care.
Edited to add and we are also selling our own home, so we can buy Mum’s house and go live there after all.
In this story they all live happy ever after.
Who said dreams don’t come true?