My dad has taken to weeing outside.
There’s an outhouse round the back, and he uses it often. But, when it’s dark, he realises he can’t see where he’s going, so he pisses over the compost maker instead.
It’s quite funny, he’ll say he’s going outside to have a tinkle (ignoring the fact that we have a perfectly serviceable toilet upstairs), go out, reach a dark point where he can’t see much, shrug his shoulders, unzip his flies and piss over the floor.
The thing is, with a lot of seemingly normal activities, my dad has taken to using his whole body.
For instance, when he washes out his eye with Optrex he doesn’t put the cup to his eye, lean his head back and roll his eyeball around as most people do. He puts the Optrex cup over his eye, leans forward and shakes his whole body from side to side like he’s doing a Seventies rock dance.
He does a similar thing when he pees outside – rather than pointing in one direction and letting go, he stands with his feet apart and shakes his booty, cascading his waters in every direction possible, including over his feet. It’s strange that he doesn’t do the same thing when he uses the upstairs toilet (I’d have noticed that) but a lot of what my dad does depends on whether he’s in familiar territory. If he makes it to the outside toilet, he probably doesn’t shake himself around. It’s just that he finds himself in the dark and is probably not too sure where to aim.
Those of you who have read this blog will know that my father has dementia. He will get up at four in the morning and, because he is up, will decide that he needs to shave. If you tell him that it is only four in the morning, he will shrug and go on shaving. He will then get up at eight in the morning and shave again.
Recently, I’ve had to help him with dressing. Before now, if I’d mentioned that his clothes were dirty or that he’d got things on the wrong way round, he would get tetchy and say it didn’t matter.
They are his clothes!
Recently, he’s been fond of saying that he doesn’t know what he’s doing and if I say he needs to change something he’s quite amenable. It’s simple things like he’ll put his vest on over his shirt or put his trainers on before putting on his trousers. Nothing important. Nothing that will shake the world, much like taking a piss in the back yard rather than using the toilet.
It’s not going to harm anyone.
Today I took him out to the Afonwen Centre for lunch. He had his usual steak and I asked the waitress for some ketchup, because, since my dad developed dementia, he has ketchup with everything. The waitress bought some in a bowl with a spoon, you know the way posh restaurants have a habit of doing. This confused dad. You see, he normally has a bottle which he squeezes out onto his plate.
He asked me what it was. I said ketchup. Tomato sauce.
He picked up the little bowl and then looked at it. Put it down. Looked at his plate with its steak and boiled potatoes. He picked up the bowl again. Picked up his knife. Put it down. Picked up the spoon and put it in the ketchup and lifted that up and then looked around again. Put it down. Picked up the salt. Asked me if it was… (he’s forgotton the word salt); I said it was. Tried to sprinkle it on his food while holding his finger over the holes. Held out his hand and tried to sprinkle it there till I told him to take his fingers off the holes. Then vigorously shook it over his meal so that he had his salt ration for the week and more. Went back to the ketchup…The stuff you dip your potatoes in, I said.
He wasn’t sure, you could tell, but he put some on his plate. Once he had done that he was confident of the ketchup, knew it was in its rightful place.
There is logic in the things my dad does. Okay, so it’s slightly “dipsy” but you can see the sense in what he tries to do.
Yesterday, he got a homemade birthday card from his grandchildren. It arrived in a big brown envelope and I watched as he turned it around in his hands trying to figure out what to do with it. Eventually he figured it out and pulled out a sheet of folded paper with childish daubs on in it. There were messages from the grandchildren but he didn’t understand who they were. It was your birthday, I said. They’ve made you a card.
This is a complex thing for my dad. He read it carefully and then asked who they were again. Later I found the card abandoned and forgotten on the floor. He’s okay if they walk through the door and he sees them for real, but something abstract like a message in an envelope is far beyond him now. He struggles with the concept of birthdays, relations, what belongs where, the things we take for granted.
He lives in an ever shrinking world. Every day moments disappear as quickly as they’ve arrived. An hour after our eating at the Afonwen he asks if we are having dinner. He will go out with me for a couple of hours and then ten minutes after we return come up to me and ask if we are going out. He will get his cat in for the night and then open the front door and call for the cat again. He will pick things up, look at them, put them down, pick the same thing up…and so on.
So Dementia Rules. Make what you do count.