Mum and Dad
‘True Love’ – is it really a cliché? Look at the photo above. Look closely at the eyes and the smiles and you will see inside their hearts and their souls. Yes, ‘true love’ really exists. No, ‘true love’ is not a cliché.
Every couple has ups and downs, sometimes more downs than ups. As children of a couple, we look at our parents in one particular light. As parents of children, it is a totally different perspective. However, both are interwined by love.
What has love got to do with dementia? Well, so much…everything I would say.
When a person is diagnosed with dementia, it effects the whole family, whether you are married or not. In my parents’ case, they were a couple and it hit them hard. It sent them reeling and threw them way off course. Plans of a happy retirement were smashed. Yet, what of love?
The greatest love story of all. Another cliché? No, I say, yet again.
After getting over the initial shock and trying to accept and cope with every stage, every hurdle, every shattering news, my father showered my mother with every part of his heart, all the love in his heart and all the strength in his heart. He dedicated the rest of his life to her. Nothing else mattered but her. He only had eyes for her. Every waking moment, every thought, was for her.
In spite of everything, in spite of the exhaustion of dementia and all that it threw at them, nothing stopped him from spending every possible moment he could with her.
When we eventually had to move her to a Home as he could no longer cope, and she needed constant nursing care, he would catch the bus from Sliema to Rabat, each and every day.
Being at work, I couldn’t take him, and he would not miss his morning visit. He did this for some years, sometimes even helping a new bus driver with the route he had to take. My dad knew it by heart!
And when he was knocked down by a car just before catching the bus…and having his elbow smashed? He still went to visit her the moment he could. After this accident, we arranged other modes of transport for him. Yet he never stopped going, he never said no.
And when he was ill with flu? That was a tragedy for him to have to miss his visits to mum! He would sit on his armchair in utter sadness. I can still remember how upset and miserable he would be when he was confined to his home with illness.
His heart was failing, his body was suffering, yet he never, ever, ever stopped visiting her.
They would sit down together in the dining room of the Home. He would hold her hand and look straight into her eyes, smile at her with all the love in his heart, and then tell her all about his day, what he cooked, what the newspapers were writing about, what was going on in the neighbourhood, and whatever else was going on in his life. Those moments were the most precious of his day. Although they sat quietly in a little corner of the room, those moments spoke a thousand words! All the Carers and staff would watch them and admire them. His love for her was a true sign of what marriage is all about. ‘ In sickness and in health’ truly resonated in these moments.
I ask myself, what if mum hadn’t fallen ill with dementia? Well, I may not have witnessed this beautiful love. The Carers would not have known my parents, they would not have been part of this daily experience. No illness is pleasant and every illness is hard. Yet, true love and kindness in one’s heart can transmit the comfort and relief that the person with the illness so desperately needs.
True love is a beautiful experience. We all have it in our hearts. Let us all breakdown those barriers and let out these feelings, these sentiments, and reach out to someone and break their fall. Love is beautiful and true love is not a cliché.