Dementia Diary #3
The Appeal Letter
A letter came for my Dad from the church for their annual ‘Gift Day’ appeal. Over the years this was always something my mother had dealt with – so when this year’s letter arrived I explained to my Dad what it was, all the background etc, and checked with him that he would like to make “the usual contribution.”
As he was happy to do so I got him to sign a cheque and “did all the necessaries” by way of preparation. However – the Gift Day was not for at least two weeks, so I attached the gift envelope to the appeal letter and left it in a prominent position so that when the time came it would serve as an aide memoire to go and hand it in.
The Tidy Mind
One of Dad’s daily activities is to work on his stamp collection, and this is something he gets completely absorbed in. It provides him with many links with earlier times in his life and allows him to be fully engaged and totally in the moment. He also has a very tidy mentality, and at the end of every day before going to bed he always puts away all things he has been working on and anything else that his eye may come to rest on.
This does occasionally present some “awkward” moments, in that he tidies certain things into places that he cannot locate in short term memory.
He regularly cannot remember where 3 sets of nail clippers and a nail file are kept – and even though they are always kept in the same place he’ll always tell me he’s been looking for them and can’t find them anywhere! I always take him to the place they are kept and show him, and he’s always agreeably surprised at their being “found” once more. That is, until the next time he needs them!
And so it was with the Gift Day envelope. For 14 consecutive days it was on view in the place I had put it to remind me when the time came – and when the time came…it was gone. My Dad had put it in “a safe place”, and now I had to search, knowing that he wouldn’t have the vaguest idea either where he’d put it or indeed what on earth it was I was talking about.
I did a ‘cosmetic’ search in all the obvious places he may have put it – but to no avail. Do you remember the game “Hunt The Thimble”? Well this was hunt the envelope except I wouldn’t know if I was getting warm or not as there was no one who could tell me – or so I assumed.
Casually, I asked my Dad if he remembered doing the cheque for the appeal, or seeing the letter and envelope attached. We both looked to see if it had fallen down behind the cabinet which I’d left it on top of – no joy.
And then he started looking through a particular pile of documents. At this point something told me to take notice – and so I held the first few things on the top of that particular pile as he looked further down.
And as I slowly opened a notebook on top of the things I was holding – there was the letter and gift envelope, neatly folded.
I told him it had been found and that all was well, and he was really pleased that the ‘lost’ item could now be handed in to the appeal.
It would seem that in the midst of his dementia, he unconsciously recalled a large bit of information about where he had tidied the letter and envelope to. He could have actually looked in a whole variety of places – but there was a trigger that made him look in this particular place. Then it was down to MY unconscious to act upon my noticing this information – a kind of “getting warmer” message if you like – and look deeper in the right places.
There’s a large amount of dialogue going on at the unconscious level for us all; and the more sensory acuity we have, added to the acknowledgement of trusting our unconscious, means that often those channels of communication that might seem (on the surface) to be ‘clogged’ or even closed, are actually still functioning fairly well.