When posting out review books recently, I saw that Reg Seward, reviewer of this parish, had requested First Steps to Living with Dementia and thought to include a postcard hoping that the choice wasn’t driven by personal circumstances. What follows is his heart-rending letter back to me.
Alas and alack, I find myself way behind in the time stakes. In reply to your card regarding my widely perceived mental incompetence with the book First Steps to Living with Dementia I have to firstly apologise for the lengthy delay in replying, secondly for the rather awful email format in the reply. I hasten to add that no offence was taken because mental incompetence is my sideline.
Try as I might, I can no longer write with my favourite fountain pen, due to a benign familial tremor. This is a small gift received through genetics by myself, at a much earlier age than is normally due. I have tried on a few occasions to write back to you, but the script deteriorates quite quickly into a shaken shambles, the control of which is difficult to say the least. Same with wielding the ominous toothbrush, how I do not tear my face off with the uncontrollable tremor is a mystery to me! The comedic delights of eating peas comes to mind now.
To expand on the reasoning behind my choice of the above book, it is simply because of a chance meeting with a chap In the changing rooms of the local swimming pool. This in itself raises the eyebrows to the uninformed perhaps, but it is in entire innocence that I tell you that sad tale.
I had been floundering around with my wife, daughter and grandkids for an hour or so when we all decided to extricate ourselves for a warming redress and home. I repaired to the communal changing room after a lukewarm shower, here I began to dry and change. A chap, possibly in his mid 70s entered and sat opposite me on the bench. He was wet, clad only in a pair of nylon trunks and shivering. I nodded a greeting and turned back to my ablutions. He sat there visibly shivering more. Now, I have no training whatsoever in dealing with any kind of traumatic episode, but I was alone and a form of caring came over me. This prompted me to ask after his welfare, “Are you alright?”
Bewildered and seemingly slightly scared, he said that he didn't know what he was about. I volunteered that he had been swimming and from his appearance was about to change into everyday clothes. He nodded in compliance with my reasoning but stayed sitting there. I then asked him if he had a key to his locker. I ended up rooting around in his trunks pocket for the key, weird situation to find myself in, I can tell you.
We adjourned to the locker from whence we found his clothing etc. Back into the changing room he began the recognisable chore of getting ready for the outside world. As he did so, and recognising a receptive mortal, he regaled me with his life story as best as he could remember.
I shall not bore you with the minutiae of his life but it was a steady, normal existence until he lost his wife some years back. He then somehow became a prisoner of dementia over a very short time. His biggest complaint was that the illness deprives him of his memories, his powers of recall were so haphazard and random that it frustrates him to no end.
I had to take my leave due to others waiting for me but I wished him well and began to go. He stood up, semi-clad, he shook my hand vigorously with both of his and said, “Thank you for listening to me, most do not bother these days.” I left, swallowing frequently.
I arrived at the reception where my family were waiting. I mentioned to the receptionist that this chap was in the changing room and that someone should look out for him. She then told me that he was quite the celebrity swimmer years back and that he came once a week from a care home somewhere. The last time he came, which made her aware of him, was when the care home forgot to pick him up for over three hours as he stood outside waiting until the pool staff asked him if he was all right. She said she would ring the care home when he appeared at reception. I left then, I couldn't speak. Even now when I mention all this, my throat contracts and I feel an urge to sob at the poor man’s plight. Then one thinks of all those others who are in a similar dilemma and my insatiable curiosity takes over. I had to read the book offered, even if I had to buy a copy. I know we all have these situations that occur without our prior knowledge but this one just stands out so much to me.
Well, this sums up the reasoning behind my request for the book. I like to think I gave it a favourable review and that it continues to go from strength to strength. I realise this missive comes as a bit of a long letter but I am a man of letters, albeit in a crude attempt to emulate any other notary and scholar of distinction. I feel better in knowing that Winchester is once more a fount of wisdom and knowledge with this document in your possession.
My best regards and wishes to you all,
I’m not sure Winchester merits Reg’s accolade but I do know that he is a very nice man.