Of all the people in our little group, he was the hardest to reach. Spoke only when he was spoken to. Just a few words. Hanging on the edge of our conversations, straight-faced, eyes with just a flicker of interest.
But one day I’d helped him find the way down to the gents. And coming back, just him and me, he’d opened up.
– I used to love running. Ran for the Sale Harriers, I did. For years.
There was a little self-conscious smile at the memory he’d managed.
And now, today, I tried to get him talking again. Maybe because he was such a challenge. I wanted to get him involved.
– Remember you told me how you liked running? Well, I’ve just started again – it’s the first time for years – and I’m planning to do the Manchester 10K. Is that the sort of thing you used to do with Sale?
– They threw me out.
His wife jumped in.
– No they didn’t. It was the choir who threw you out, not the running club.
He turned back to me, shrugged shoulders and eyebrows, and I got half a smile again. A sheepish one.
End of conversation.
Why are we all so keen to correct? ‘You’re wrong, I’m right. My truth is better than yours.’
But as facts merge with fiction for my Alzheimers partner, I’m slowly learning to bite my tongue. If that’s her story, then I’m ready to stick with it. At least she has a story.
It’s a good lesson. If we could just quietly accept that others are entitled to different truths, alternative realities, then the world would be a kinder place.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
Follow-up reading: A few hours after posting this story, I came across 20 things not to say or do to a person with dementia from Kate Swaffer. It’s the perfect follow-up.