There was quite an ironic, rewarding, bizarre, unlikely event the other evening.
So for a quick reminder, and a brief introduction to new readers, Nicky (my AMAZING lady wife) and I live with, and care for, Frank, my father-in-law. Frank is suffering with dementia and, as this blog has regularly documented, life for all three of us can be quite exhausting. It can be incredibly challenging and, again for all three of us, unimaginably frustrating.
BUT, there are moments of self depreciatory humour and, like the other night, occasional moments of pure magic.
Nicky and I are both learning to tinkle the ivories (piano!). I’ve had a head start in that I play a bit of guitar, but we’re both thoroughly enjoying the process and sometimes Frank will join us and chill out to the delicately (slowly!) picked out tunes.
Well, Frank, a man who struggles to remember what milk is, regularly mixes up night and day and hides his remote control for the television, suddenly started singing “…hunger for your…” whilst I was chipping away at Unchained Melody.
Astonishing. Astonishing that something I was playing was recognisable. Astonishing that the person to recognise it was Frank. Astonishing that, from somewhere deep within the recesses of his memory, a few of the words to the Righteous Brothers’ classic made their way to his lips.
After a week of bad news, tragic news, desperate stories and more illness in our little world, a truly bright moment enjoyed by the three of us.
We soon got back to losing the remote control and spectacles whilst finding a collection of hidden spoons but that is the world of dementia.
When somebody says “I used to play a bit.”, when asked about, say, the guitar, or table tennis, it normally leads to a thrashing with the little white ball followed by a Hendrix-esque whirlwind solo…. A bit like when our friend, Martin (regular blog visitors will know all about Martin and his sugar fetish – see various posts from the past, including THIS ONE), pitches up and cheerfully announces, in his cute Brummie twang, “I haven’t done any training”, before promptly skipping around a marathon in 4 hours!
By the way, my Dad played a high standard of table tennis and was still comfortably kicking my sweaty arse right up until he was stopped by my Mother…. what with his hip replacement and everything.
Sandbagging, I believe it’s known as.
Well, believe me, I DEFINITELY play “a bit” of guitar.
We had the grandson, Callum, to stay Friday, which is a rare treat, so we forfeited a run this weekend and headed off to Exeter for some lovely book buying, including visiting the lovely people at The Piano Room and The Music Room upstairs. Returning with bellies full of pasties and cake and coffee and coke and with bags full of novels and biographies and music books and guitar tabs and plectrums, we start trying to squeeze our passions into our spare time.
Actually, I managed ALL of my planned runs for over a week right up until I happily substituted Saturday’s charge up The Templer Way for some colouring and teaching Callum the wonders of Lord Robert of The Dylan, before mounting our chariot for the trek up to the big smoke.
“What do we want?” “Details of Kevin’s training!” “When do we want it?” “NOW!” I hear the crowds chant in unison……
So, the last 7 days…..
Monday, I managed a muddy head torch run with Charlie, on the coast path, I’m not sure who’s more lardy! Check it out HERE
Then Tuesday was a double day, some hill sprints with Nicky in the morning followed by 3 x 1 mile after work. Always a struggle to get motivated after work – the driving wind and rain wasn’t particularly inviting, so although my times weren’t comparable to those of nippier times, and it felt like trawling through thigh high treacle, I DID IT!!
More dog jogging, by head torch, around the woods and trails of Occombe and Cockington on Wednesday. I had a spooky moment when my head torch picked out a figure just standing amongst the trees, in complete darkness (about 5.45am!) – check out the run HERE, I reckon the fastest mile was that one!!
When I used to train in a group a few years ago, we had several measured routes which we used as time trials. I did one of these on Thursday’s run (HERE), running the 1.8 briskly, taking a jog recovery then running it briskly back, just about keeping the pace under 7min/mile so happy with that on tired legs.
As mentioned, yesterday’s runs were sacrificed, so Charlie and I joined Nicky for a super speedy blitzed up the Templar Way this morning instead. Nicky demonstrating pacing perfection as every mile got gradually quicker. A week of digging, carrying and shimmying up and down a scaffold had taken its toll on my aging limbs so I quickly, and politely, dismissed the suggestion to continue after these lovely 10 miles – I’ll call this a ‘back off’ mileage week!!
So, I did indeed use to (in fact still do) play a ‘bit of guitar’, but inspired by Nicky’s enthusiasm, drive and determination for, well, everything, I have picked it up again this week, hoping to be more than an average rhythm guitarist……..
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So, a couple of weeks ago, a very jolly chap delivered our piano. It was a particularly jolly occasion. Alan, the jolly chap, banged out a couple of “We’re forever blowing bubbles” & “My old man said follow the van” type tunes before leaving us to wonder at the magic of the thing.
My father-in-law, Frank, suffering as he does from a progressive dementia, was briefly lit up by the music, clapping along and beaming from ear to ear. If you bump into a (jolly) man called Alan, selling pianos, in the South Devon area, please thank him again for us.
“A piano??” I hear you enquire, “but I thought you had no TIME!?” BUT! I retort, this is THE TIME. Ok, neither of us can play the thing! But it has ticked ALL the boxes from our ‘hobby’ conversation of a couple of months ago. Cheap (ish). Accessible. Pick up and put downable. Fun, involves learning and gives ESCAPISM.
Yes, Nicky is absolutely loving the start of her musical journey. Rumour has it that she has been recruited as back up pianist for the recently announced 3 year long farewell tour for Sir Elton John. Better get practising Nicky……..
Frank, then. Nicky’s father, my father-in-law. We moved in with him about 18 months ago, to support and ‘enable’ him. He’s still maintains a little independence, but, to be honest, heartbreakingly he seems to increasingly need a little prod and reminder about the simple tasks of day to day living.
He has been going to the Memory Café, a weekly pop-up support group provided by The Alzheimer’s Society. For a mere pound sterling, he gets two hours with his peers, in a safe, modern-life free, environment. He gets conversation, coffee and cake and activities. Quite often, these activities include a good old sing song. He absolutely loves these.
Sometimes the three of us can laugh at the situations Frank gets himself into. Sometimes, we can get frustrated, sometimes tearful, sometimes almost desperate. Sometimes, Frank is blissfully unaware that he’s in a ‘situation’ at all. The exploding microwave being one of the more dramatic examples this week!
But mostly we get through life, dealing with each day as a new set of challenges and learning ways to better support, not only Frank, but each other. Sometimes well meant comments about how life works for us can be frustrating. It is consuming, and we find ourselves feeling ridiculous as we get irritated by apparently meaningless and momentary incidents, but when these compound over a day, week, month…… a simple thing can be a tipping point.
If we weren’t here, Frank would certainly be in crisis, we feel we give him the safety to continue with as much of his life as he is able, in a slightly independent fashion.
The piano sits in our dining room, and Frank is really happy to have it here. BUT, his attention span dictates that whilst Nicky is trying to learn the whole concept of the piano, music, phrasing etc etc, from scratch, he is prone to either wander off to an aural sanctuary elsewhere in the house, or sit and call out inappropriate encouragement. Whilst working out the EastEnders theme tunes, both Nicky and I were calling out the notes, prompting a much repeated call of “play the F OFF!” from the ever helpful Frank!!
With so many of us living to grander ages, the prevalence of dementia and related illnesses is only going to increase, and we could all take the time to ensure that we consider that the person next to us could be struggling.
I managed a Sunday long(ish) run. After Saturday’s epic (and wet) adventure on the moors (featured in this BLOG) on Saturday, my little legs were aching before I’d finished tying my shoelaces for today’s run. I targeted around 20 miles and hoped those would be at around 8m30s mile pace, on a flattish road route. Whilst I did abandon at 16 miles, I am quite pleased to have ran inside that pace on tired legs. Having to get up in the middle of night to let Frank know it wasn’t time to be microwaving Choco-Hoops and custard (I know!) for a few hours yet prevented us getting anywhere near a night’s sleep. Not ideal preparation. But ’tis what ’tis……..
I had the absolute pleasure of randomly bumping into a very old friend, Steve, on this morning’s run too. I changed my route slightly and accompanied Steve (Smithy) on his run to work. We studied together for our Sports Science Foundation Degrees a few years ago. It was a hard time for me personally and emotionally and it will be great to catch up with him some more.
He was a Torquay Athletic front row stalwart in those days, a family man who has got the running bug these days. It will be nice to share my happier times with someone who really was there for me in those rougher days.
So 2018 marches on.
Nicky and I pick up the baton and charge at another daunting week. Determined to enjoy as much training as possible, wondering if we’ll ever truly get ON IT when it comes to our eating and preparing to deal with another round of jabs from the challenges on life.
I don’t mind repeating myself…. Nicky inspires and drives me and I truly am blessed to have fallen in love with the most amazing woman in the world. It would be so easy to get knocked to the sofa and the soap operas by these jabs, but TOGETHER we push on.
This blog would never have happened if we weren’t the A TEAM. I’m sat here typing whilst Lukas Graham’s 7 Years is given the ebony and ivory treatment by my truly amazing wife.
Whatever you views. About anything. You’ve got to enjoy a bit of Jonathon Pie.
But this will never be a political platform.
First post of the year……. TA DAAAAAAAAAA.
And whatever your views, these ones from last weekend’s running are pretty good.
Actually, it’s taken me so long to write this post, those images are from the PREVIOUS weekend’s running!
Regular readers may well remember me writing about how challenging living with and supporting someone suffering with a progressive dementia can be. It impacts upon everything and, quite frankly, breaks your heart. I wrote THIS BLOG POST where I referred to the challenges of modern life for those suffering with this cruel and debilitating condition.
Well, the remote control headf*** was back this week. After an evening of head scratching and head banging, I came up with the prototype for my dementia friendly remote control.
For a man who spent part of his career repairing aircraft in the Fleet Air Arm, the frustration of knowing that he is struggling to resolve even the simplest of challenges, is horrendous to watch.
He keeps (amazingly) a sharp gallows humour and was absolutely delighted when our new toy was wheeled in and the nice man delivering it gave a quick rendition of “We’re forever blowing bubbles”.
Yes, not content with having conquered marathons, ultra marathons, triathlons, and surviving her crazy job whilst training for MORE ultra marathons and a half iron distance triathlon, Nicky is having a go at learning the piano.
I love this woman and her utterly inspiring determination…….
Actually, if you can find the means to have a few lessons and have a wall to wheel it against, pianos are pretty much being given away. This one came tuned, serviced and delivered for less than the price of a tyre for a Range Rover Sport.
To be fair, so did my ‘beep beep’ Nissan Micra.
A stuttering start for the running year for me. I can’t lie, work has felt physically hard, sleep has felt insufficient, time has felt like as soon as it’s in our hands it’s sliding away again. And my MOJO, slice me in two and call be Bernard, it was last seen shuffling along a remote South Devon beach…..
Actually, I’ve still been out on a couple of fantastic long runs with Nicky and done a speed session or two, so I’m still getting out there.
Just not very often.
It’s creeping back though, the BUG, last week I planned 6 runs and managed 3. Nicky planned 9 sessions (running, swimming, spinning, cycling) and did…. ALL NINE.
Come on Kevin, pull up your mojo pants, big boys socks and zip that man suit right to the top. Time to get back to the thing I love doing…..
Whilst I’m enjoying watching the ‘dots’ battling through the night in the Spine Race, I am humbled and mildly embarrassed by my paltry efforts so far this year…..