I’ve just spent five days with the old folk.
The old folk are my Grandparents. Jean and Harold. I love spending time with them–I always have. When I was growing up I think I spent more time with my Grandparents than my parents. They took me to all my swimming training and most of my competitions, I have memories of ‘reading’ stories to my Gran when I was three or so. Pointing my little finger at words I couldn’t read–making it up as I went along. (Something’s never change 😁)
All my life my Grandad has been the one to tell embarrassing stories from before I could remember. He’s the one who would tell me all about Stockport during the war, and when he was a kid. He brought history and places alive for me with his stories and his memories.
Eighteen months ago he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease.
Some of you will know a lot about this horrible disease, and some of you not so much, so here’s a little insight into it. Alzheimer’s disease makes it very difficult for the sufferer to create new memories which makes it increasingly difficult for them to carry out day to day tasks. They can literally be half way through doing something or going somewhere and forget what it is they were doing. Putting away dishes, having a shave, getting dressed…even half way through eating a meal…they will forget what they’re doing. Meeting new people and going to new places are terrifying things.
This is what makes day to day living frustrating for the sufferer. What makes it heartbreaking for everyone else is the way the person loses their memories of things they knew before taking them further and further back in their lives until eventually they don’t remember family members, friends, places they have lived their whole lives. Everything and everyone becomes a stranger to them.
I’ve lived in my house for four years now. My Grandad can’t remember where the toilet is anymore.
I’m thirty four years old and my Grandad has been a huge–and I do mean huge–part if my life since the day I was born. He doesn’t always recognise my voice on the telephone anymore. And I know that this will only increase as his condition deteriorates.
My sister has three young children. A girl, Jasmine, who is three, and twin boys, Dexter and Jasper, just a year old. He remembers that she has them all, but he can only remember Jasmine’s name.
How long before he doesn’t remember any of us?
These are questions I’ve been asking myself since we found out and they got me thinking about how much of our memories make us who we are? How do they change us? And more specifically how does the loss of them change us? Are we different people without our memories? If so, how?
I don’t have the answers, but I needed to explore them. To think about them, and about my Grandad. How this would affect him and all the rest of the family as a result.
Do I have the answers now?
Oh hell, no. But I have come to terms with some of what will happen in the future. It was also the starting point for my upcoming novel, Clean Slate, which will be released by Bold Strokes Books in September.
Clean Slate is about a woman, Morgan, who loses her memory. Not all of it. She remembers who she is, she remembers her parents, friends, starting University, her nineteenth birthday…the only problem is that she’s thirty nine years old now and nothing is the way she remembers it. Morgan’s journey is one filled with shocks, twists, turns, humour, and some heartbreaking changes. And Morgan isn’t the only one left forever changed by her memory loss.
Morgan doesn’t have Alzheimer’s, but it was thinking about it all that led me to Clean Slate. As such and in honour of my Grandad and all others who suffer with this horrible disease, I am pledging that half of all the royalties I earn from sales of Clean Slate will go to SHARED. This local charity is a branch of the Alzheimer’s Society who operate in the Stockport area and specialise in helping people with Alzheimer’s Disease and the loved ones who help to care for them. They run a lunch club, day trips, and advice service. They help my Grandparents in more ways than I can even tell you by giving them a chance to socialise with others in the same situation and a chance to laugh. A break away from the difficulties and frustrations that every day offer them otherwise.
I can’t thank them enough for making my Gran smile.