Jennifer Halliday is fierce. Jennifer is angry. Last week, I shared Marie Carberry’s story HERE; this week, you can read how the disease Alzheimer’s impacts family members, but Jennifer is angry about more than that. I dare you not to be moved by what she has to say and if you feel strongly about it, comment and share.
I take the familiar route down the N11 to Wicklow town where my brother lives. He is pleased to see me, he still knows who I am. We get into the car and I have to show him how to put on the seatbelt. As we drive, I’m playing a 60s’ CD which delights him, we sing along to Blue Suede Shoes. Normal conversation is impossible.
We go for a walk along the seafront. As we meander along, he approaches several other walkers and introduces himself to them and tells them where he lives. They react with varying degrees of surprise and then it dawns on them. In the café, he lifts the spoon and says “What do I do with this?” He asks for a glass of water which he then pours into what’s left of his coffee. I try valiantly to make conversation about the weather and suchlike, and to make him feel his responses are appropriate and that his contributions are valuable.
We return home. The kitchen is still festooned with notices now redundant such as “Do not put saucepans in the microwave.” His wife is delayed so I put on the Fawlty Towers DVD he watches all day long on a loop. I put on my coat. He says, “Please don’t leave me alone”, so I stay another few minutes till his wife returns. Feelings of anger and grief overwhelm me as I drive back home.
My older brother, how I adored him and looked up to him when we were teenagers. What fun we had together. He taught me to drive, but more importantly he taught me to jive. He let me tag along everywhere with his friends. Although he spent many years abroad, our close relationship continued throughout our lives, documented for some of the years by little bundles of blue airmail letters.
The news that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s was the biggest blow life has ever thrown at me. Over the past four years, the person I love so much has gradually disappeared and spending time with him has become increasingly stressful. The in-jokes we always shared now fall on deaf ears. I try to be jolly when we are together but my heart is breaking inside.
And now I am to be deprived of him altogether because he is going to a home in a far-off country where healthcare is affordable. I will speak to him on the phone but I may never get to hug him again.