There wasn’t really one event, or one conversation that triggered alarm bells. It was a gradual awareness that something was wrong…
Christmas, when she wouldn’t get involved in the usual family high-jinks (always involving card games); Easter, when she tried to put the milk in the washing machine instead of the fridge (oh how we giggled about it – I joked “you’re not going all doo-lally on us are you Mum?!?) and summer, when she asked me quietly if I’d seen my Dad recently, as “he keeps leaving me alone with this other tall chap” (my Dad was in the kitchen, putting the kettle on).
Nothing can prepare you for that and even now, several months later and more used to the delusions and paranoia, I am still stumped and lost for words when she asks me where my Dad is.
“He’s standing behind you, you crazy bloody woman!”, is what I want to shout. “He’s just done all your washing and is now making you dinner, while you complain loudly to anyone and everyone – including the myriad of folk only you can bloody see – about how mean this man is to you! You are vile to him, but, this man adores you and is doing everything in his power to make you comfortable and happy. Stop being so mean!” Is what I want to shout at her. I want to shock her back into reality. I want her to feel my pain and see my tears but she doesn’t.
So, instead I change the subject or leave the room. I am angry at her sometimes, so angry and cross, but then within a breath I am also relieved. Relieved that she cannot see our pain or our tears. Relieved that she can’t hear my voice catch and wobble on the phone each night, or see the kids’ confused faces when she tells them that that man over there isn’t their Papa.
The grief is overwhelming some days. It literally knocks the air out
of my chest and I find myself crumpled on the floor, gasping for breath through my loud, snotty sobs. My middle child, Martha, who is just 7 found me like that just a few days ago. I didn’t hear her coming, I just felt her arms slip around me and her small hands pat my back gently. When I looked up, she had tears streaming down her face. “It’s okay Mummy,” she said, “it’s just because you miss her so much.”
How wise my daughter is.