How Dementia Has Weakened “The Odds”

I have started my marathon training.

I went out for an 8.5 mile run yesterday and took my 13-year old son. He didn’t come willingly – for all those parents who need to know that – he moaned and procrastinated until I was literally hollering at him loud enough to wake the neighbours three doors down.

But, once we were out in the early morning Yorkshire drizzle, it was really rather nice. We didn’t talk for the first 2 miles. Both of us silently resentful; me of the fact I wasn’t still tucked up in bed and Archie of me.

This is normal. It happens regularly. After we have both got into our rhythm, the resentment lifts and on the flat parts or the downhill sections we chat.

It was on one of these first downhill sections yesterday that a car drove past us and then pulled in ahead of us, engine running. We trudged on past, our feet padding rhythmically on the wet pavement. I held my breath as we ran past the passenger door. It was a mauve coloured Nissan Qashqai. A lady driver, from what I could make out. We got to around 10 metres past:

“I always think if a car drives past me and pulls in that I’m going to be kidnapped,” I said. “Dragged into the car. Never seen again.”

Archie’s expression was difficult to read. Mainly because I was bobbing up and down. He looked baffled. Then he simply said, “same.”

I wanted him to laugh at my ridiculousness. Instead I may have ignited an irrational fear of purple Nissans.

I’ve always had a vivid imagination. I used to go for walks with my mum, sister and our dog and imagine that the long grass and stones were enormous trees and boulders to a world of people too small to be seen. We were giants stomping all over their world. Our big feet sending tiny people scurrying for their lives. Some days I was sure I could hear their screams.

It has made me very careful of where I tread.

But, when you become a mother, your imagination goes wild! You see danger everywhere and you feel so deeply. I remember watching Comic Relief when Archie was a tiny baby. I couldn’t stop crying. Suddenly these tiny, malnourished children in Africa could have been my baby boy. My heart ached inconsolably for them. It all suddenly meant so much more.

As a mother, the fear is real. It is perhaps our inner hard-wiring, designed to give our babies the best chance of survival. I know many mums are the same. My sister in law is always ready for any eventuality. Meet for a gentle walk around the gentle tundra of North Yorkshire and the boot of her car is equipped with enough fancy gear to get you to the top of Everest – with several nutritious picnics along the way.

As mums we see danger and threat to life everywhere!

Will they get knocked over on their way to school?

Will he meet a murderer on his way home?

Will armed robbers turn up when I am at home on my own with the kids?

Will her cough turn into lung cancer?

Is the dry skin life threatening?

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The Boy, the mole, the fox and the horse – Charlie Mackesy

I remember my mum being very mad at me when I was small. I must have been around 3 or 4 years old and there was an older girl who lived down the road. I was a typical blonde toddler – cute and chatty. She was around 8 or 9 and liked to come round to play with me. One day when Mum had gone into the house, she took me from our garden and walked me up into the village to the shops. This involved crossing a number of roads. Mum didn’t know where I’d gone and raced around the neighbourhood trying to find me. A neighbour eventually spotted me a mile or two away in the centre of the village and took me home. I don’t remember much about it. But, I do remember my mum’s anger.

I know now of course, the anger was fear.

A mother’s fear is normal. Necessary. But, the odds are stacked heavily in our favour. We take comfort in knowing that the likelihood of murder, terminal illness and tragic accidents are tiny. The difference now for me – post mum dementia diagnosis (pmdd) – is that our family tragedy has meant my imagination has no counterweight. There is no trust in a statistical balance to level out the fear. There is no comfort any more in knowing the “chances are” minimal or the “odds are” in our favour.

Odds and chances have lost their power.

A friend told me recently about a friend of her’s who has been diagnosed with cancer. The doctors are optimistic. I refrained from sharing my view that it matters not what the f**k the doctors think.

My dad is poorly right now – “nothing to worry about,” he told us. “Very routine!”. He doesn’t know that there is a part of my brain that is already working out what we do about Mum when he dies! Because, “nothing to worry about” and “routine” mean diddlysquat!

Hubby tells me “you are more likely to win the lottery than be murdered,” I silently seethe with indignation. Does he not realise that these stats mean nothing? That when I am out running in the dark winter mornings, there are clearly a number of serial killers hiding in the bushes? Idiot.

Does he not remember the “she’s too young for dementia” and “the chances are at her age, it’s not dementia” discussions from five years ago?

Now, I sound slightly demented. I realise this. I also want to confirm that I don’t go around in a state of constant terror, wringing my hands, spouting warnings of danger to anyone who will listen. I keep a lid on my distrust of the world. My disillusionment. I laugh at it. I poke fun at it. I mock it relentlessly.  I still believe in hope and goodness. Of course I still play the odds and lead a healthy lifestyle. What is the alternative? To live dangerously? To run in the road in the dark, dodging cars?

No. I still teach my children that it is a good idea to have a healthy relationship with food, to eat a balanced diet and to exercise regularly. I still tell myself that of course they’re not going to trip over and bang their heads when running around at the park. I suppress the urge to scream, “FOR THE LOVE OF GOD STOP HAVING SO MUCH FUN, IT’S F***ING DANGEROUS!” every day.

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Look At Their Terror! Stop Playing!!!!

It is an internal battle.

Usually. Until a dangerous mauve Nissan threatens my safety, of course.

Keep safe, all!

Miss you, Mum x

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