By CAROLINE MCMAHON
Even though I am middle aged, it is only recently that I have begun to write. I would like to say that this recent desire to write is due to an inner yearning.
But truthfully: I write out of fear.
My father, now in his mid 70s, has Alzheimer’s disease. He has been affected for many years. Living in 2013, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s. Although many wonderful scientists are working very hard to find one, or at least a delayed onset or reduced effects. I live in fear that over the next ten years, I too will start to show symptoms of this awful disease.
My father did not always have his current blank stare and a disinterest in the people he loved.
Quite the opposite.
I look back at my childhood growing up in suburban Perth. My English father was sent out from London to Port Hedland, WA to dredge the harbour. He had previously been deployed to Antarctica for six months, so he was used to being away from home and in extreme weather conditions.
However the overbearing Gasgoyne region heat overcame him and he was admitted to the district hospital. It was there that he fell in love with his nurse, a down to earth country girl, who was to become my mother.
They married in Perth and after taking my mum back to meet his family and tour the UK, they settled back in Perth. It was there that my younger brother and I grew up in a mix of two cultures. Dad, having grown up in the East end of London from a big family and little money.
He tried desperately to explain to my mum that he could afford shoes for his children. So I have vivid memories or my mother calling us in around 5 pm each afternoon to put on our plimsoles. Even if we were running around in our bathers through the sprinklers, our shoes were on so that as dad pulled into the driveway, he would find us playing in our shoes, much to the amusement of the neighbourhood kids.
My father had convictions and things were important to him. He cared and things mattered.
Our home was filled with people most Saturday afternoons, drinks that turned into BBQ s and my dad the life of the party.
Many nights I drifted off to sleep listening to his voice lubricated with beer, singing or telling a joke to our guests. My parents were very social and enjoyed the time they spent with the friends and family.
Although this shrunken figure before me still has the features of my dad, there is nothing of the fun loving and vivacious man I used to know.
My dad faded away long ago, if he were dead it would be easier. He no longer knows his friends, he can’t maintain his relationship with his grandsons. He still knows who I am but talks in riddles in his attempt to communicate with me. It just ends up frustrating me.