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  • Writer's pictureRachel Swanick

Searching for you: A tale of Dementia

Updated: Mar 7, 2022

Elizabeth Hannah Moore, Far right

This is for my Nanna. My soft, velvety, talc-scented Nanna.

Of course, she didn’t always have ‘this’. It started with a forgetfulness, a lack of motivation to walk up the hill to the shops. She is slowly letting go. It feels like forever, this letting go; like I have almost lost the memory of her even though she still lives and breathes here on earth. One day, I imagine her being with Grandad and the dog, in a big tea dance in the clouds. These are the hopes of my 8-year-old self, the one who looked admiringly at my grandparents as they waltzed around the room.

Of course, my Nanna wasn’t like ‘this’. She was strong and content and lived the marvellous life of mediocrity. A farmer’s wife who baked, had children, took the bait out to the workers, drove the tractor, washed the clothes, washed our faces and tucked us in at night. Tight bed clothes in the darkest room. Given farming magazines and catalogues for bedtime stories. Told not worry about the sounds of the expansive countryside around us. My grandparents didn’t eat in restaurants, have fancy things or holidays but they still lived. They grew vegetables and children and grandchildren. They loved their dogs and sheep and beast*. They had friends and family and people who loved them.

Of course, my Nanna didn’t always look like ‘this’. She used to curl her fine hair with rollers in the kitchen mirror. She loved shiny things and her and I would be magpies, collecting anything that twinkled. On special occasions, she would her wear her best burgundy shoes and the matching velvet jacket. A glittering brooch on her lapel and her lips coloured pink with a lipstick she kept in the fridge. On hot days, the head scarves would come out. I remember her making my brother and I wear one each on a bike ride during the summer. We would return to the cool garden to soak our feet in buckets of water. She loved parties, telling stories, hearing stories and dancing…. Did I mention how they waltzed?

Of course, my Nanna didn’t always just say ‘this’. She would pepper the conversation with your name, drawing you in to every twist and turn. She would talk of times past – hard times and kind times. And despite her modesty or conservative nature, she gave advice that was meaningful and honest. No point beating around the bush. Now, the melodic north eastern voice is reduced to a stuck phrase, “All the time in the world”. The ultimate irony given her frailty and vulnerability. But if you continue down the song lyrics, you see my Nanna’s life – there were no huge events, positive or negative, only love. A quiet, constant, steely love that I want to hold in my bones; passing to my children and their children. A silent knowing of strength and feeling enough. A gentle, velvety, talc-scented embrace from a time long ago that is part of who I am.

Dedicated to my wonderful Mum.

*beast – farmer talk for cows!

EDIT 7th March, 2022: Nanna passed away this morning, peacefully surrounded by people chatting, in her lovely care home. Hoping she is already at the Big Tea Dance in the sky, with Ron and the dogs.

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