ELIZABETH: The concept of a collection of true Alzheimers stories came about for us when in 2006 Pamela enrolled in one of my internet writing courses. Run through Writing to Inspire the course was on ‘Writing from the Heart’. The course requires that each person enrolled focus’ on an event in their life that they want to write about.
PAMELA: I had long since wanted to write about my acceptance of Alzheimers and the death of my father. So it seemed the perfect opportunity to put my memories on paper.
ELIZABETH: Then when the course finished Pamela was ready to email her story to America for possible publication, however in the instant just before she was going to press the SEND button Pamela paused.
PAMELA: I remembered somebody saying that when you press the SEND button you never get your work back. Then I thought, ‘if they can print this in America why can’t we print it here, in Australia?’ So I spoke to Elizabeth about it and that’s when our business Life’s Inspirational Moments was born and the concept of the Stolen Moments book series became a reality.
Read on to discover Pamela’s story (the one that started it all) or play the video to have Pamela read you the story.
Hidden Love By Pamela Eaves
My mother calls to my father as she answers the phone. ‘It’s Pam, dear.’ I hear the smile in her voice.
‘Mum, not sure if you’ve remembered, but it’s school holidays and the children are staying with me. We’ve just been to the park feeding ducks. Shall we call in on the way home?’
As she has for the past months when I phone, my mother loudly repeats everything, nearly word for word, for the benefit of my father.
‘Pam says it’s school holidays and the children are staying with her and they’ve just been to the park feeding ducks, so she’s going to call in with them to see us on her way home.’
In the background I can hear my father saying something that I can’t quite decipher.
‘Dear, Dad says, just as long as it’s before five because he has to take his tablets then. Bye, bye dear. Are you keeping well?’
‘Yes, Mum. See you soon.’
My mother and father, both in their eighties, live in a comfortable, compact one bedroom, one study, kitchen, dining/lounge villa in a friendly and leafy suburban retirement village.
Dad has difficulty walking now. He spends most of his day on the computer, researching his family history, or listening to the cricket on the radio.
Mum used to say she was ‘President of this, Guest speaker at that’, but not now. Now she cares for my father, answering his need for constant attention.
We nearly lost Dad a couple of years ago. If it hadn’t been for Mum’s devoted and dedicated nursing, he surely would have died. She goes without sleep; if Dad is awake, then Mum is awake. If Dad doesn’t want to go somewhere, neither does Mum. Her life is controlled by my father’s whims.
My sister, brother and I, worrying about Mum’s health, suggested getting a ‘Silver Chain’ helper in, even for just once a week, to clean the bathroom and vacuum.
We received the stock answer. ‘Oh no, dears, you know how your father doesn’t like anyone but me touching anything in the house.’
It’s been months since Mum has allowed herself time with the grandchildren. The last time I remember, I watched, as beaming with pride she stood on tip-toe to ruffle her eldest grandson’s hair. He pretended embarrassment as he stood tall beside his Nan, then with an exaggerated lofty bow over Mum, he chuckled affectionately as he gave his grandmother a gentle pat on the head. Mum wagged her finger at him delightedly, telling him to behave himself.
When she and the children went to a movie, she’d spend more time watching the children’s facial expressions and absorbing their laughter, rather than watching the film itself.
The only time she has with the children now, is when I visit her with them in tow. Last school holidays I phoned Mum planning to get her out of the house for a while.
‘Dear, I’d love to,’ came the expected answer. ‘But your father will need to take his tablets and I’m worried that he might fall if he has to go to the bathroom.’
‘Well Mum,’ I fumed, ‘we’ll make sure he goes to the bathroom before we go, and we’ll leave his tablets and a glass of water on the table next to the computer! Surely he can lift the glass himself!’
‘It didn’t work.’ I growled that night as my sister and I commiserated over the phone. ‘It’s not fair! She can’t even get out of the house for a minute without worrying about Dad. Surely he can look after himself for just an hour or so.’
I want to hear my mother laugh gleefully; for her to be enchanted with views of meandering rivers or the turbulent ocean. I want to see her gently touch a delicate flower, smile as she admires its beauty and absorbs its fragrance. To enjoy her grandchildren and laugh at their antics and smile with pride as they kick a football or splash in the pool. For her to listen to a symphony orchestra, close her eyes and be enveloped in the passion of the strings and soar as one with the music to the height of blissful emotion.
Yet to all my invitations came the same answer. ‘I can’t be away too long dear, you know how your father worries!’
My resentment toward my father eats subtly into my being.
My sister-in-law was the first to mention a change in Mum.
‘Have you noticed how Mum seems to be a bit dithery lately?’
‘She’s just tired and run down,’ I said. ‘I’ve no idea what we will do if she gets ill. Dad won’t let anyone else look after him. I guess he’ll just have to accept that he’ll have us wash and change him.’
My sister and sister-in-law look at each other, both with little splutters of derisive laughter. ‘Can’t see that happening!’ my sister utters.
Today, Mum is the kitchen, making a cup of tea. She says she doesn’t want any help, so Dad and I are in the in the lounge-room, talking computers. Their grandson is ensconced in the study busily creating some contraption out of wire, which he says is going to be a surprise for Nan, while their granddaughter, currently in deep concentration with pencil in hand, is sitting on the lounge-room floor, legs crossed and her little body hunched over a special ‘secret’ drawing. When we arrived, after a cuddle for Nan and a kiss for Granddad, she had flown to the drawer where Mum always keeps paper and coloured pencils and crayons for the children.
Mum’s head pops around the corner into the lounge-room. ‘What did you say you wanted, dear? Tea or coffee? Do you want milk with it, dear?’
‘Goodness, Mum, black coffee please. That’s the third time you’ve asked me. What are you up to out there? Are you sure you don’t want any help?’
Dad died last week.
I wonder just how long he has been covering for my mother.
I realise now that when Mum was repeating my phone calls to Dad, it wasn’t for his benefit; it was so he could help her to answer.