I’m thrilled to welcome another long-standing Facebook friend as a guest this week. I first met Jill through the group We Love Memoirs but there was so much I didn’t know about her until she sent me the information for her blog post. I have such admiration for her. So many people have amazing lives and it’s lovely to get to know them better. We have no idea what the people we casually chat to on our devices, experience day to day, and can only respect their tenacity and their compassion. Time to let Jill tell you her story in her own words.
Hi. I’m Jill Stoking, the author of ‘Joan’s Descent into Alzheimer’s’. Not my only published work but the most significant. Other stuff consists of articles, short stories, and poetry, published in various places.
This, however, was a big deal because it’s about my mum and the years caring for her while juggling a melting marriage which finally dissolved completely. Not a laugh a minute read it’s true but my sense of humour veers to the dark side and it’s there if you’re anywhere near my wavelength. When Lucinda said she wanted a zany, humorous piece I took the view that either she was totally on my wavelength or I’m not who she thinks I am.
Once the care years were over I went slightly off-piste, finally ending up in Kent on the North Downs – the only place I’ve ever lived where you have to strain the chalk out of the drinking water. I live with QT my canine buddy, who has a pheasant phobia.
It was all going great. I’d even started a second book. Then I began noticing slight absences in my memory, which worried me enough to visit the doctor who subjected me to a ‘mini-mental test’. You can view them online but I didn’t know that then. I thought I was doing okay – alright, I couldn’t recall a name and address I was asked to remember and the drawing of overlapping pentagons at the end of the test – well, I couldn’t do that either. The upshot was that I was sent to have my brain and thought processes looked at in greater detail, which took the best part of a year to complete. In September of 2015, I was diagnosed.
Mild Cognitive Impairment with an Alzheimer’s Pattern.
There are no prizes for guessing where that’s going, given that my mum’s youngest sister is now near the end of her own journey with Alzheimer’s. I perceive that this is not much of a zany read at the moment but on the days when I can stand outside myself, I see the humorous side of some aspects of life with the early stages of dementia.
The day after the diagnosis, QT and I escaped to Dungeness on an early autumn day with wall to wall sunshine. We sat on the shingle and indulged in people watching. For those who are unfamiliar with Dungeness, it is renowned for its nuclear power station, having two lighthouses and being a truly quirky place.
We passively observed a near drowning as a rather rotund lady ventured into the sea for a paddle on a shingle beach that had, at that point, a steep shelf. The outgoing tide dragged the shingle from beneath her feet leaving the poor woman prostrate and taking on water. Several Good Samaritans rushed in to retrieve her. I’m ashamed to say I wasn’t one of them.
I got into conversation with a young dad who was teaching his sons the art of fishing. The only fish worthy of being classed as a ‘catch’ was reeled in by the oldest lad and was deemed suitable for fish fingers that night.
I glanced back at the nuclear power station.
On the way home, via the supermarket, I stopped at the petrol station to fill up. Went to pay and my credit card number had completely fallen out of my brain.
Now, I don’t use cash, everything is paid by credit card but even after two attempts, I was nowhere nearer to paying for petrol. I asked the girl if I could step away from the machine for a moment, knowing that if I got it wrong a third time the card would be locked.
Glancing behind me I was amazed to see a queue of lorry drivers – ten good men and true – who hadn’t uttered a single word throughout my ordeal. Fortunately, I have my card numerals attached to the phone numbers of much loved but departed friends who, even post mortem, are continuing to bail me out.
In my book, it’s obvious that before I was aware that my mother had dementia, I found her initial symptoms irritating. I had no clue that I would be following in her footsteps. Nobody witnesses me turning my place upside down on a daily basis, searching for misplaced items.
Friends know I have memory problems and that once I’ve slept, most details from the day before have gone, unless they’ve been written on the door that serves as my notice board. They’re incredibly patient and caring and that’s worth a great deal. I’m still driving but only have a one year licence which is being reassessed as I write. Understandably, I limit my driving to places I know well and visit often.
(This link will take you to my web site review page and a button link to my book on Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com)
Jill your story is so inspiring with a wonderful sense of humour, and you certainly have that (right in my wavelength) is the biggest weapon we have against adversity. I’m honoured to have had you on my blog today. thank you.
Until next time, take care.