These days it is pretty well essential to phone before you go to visit the care home.
He is sleeping a lot, sleeping in, and sleeping at any time. Last week, one day he slept for about 30 hours out of 36. Then he was up and active for a day or two, then next, lay abed until 2 PM.
Often he is just lying there, sleeping, then moving his hands and talking. He is almost never unhappy.
The last few days I have sat with him, when he was up but not really awake. He talks, he sings, his eyes are closed but he sees things he tries to catch or follow or describe. He asks if you have seen them. He asks incomprehensible questions, and nods sagely at my carefully neutral replies.
Sometimes I stroke his cheek and he starts to smile, to laugh and grin, then make funny faces because he always did that when he didn’t know what to say.
Other times he play-snarls and waits for me to respond. This is actually an old game we played decades ago – Don’t mess with the hound and his food!
Not too long ago we talked entirely in growls and yodels and assorted noises, and I think we both found satisfaction in the fun and the closeness.
I am sure that he is exhausted just existing, even in the super simplified – almost barren to tell the truth – atmosphere of the dementia ward. Everyone resident there is pushing themselves everyday to make sense of simple things, to eat, to find a place to sit, to understand the act of sitting.
I am pretty sure he sleeps, and then bounces back, because it takes all he’s got to survive.
And still he keeps trying to use his mind, once so strong, to create order of his visions. He is cast adrift but still paddling, still singing, Still searching incessantly for a harbour that makes sense.
The places and people of his life have almost entirely faded away, vanished in the mist, although sometimes he starts the old ritual of naming all his brothers and sisters and his children. For years we did this every morning, his insurance, but now that safety net which meant everything to him, his identity, is gone.
Every action, every word, forgotten about 10 seconds later.