The Dog's In The Oven

Dress sense

Posted in Uncategorized by dogintheoven on March 30, 2010

“Hello Dad.”


“Hi, it’s me, William. How are you?”


“Hello, it’s me. Can you hear me?”

“Hello (pause). Yes.”

“Good. How are you?”


Conversations with my father are never easy at the best of times, but on the telephone things have a habit of quickly descending into farce. My sisters don’t seem to have a problem and I am often party to their lengthy exchanges as he likes to put the phone on loudspeaker and bellow his responses to the device held in front of him rather than to his ear. But on the telephone, he and I keep things brief and to the point.

“Your mother is dressed like a clown again.”

I had only called to remind them that I wouldn’t be home that evening so they’d have to fend for themselves. It shouldn’t have been a problem as careful planning had gone into my absence – their dinner was in the fridge to be warmed in the oven and my sister was due to call round to make sure all was in order and take my mother for a G&T at the tennis club.

“Well I hope she can’t hear you say that,” I replied, trying to inject a scolding tone into my voice.

“No,” came a quiet and rather sheepish reply, immediately confirming my suspicion that she was probably standing right in front of him as he made his startlingly brutal observation. She generally follows him around when he’s on the phone, chipping in now and again as though part of the conversation.

I could now hear her in the background, telling my father that she could jolly well wear what she likes and it was nothing to do with him anyway. My father provided her with a muffled apology in response and then started to tell me what she was wearing, speaking quietly and out of the corner of his mouth presumably thinking this would be enough to spare her having to listen what he had to say on the matter.

“She’s got two skirts on and she’s tucked her jacket into her waist – and I don’t think she’s got any pants on as I found a pair in the jug in the bathroom,” he confided in me as though imparting a secret.

Of course, he wasn’t; he was painting a familiar picture and one he’s had to deal with many times – and, of course, he doesn’t mean to be cruel or insensitive.

He wants his life to be normal again, for him and his wife of 50 years to be able to enjoy their well-earned retirement together, travelling the world, playing golf, walking the dog and seeing their large family and group of friends. All as planned.

And there, standing in front of him is a constant reminder that he can’t. A strangely dressed taunt.

Holidays will be short affairs from now on, packed with stress for him about my mother getting lost, what she will wear at dinner and the dog eating the hotel furniture. Golf is already getting difficult as arrangements need to be made far in advance and he can’t spend as much time on the 19th hole as he used to. And their friends are slowly retreating into their own worlds of old age problems and away from their friend, who can no longer do the things she used to do with them.

Comments like these about her dress sense,others about her habit of putting things in rather odd places and just about every other manifestation of Alzheimer’s disease are born out of pure frustration, of wanting it all to go away, of wanting his life back. He is afraid and angry and he provides us all with a clear understanding of how this disease impacts on everyone it touches.

Despite this, we all tell him off for his insensitivity, scolding him for it and suggesting alternative words to use that say the same thing. We do this for two very good reasons. Firstly, this criticism does upset my mother. She has a very apparent impression that in his eyes she can do no right. She gets angry with him, even shouts at him and it is plain to see that despite not remembering his exact words a distressing feeling does stay with her.

Secondly, it doesn’t make a blind bit of difference. She won’t alter her attire for him after this type of criticism and this makes it even harder for him to suggest alternatives.

On this occasion, I told him to ignore what she had on and leave it for my sister to deal with when she came round. She would be able provide my mother with a more conventional look with the crack of a simple joke, a pull on the jacket and an offer to mend one of the skirts. Hair would then be smoothed, shoes put on the correct feet and no one at the tennis club would be any the wiser.

“Oh,” he said, more like a child than my father. “I suppose you’re right.”


6 Responses

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  1. David said, on March 31, 2010 at 6:54 pm

    Hi William, Great read. Remember and cherish the good and funny moments, the bad will fade.

  2. Nancy said, on March 31, 2010 at 7:09 pm

    Read your post on Alzheimer’s Assoc. Online Community and went straight to your blog. Enjoyed it throughly. My husband & I care for my mother who lives with us, also diagnosed two years ago. I look forward to future writings. Good luck training for your swim.

  3. metamorphosisofafamily said, on March 31, 2010 at 7:50 pm

    So refreshing William and wonderful – yet again. So sensitive, genuine and you are delicately handling an uncomfortable truth…
    I look very much forward to more!

  4. Me..... said, on March 31, 2010 at 11:37 pm

    Just had a similar call last night and again tonight! xxx

  5. Marsh said, on April 4, 2010 at 6:12 pm

    Hi, William,

    Mom has lived with us in our home (includes me, my husband, our 2 sons (ages 20 and 22), and our Collie) for almost 9 months. I work full time, we have a caregiver (Mom’s sister-in-law) while I’m at work, and her care once I’m home is shared by my husband, me, and our oldest son who is living at home for now. My sister lives about an hour away, and we talk several times. She keeps Mom about one weekend a month. My sister and I are on the same page along with my brother who lives in Arizona (we’re in Indiana). We can relate to the sad moments you describe as well as the funny moments. Your first post absolutely had me laughing…not at you and your famliy, but along with you. I look forward to your future posts. Hang in there. Good luck with the training for your swim. I trained for the Chicago Marathon last summer which I seriuosly think relieved a lot of stress. I’m 54 and onnly had a goal to finish which I accomplished. You’ll appreciate the distraction of training and achieving your goal with your swimming.

  6. Jane said, on April 12, 2010 at 5:19 pm

    Thank you

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