My Dad was a big man, tall, with a shock of red hair that he claimed my brother and I turned white. He was often mistaken for the actor Kenneth More.

You can see it a bit here, my Dad is on the right (he doesn't usually look so serious)
As I write this, my Dad is coming to the end of his life, he is in a home with dementia and my brother and I have been told we need to prepare. I am writing this now, as once he is gone, I won't be able to, I won't be able to think or breathe or anything, not for a while anyway. But for now, although I have found this hard to write I want to celebrate my Dad.

Dementia, is such a cruel illness, which takes away your dignity as a human being, my Dad hates it, in the moments of clarity he has had in the last few years, he has been very clear, he has had enough, and hates the life he lives now.

He has no quality of life.

For the last year and half he has lost the ability to walk and just sits in his room with the TV on. His care home is excellent, and he has had physical therapy, haircuts, manicures and is always well turned out. The nurses and carers there love him, because despite his dementia he has consistently remained a gentleman.

We chose a care home that specialise in dementia and end of life care so that he would be well cared for. The costs for this is phenomenal, and if he knew, he would be horrified that his life savings have been spent on this. But he has had excellent care, you hear a lot of horror stories about care homes but I have no doubts whatsoever about this one, despite my initial reservations about putting him in a home in the first place.

My Dad was amazing at filling his life with everything he loved.

He wrote a book when he retired - which is still available on Amazon, called The Cheshire Ring

Dad as Falstaff
He wrote numerous plays, some serious, mostly historical and some musical, collaborating with composer Betty Roe. He also wrote pantomime's and continued for many years to play the Dame (a family tradition my brother has now taken on).  He also acted in numerous plays, I remember him playing Falstaff in outdoor theatre at Attingham Park and thinking how great he was. Its no wonder I wanted to be an actor during my formative years.

He worked as an Insurance Inspector for many years and would regale us with tails of limbs mashed up by farming equipment, or gruesome car accidents, often sharing photos at tea time whilst telling tales of the bad people making false claims. (I am still ridiculously honest on this front). He was a fabulous story teller.

He also loved bee keeping, he was a judge, and exhibitor of his honey, and often did talks about bee keeping. He made a film about Russian beekeeping and was on Nationwide (that's like the One Show in olden times) talking about bees. I have very strong memories of extraction day, when the honey combs had the honey extracted from them. The smell in our kitchen was glorious.

And he was a liberated man, although my Mum had to give up work in the same office as him when they got married (that was the time, not him) in 1956. My Mum and Dad were equals in marriage and from what I know had a strong marriage, they annoyed each other from time to time and bickered with one another, but I think that's normal.

We constantly had people from all over the world staying with us - I don't know why this was, but they were like little windows into the rest of the world, I think they were students. I never saw a hint of racism from either of my parents, which was surprising considering I grew up in a prominently white, middle class area during the late 60's, 70's and 80's. 

Dad enjoyed the comedy of Dave Allen, and the Goon Show and later Monty Python. He would regularly sing the 'I'm walking backwards for Christmas song'
He particularly liked Spike Milligan.

When I was little, he would read me Winnie the Pooh, he was always Pooh and I was Piglet, when I went to University he would send me post cards with Pooh on, and brought me framed pencil prints from the books. My children have them in their rooms now, and I still have a little Winnie the Pooh sitting by my bed.

He would quote the Jabberwocky and continued to do it to my brothers, and my children, I still have the first two lines stuck in my head...

 ’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
      Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:

He was one of the few who called call me Janey, as I am most definitely a Jane, and he had other names, like Prunling and Piglet, for me, which only he could get away with.

There was a lot of love in our home for my brother and myself. My parents got married when they were twenty five and were together for 56 years, until my Mum passed away in 2012.

But they had to wait until they were 36 to have my brother and 38 to have me, we were adopted, after clearly years of trying.

I never found out what went wrong, why they couldn't get pregnant, my Dad told my brother it was his fault, and my Mum told me when I had my second miscarriage that she had a D and C (which in modern terms means she had been pregnant but something had gone wrong and she had had to have medical intervention to sort her out).

Ultimately, my brother and I are none the wiser, but it didn't matter, I couldn't have wished for better parents, they had to jump through all sorts of hoops to have us, after probably very sad times, when they realised they weren't going to conceive naturally, but they loved us so completely and unconditionally, you would never have known.

Every time I visit Dad in the home, he recognises me and introduces me to whoever will listen,

'this is my Janey, my little Janey'. No one else will call me that.

Only yesterday, for the first time, he didn't know who I was, first thinking I was his sister and then his little brother Jamie, both of whom are long gone.

My Dad came from a big family with 2 brothers and 3 sisters, all of whom have passed away, even on my Mum's side all of his generation are gone. He is 89 and last man standing. The same age his mother was when she died. I can't imagine how sad that must of been for him.

I know this is life, and death is inevitable. I just wish he had a more dignified end without stupid dementia.

But, that is not how I will remember him.

I will remember him as the creative soul who supported all my mad cap schemes, to act, to be a lighting designer, to write. Whilst my Mum was the voice of logic and resourcefulness telling me to get a job at M & S.

I will remember him on stage in the Panto's hamming it up as the Dame.

I will remember the cuddles when I was sad or upset.

I will remember when I split up from a boyfriend and he came to London and rescued me.

I will remember the many meals out in restaurants drinking too much wine and laughing.

I will remember his anger at anyone who upset me or my brother.

I will remember how proud he is of me, and my brother and our families.

I will remember what a great Bopa (Grandad) he was.

and I will remember him as a big man, with a shock of red hair that I helped turn white.

 If you liked this, please like and share, and if you have a spare pound or two, give it to Alzheimer's Research so one day we can see an end to this hideous disease.



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