Geoff was my stepfather and this is about his journey into dementia. I’m aiming to make it a lighthearted read which will be challenging. However, if you have a friend or a relative taking this sad journey, hanging onto your sense of humour is vitally important. We learnt a lot with Geoff; perhaps sharing some of our experiences may be helpful to others.
This is called ‘Lucky Geoff’, because as his story unfolds, I hope that despite the challenges he faced, thanks to the people who helped him along the way, I will be able to convey just how lucky he was. I’ll start with a potted biography though.
- Born in 1931 at 12 Love Lane Canterbury he resided in Canterbury and its environs all his life.
- He completed National Service commencing on 20 October 1949 with the Royal Regiment of Artillery and was discharged on 4 November 1951, with the citation “a smart, honest, sober (sic) and trustworthy young soldier who has proved valuable over the two years that he has spent with the army”.
- His National service included a brief spell in Germany, where he broke his wrist attempting to play rugby; he never was any good at sport (see hobbies and interests for exceptions to this though).
- He had a variety of civilian jobs, including butcher boy, barman, and delivery driver. His final job was as a cleaner at the University of Kent, retiring in 1996.
- The death of his dear wife (Minnie – my mum) affected him badly; a loss that he never recovered from.
Hobbies and Interests
- Despite the citation on his National Service discharge papers, he did enjoy a pint or six! Hence…
- In his younger days he was a demon darts and bar billiards player, playing for a variety of local pub teams. He imparted some of his darts skills to me and the pair of us used to scour the countryside pubs, challenging the locals who thought they could play darts and invariably showing them that they couldn’t!
- In his youth, he had a passion for motorbikes. When he first met Min he took her out on an old BSA which they affectionately referred to as Clarence.
- He was mechanically gifted, rebuilding one of my old motorbikes in our kitchen. A steady stream of ‘bargain’ ‘old banger’ cars in need of TLC was a feature of family life, but this transportation enabled another of his passions – going on holiday.
- The annual holiday was a key event, receiving much planning. During the 60’s, it was generally camping, but there was one disastrous cruise on the Norfolk Broads (we blew the engine up, and the hot water system, lost the anchor and ran aground, all in the space of one week). In later years we enjoyed several canal boat holidays together, but we never again allowed him to be captain!
- Through later life, he developed a keen interest in gardening. He had a natural talent for this and strangers would regularly stop to admire and photograph his garden.
To sum up – “lovely old chap” was a phrase often used. After Minnie died we took him on holiday to Salcombe (one of their favourite holiday destinations). On leaving a local hostelry, the barman whispered to me “I wish I had a dad like that, you are very lucky”… how true.
That’s it for now. I’ll tweet with #dementia as the story builds.