Blog 11: Calendar Daze (cont)

The next time the calendar became an issue was in August, 2009, when we planned a trip to Sydney to celebrate Bill’s 70th birthday. This time, we were travelling within the month, so the problem of the blank spaces didn’t arise.  By the time Bill had finished marking the calendar, however, this is how it looked:


I have included this photo of the calendar because I want you to see the way Bill was reasoning at the time.  In the first instance, as he looked, he took some time to comprehend the fact that we couldn’t leave on the Tuesday (04/09).  I had a hair appointment on that day and, because he couldn’t read any more, it took a while for my calendar note, “Fay’s Hair”, to sink in.  Once he realised the situation, Tuesday 4th was crossed out several times ….. not in anger ….. but to help him understand and remember.

Having comprehended that, he then determined that we could leave on the Thursday (06/09). That’s why the square for that Thursday is inked so heavily on both sides. The process of inking the sides of the square helped him understand that this was the day that we would leave.

Bill worried, though, that we might not be able to make it down from Brisbane to Sydney in that one day.

“We could overnight at Kempsey,” I suggested.  “We could pull up at a motel and sleep there for the night and then travel on again on the Friday.”

But Bill wouldn’t hear of stopping overnight. Once he started driving, he liked to keep on driving.  It was always that way with Bill.

“Well,” I continued, “We could leave at four in the morning, if you like.  That should get us a fair way down before we hit any traffic.”

“Yes!  We could do that,” he agreed, “but we need a bit more.  Maybe …. Maybe we could take a bit from here,” he said, drawing that heavy, black, perpendicular line across the square that belongs to Friday 7th.

“And we could get a bit more from here, too,” he added enthusiastically, as he extended, upwards, the pillars of ink that had been drawn on either side of Thursday.

You can imagine my puzzlement when he kept on drawing. Those lines went up and across, up and across, until he had completely surrounded the word Thursday, that was at the top of the column.

But that wasn’t the end of it.  Bill was on a roll.

“And we could take a bit more from here,” he exclaimed, smiling smugly and extending the lines downwards into the square that belonged to Thursday 13th.

“That should work well,” he concluded, pleased with himself for sorting it all out.

“Good,” I said, with a slightly heavy heart.  “We’ll leave on Thursday 6th at 4am.”


It hit me, as I took part in this discussion, that Bill could no longer think in the abstract.  He could only think in the concrete, as do most five-year-olds.  If you say to a five-year-old: “You’ll have to pull your socks up!” the five-year-old will invariably bend down and pull his socks up. He does not perceive, as adults do, that you are talking about his overall performance at school or behaviour in the playground. So it was with Bill. Bill actually believed, as he drew those lines, upwards and downwards and over Friday 7th, that he was adding hours to our proposed starting day.  It did not even cross my mind at the time, and Bill probably wouldn’t have taken too kindly to my testing him, but my guess is, that if, at that time, I had said to him: “What’s two plus three?” he would not have been able to give me an answer. If, however, I had taken the trouble to put two blocks in front of him and then another three and asked “How many altogether?” he might have answered: “Five.”


We had a most enjoyable 70th birthday party, with very few hitches.  Bill was in his element and we were all glad that we had gone to the trouble of turning this birthday into a celebration.

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  1. David

    Great to see Blog 11 up. Just like Dad, I draw lines and squares not circles or curves. I guess we are particular and perhaps even a bit perdantic. I suppose it reflects our conservative nature – a more linear outlook.

    January 13th, 2013 // Reply
    • Fay

      Well, that comment put a smile on my face, David. Yes, you and your father would certainly draw lines. What about your brothers. Do you think that they might be more inclined to draw curves and circles? Fay

      January 21st, 2013 // Reply
  2. Suzi Carson

    Bill really enjoyed those family get-togethers, didn’t he, Fay? I know some of them became tiring for him perhaps much later on, but even then he enjoyed them, didn’t he?

    January 15th, 2013 // Reply
    • Fay

      He did, Suzi. He held up well even over Christmas of 2011, two months before he died. I conducted the Trivia Quiz that year and I remember him grumbling about me doing it ….. resented the attention that I was paying to others …… but mostly he was no trouble, smiling at the baby, frowning at the children as they ran through his house ….. just his old self really! Fay

      January 21st, 2013 // Reply
  3. Jill Innes

    Hi Fay. I hope you remember me from Rotary. John S posted this blog on Facebook and I have spent the past hour reading it. I now have big tears in my eyes. I hadn’t idea of all this since 2005 was my year as president of Rotary and I left the following year. You write in an amazing way. I think the absolute world of Bill and you. I’m so sorry to hear of his decline but I am so glad that you were such a help to him. I know you must miss him very much but thank you for sharing your story. One of my best friends just lost her mum to dementia. Her mum was very special to me too and it was very hard to watch and understand. I’m not sure if you are writing more but thank you and I hope you find a true happiness in whatever is next for you. Love Jill

    January 25th, 2013 // Reply
    • Fay

      Hello Jill,
      How lovely to hear from you, our first female President. I remember you and your family well.
      There will be 53 blogs, in all, Jill …. so, if you can find the time, keep reading. Blog 12 has just gone up.
      And, if you can, make a comment here and there, that would be wonderful. Google counts the comments and moves us progressively forward to its front page on “dementia” as they do so.
      So thank you for listening and remembering, Jill. Bill held you in high esteem and would have been delighted if he could have read your words.

      January 27th, 2013 // Reply
  4. Shirley Mahon

    Fay – you are wonderful to record this for your children and others. The journey of dementia can be long and slow, it can be devastatingly fast. To read Bill’s journey, keeping in mind his beautiful smile and lovely manner in the years I knew him at Rotary, I am in awe of your journey in supporting the man you loved through such a frightening time.
    Having personal experience of this disease within my family I understand how differently it manifests, and how difficult it is for doctors to properly diagnose and therefore treat.
    Thank you for allowing us to read and share this journey with you and your family. Shirley

    January 25th, 2013 // Reply
    • Fay

      Hello Shirley,
      Thank you for finding time to read and comment. As you suggest, when I started writing, I wrote purely for family history, but then my son told me that, these days, people Blog such stories. Needless to say, I hadn’t even heard the word “BLOG” at that stage and it’s been a sharp learning curve for me. But what a way to do it. The response has been fantastic and it’s heartwarming for me to know that friends such as yourself are reading it and remembering Bill as they do so ….. a year after his death.
      There are 53 blogs in all, Shirley, Blog 12 having just been posted, and I would just love it if you could find the time to keep reading and commenting now and again. Thank you for your ongoing friendship. Talk soon, Fay

      January 27th, 2013 // Reply
  5. Sonia Hendy

    Great family memories to keep. I think the road to Sydney was imprinted in Bill’s brain, it was just all the other stuff around the drive that was difficult. It must have been hard for the boys who saw their dad with gaps of time in between and the obvious decline each time.

    February 4th, 2013 // Reply
    • Fay

      Hello Sonia,
      Good to hear from you.
      It definitely was hard for the boys to have to watch their father decline and, each time they saw him, after a break, there would always be comments about this or that deterioration that they detected. And, as I listened to the comments, I realised that these “debriefings” occurred, not only because of the boys’ concern for their father, but also because of concerns for themselves. “Is the beginning of that decline happening to me?” they would be asking themselves. From this point of view I think that it is sometimes harder for a child of a person with dementia than it is for the partner. I think that nagging question …. “Is it happening to me? ……. is always at the back of the mind of the child ….. though, on odd occasions, you will still catch me counting backwards from 100 by sevens.

      February 8th, 2013 // Reply

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