Blog 10: Calendar Daze

When you are a normal person living in a normal society, you don’t realise just how much your life is governed by the spoken and written word, by signs and symbols and by numbers.  It must have been very hard for Bill to know that all these literacy and numeracy competencies, taken for granted most of his life, were fading from his brain.  Yet, in 2008, it seldom seemed to faze him and he just kept on keeping on with his life as if nothing was wrong.  As you have seen, however, there was plenty wrong.  Not only could he not measure, handle money, interpret maps or read and write, I discovered, as we journeyed through the year, that he could no longer read a calendar. This revelation came to me in the April, when we were planning the Camooweal trip.

“We could leave on Tuesday, 29th of April,” I said  “And arrive at Matt’s on the Thursday afternoon.”

I showed him the calendar for the month of April. It looked like this:

APRIL   2008






































I pointed to 29th, when I thought we should set out.

“We can’t go then,” he said, tapping his finger on the number 29. “It’ll take us some days to get up there and that would mean that we would still be travelling here.” He indicated the blank square on the calendar beside the 30th of April.

“It wouldn’t be good to be on the road then,” he continued.  “There’s nothing there. Everything would be closed. We couldn’t buy anything.”


I was completely taken aback.  I went upstairs and lay on the bed, thinking.

When I came down, I was ready to best that beast that was confusing my beautiful husband’s mind. I took some old calendars, cut them up and glued numbers on the blank spaces. I explained that the calendar is divided into months for clarity and convenience, and that the days keep on going and people keep on working and living.  After half an hour of earnest tutoring, I truly believe that Bill understood, once again, that those blank spaces were actually 1st, 2nd and 3rd of May.  Looking back with hindsight, however, I also believe that he did not retain the learning for very long.  I didn’t know it then, but I found, as time went on, that once a learning was lost, you could bring it back with teaching for a short time but it would be gone for good within a week. Once that part of the brain that governed the learning shut down, in my opinion, that learning was gone irrevocably.

In his book, The Brain that Changes Itself  (Scribe Publications, Australia, 2009), Norman Doige, M.D., describes how, with great effort and application, brain-damaged people can teach other parts of their brains to take on learning previously lost. Doige cites many examples, so I know that that is often the case. But that was never the case with Bill.  His brain, I think, was too old and possibly too damaged.

  1. Fay

    I think this was the moment in time when i said to myself: “We’re in big trouble ….. bags of bother.”

    December 18th, 2012 // Reply
  2. Heather Dench

    After reading all your blogs, I find I have a better insight into the fears and trials of people suffering with dementia and stroke. My cousin has had several small strokes which have left her with memory problems. She says everything twice to make sure you understand her, even though it isn’t always clear as to what she is referring.

    December 19th, 2012 // Reply
    • Fay

      Dear Heather,
      Thank you for commenting. And you’ve reminded me that we probably all know someone who has suffered TIAs (small strokes). Often they don’t result in dementia. Here’s hoping this is the case with your cousin. Fay

      January 21st, 2013 // Reply
  3. Mrs Nancy Lindsay

    I am sure that these blogs will be of immense help to anyone who is caring for a person who is facing the same problems as you and Bill faced. Thank you for keeping the diaries and writing this. One is never sure when it will be needed in future days. I look forward to reading more from you, Fay.

    December 30th, 2012 // Reply
    • Fay

      Thank you, Nancy,
      You could have written a book yourself. But this is a great way of remembering Bill almost a year after his death.
      Happy New Year, Fay

      January 21st, 2013 // Reply
  4. Les Milne

    It is so frustrating to watch dementia – seeing the person fade in front of you and being powerless to prevent the slide. Your description of the descent is so accurate!
    Please don’t forget to write about the toll it extracted from you as the carer, Fay. We can read between the lines that you fought hard and long beside Bill, but we can also see that you were robbed of much of the joy of your retirement after many years of hard work.

    January 4th, 2013 // Reply
    • Fay

      Hello Lesley,
      I’m so pleased that you are following the blog. I value your input greatly because of your scientific background and I find it gratifying to know that you see the account as being true to the documented nature of vascular dementia. Fay

      January 21st, 2013 // Reply
  5. Fay

    Hello Nancy,
    Thank you for your comments. I know that you only ever had warmth in your heart for Bill and I and that you’ve been on a similar journey yourself and I’m very glad that you are reading his story.
    Kind thoughts,

    January 7th, 2013 // Reply
  6. Sonia Hendy

    Was Bill able to recoognize this loss and talk to you about it? I often wonder how frightened he must have been, particularly if he realized how much he had actually lost.

    February 4th, 2013 // Reply
    • Fay

      At first, Sonia, you could reason with Bill and explain to him that there were inaccuracies in his thinking. In those days, I think he understood that something was going terribly wrong and he worked with me to try to straighten it out.
      Later, though, it happened that, if you tried to correct Bill’s thinking, he would argue the point with you, completely convinced that there was nothing awry with his thought processes at all and that all those around him had better go outside and look for their brains. That would have been six years into the dementia. In those days, he mostly didn’t know that there was anything wrong. I say “mostly” because there were odd occasions, which I talk about in another blog, when he knew.

      May 4th, 2013 // Reply
  7. Harold and Nola

    And wasn’t Bill so fortunate to have such a clever partner!
    That calendar business is almost surreal. would we have been so clever?
    We think not – but this particular account will most definitely help others . . .

    March 16th, 2013 // Reply

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