Memories. DPchallenge – a few of my favourite things

Oh, love. If you can’t accept a few grey clouds in your own heart, you’d never understand the centuries of midnight in mine.
~~Elizabeth Butler, Surrender~~

I grew up in a family that aspired to be middle-class.   We lived in a suburban semi with an outlandish mortgage that crippled the bank balance.  My sister and I often wore hand-me downs and when things were really tough my mother hired herself out as a char women and sacrificed her own meals to feed us.   Despite my father’s propensity for other women, his sudden rages and narcissistic tendencies she remained the constant in our lives.   When I was 12 years old she nearly died and when I was 32 she completed the journey.

Pre-senile dementia.

My father found another women long before he put his wife into a nursing home.    There were letters in her handbag, amongst the nest egg of jewellery and pound notes, prepared (I think) for a quick getaway.    Membership letters that confirmed the eradication of her name and it’s replacement with the ‘other woman’.   Joan Lillian may have had a memory problem and inadequate ability to articulate words and thoughts, but she was still clever enough to work out what was going on long before her ‘all there in the head’ children did.

She left an informal will, on a scrap of paper, which I found in one of my old bedroom’s drawers.  Her mother’s gated gold bracelet with the nugget of gold, mined by my grandfather in Australia, hanging from it as a lucky charm and the Victorian funeral heart locket with the Dutch cut diamonds – for her daughters.  Of course he disputed it, because her formal will left all to him and he’d planned to give some things to his “good friend” who had supported him through the “tragic times”.  That is until I  showed him the note and dug my heels in.

One day, not long after the funeral, I came home and found him surrounded by paper, family memorabilia, pictures and birth certificates – all from my mother’s side.  He was throwing the whole lot out – “never did like that family”,” no use to   me now”, “no point in keeping it” he muttered as he added torn documentation, beautiful cards, love letters and postcards from generations past to the mound on the floor.

I saved what I could.  For my sister and I.

It’s not much, but when I run that silk scarf through my hands,  wear the locket so precious to her or smell perfume on the vintage dress she so skillfully made, I remember.  And when  I remember the memories of a loving, kind, generous and self-sacrificing woman shine light into the midnight dark places of my heart.


For more information on Dementia:,

Details of challenge can be found at

52 thoughts on “Memories. DPchallenge – a few of my favourite things

  1. A lovely post, this really moved me. My Grandma had Alzheimers, and it’s so important to remember the good times before the illness struck. Sounds like you had a wonderful mother.

  2. Thank you for stopping by and liking my Weekly Challenge last week, so that I could come over and discover your blog. This story is such a lovely tribute… Thank you for sharing it.

  3. Pingback: My Favourite Things « allaboutwordswa

  4. What a wonderful tribune … you had me in tears. It’s only me and my mum left and she became 90 in July .. don’t dare to think what will happen when she has to leave me. Thank you so much for sharing.
    Memories can be soft and brutal … memories can be comfort and they can be agony – memories can end in tears and in laughter.

  5. Holy sweet mother of everything that is sad and serious and sweet and deleterious in this world, that was a very moving post. Get in touch with Jonathan Franzen and he’ll thank you for his next novel. For reasons deeply obscure I thought of both Keri Hulme’s “The Bone People” and Richard Flanagan’s “Death of a River Guide”. I knew I liked your blog, but this is simply over the top. If you ever, ever would like to contribute to our blog, we would welcome you with wide open arms.

  6. Touching story. You saved a beautiful legacy of your mother and it doesn’t take but a few chosen things to keep to bring her goodness to mind. Thank you for bringing early dementia to light. How tragic there wasn’t the right kind of help.

  7. How different her life could have been with a partner supporting her through those sad times rather than exacerbating them. You have your memories but it is so important to have a physical anchor too.

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