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“We’ll do the Hokey Cokey and …”

Ms Alzheimer’s is an especially unwelcome presence at Christmas but our first festive season with her recognised in our midst has been and gone without too much angst. There was confusion about what day of the week it was and which day was actually Christmas Eve and Christmas Day but otherwise it went fairly smoothly largely because I was around all the time to troubleshoot.  And as Christmases go, it certainly had its moments.

The best one was at our younger son’s on Boxing Day. It’s a delight for both my loved one and me to have all four of our granddaughters (ranging in age from nineteen to two) in one room and given, geography, logistics, jobs and education it doesn’t happen too often. But there we all were ripping open presents, yelping in delight, chatting, catching up and eating too much in a homely Brighton sitting room.

Then the younger children, excited about a download of action songs someone had found for them, decided that they simply had to do the Hokey Cokey with their Dad. So he moved some chairs to create a tiny dance floor and I stood up to join them – unthinkingly assuming that My Loved One would remain paterfamilias on the sofa where he’d already sat most of the day opening his old codger’s presents such as a Down Your Way calendar and Very Warm Gloves.

But one of our quasi daughters-in-law and the elder granddaughters weren’t having that. Much more thoughtful than I, they helped him to his feet and held his hands in our little circle. So the Hokey Cokey turned into a whole gathering activity – amidst lots and lots of laughter because we must have looked awfully silly. And I had to throw myself into it with an undignified level of energy because I was so moved to see MLO opposite me, trying very hard, feeling loved and enjoying himself but looking an awful lot older and frailer than he did this time last year. Had I not forced myself to  concentrate hard on hopping about I would have broken down and howled.

As it was I’d selfishly spent most of the day rejoicing at being able to have proper, grown up conversations with people. I’m a lifelong professional communicator – first as a teacher and now as a writer. I find it almost intolerably frustrating when I can’t get though to people. And at the moment I seem to be failing to communicate with both MLO and the lovely friend who’s staying with us (hearing problems) about 75% of the time. Yes, I know I’m bad-tempered but I really do try hard to be patient and kind – and then hate myself for failing.

Our younger son thinks the Hokey Cokey should be a new Elkin family tradition and is already looking forward to a repeat run at his brother’s house next year. And I’m sure his daughters will be up for it.  As for me, I dare not think a whole year ahead and reflect on what the ever-present and increasing invasive Ms A will be allowing us to do by then.


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Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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