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Socks and other items

There is something about socks which makes me smile when I think of them. Very personal and private, hugging our most vulnerable extremities. There was, may be still is, a club in Tameside I drove past regularly when working there, which rejoiced in the name: ‘Co’d Feet’. It may have been referring to the concept of fear when hesitating before making a risky decision, or approaching an interview, maybe daring to make a proposal of marriage. But I always took it to be offering communal refuge to those who share the lonely feeling of feet which are physically cold, numb, but painful. A good pair of socks and stout shoes can be the antidote. A glass of whisky would give comfort.

We find small single socks, lost on the park. Hey diddle-dumpling, my son John.

But this week I am being told of the remaining dismay a friend and his in-laws are experiencing at the continuing series of sock-losses of a father-in-law who has recently come to live in a care home. There have been differences of opinion within the family about the wisdom and timing of the placement, but the excellence of the care home and father-in-law’s demonstration that despite living with dementia and grieving the loss of his wife of nearly 50 years, he is still himself and is establishing a presence in this new community, is easing the anxieties of even the most sensitive. He sits with a group of other men and they enjoy each other’s company. He is putting on weight which had been lost during his last weeks at home. He is pleased to go on trips organised by the care home. He is pleased to be visited by family members but is less moved to tears than he was.

What remains is the loss of socks – oh and the fact that he cannot be persuaded to shave every day. I am surprised because I have been familiar with the quirks of life with dementia, over decades: I know about teeth (false) which are lost or exchanged with others, handbags, purses, handkerchiefs, coats and even shoes (sometimes worn on the wrong foot). Cloths on backwards, cloths in multiple layers (Johnny Forty Coats). Pyjamas in the day time. Full dress under the bedclothes. Soap sucked as if it were a sweet. Another packet of biscuits when we already have 30 – ‘They will come in handy’ – and candles and toilet rolls.

But somehow, I have not been aware of the sock phenomenon. Perhaps too trivial to mention to the doctor!

Little things mean a lot.

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