I am not one for stories for stories’ sake. Others may find time and enthusiasm for the fantasy worlds of imagined times and places and people, but mostly I prefer the real world.
I can do with Fairy Stories – short and with a message – usually couched for children, read or recited by mum or dad or grandma/grandad, and with a history of telling which goes back many generations. Most Fairy Stories feature a battle against danger for one or more young person. If old people feature it is as a sinister evil, bearing a poisoned apple, or leading the innocent to a place of hazard or imprisonment. In most versions used today the young people will triumph, danger and foes will be vanquished. My daughter, who knows about these things, tells me that in their originals, the tales did not always end in this ‘happiness in the ever after’. Which reminds me of one of the few books which brings together Fairy Tales which feature older people as heroes: ‘In the ever-after’ by Allan Chinen. This is a topic which might repay a revisit. We are used to conversations with friends, family and strangers. Our regular monthly meetings at Bowdon Vale and The Isle of Wight use the title ’Dementia Conversations’ and use the powers of shared narrative to learn from each other and obtain support in the process. This month we opened the meeting further by inviting anyone from the village or elsewhere to join us for a ‘Time for a Cuppa’ event – an open café for a couple of hours, raising awareness, raising funds for Admiral Nurses and widening the experience of this time and space for people to share their thoughts, memories and experiences. We met people for the first time. We heard stories from people we have known in other contexts, but did not know of the dementia-related diversions to their lives which they have hugged quietly. Elsewhere I was involved in a study day where one main theme was stories and storytelling. In an exercise I heard of reconnection with a former mother in law. She rang in the night, looking for a conversation. She had forgotten that divorce had led to formal distancing and loss of contact for more than twenty years. The love had not been forgotten or lost, and wonderfully the phone number was still the same. The reconnection lasted meaningful and mutually helpful – The demons of age and dementia worked for good. Happy in the ever after.