11.42am Robert slips out the gate with us and heads off down the street. Ben scuttles after him. ‘Robert! Rob, this way mate’, gently leads him back inside.
11.38am Dad shakes Mary’s hand and says solemnly, ‘Thank you for coming’.
11.40am ‘Lovely to meet you Ken! You too Helen, Vicki’, says Mary. ‘We’d be delighted to have Ken join us on Wednesdays. I know it’s a big decision but having those free hours each week can really help…’
11.39am I look at Mum. ‘This place is good. It would be good for Dad,’ (and for you too). It’s homely, set in a small but lovely garden.
11.37am and 10 seconds ‘Ken loves gardening, but it’s hard to get him going’, Mum says.
11.37am ‘I live in this area, you know. I was - ’
11.36am ‘Oh, well, they do it now and then, if there is enough of those things there’, Dad replies.
11.35am ‘Do you have a nice garden at home Ken?’ asks Mary.
11.32 am I turn to Dad, ‘You’d like that, working in the garden, wouldn’t you, Dad?’ Dad blinks and smiles gently.
11.31am and 10 seconds ‘Then we do an activity, indoor bowling on cooler days or gardening on warmer ones’.
11. 31am Arthur says, ‘I live in this area, you know. I was the bank manager. Yes, and I have two children, Susan - ’
11.30am Dad doesn’t talk much these days. I move the plate of biscuits away. He’s already had four.
11.23am and 20 seconds ‘Well, let me tell you something about our programs’, Mary tells us they meet each Friday from 10am to 3pm and start with coffee or tea and biscuits and read newspaper articles and chat about current affairs. ‘The idea is to offer stimulation and social interaction’. We nod.
11.23am Arthur passes the biscuits to my mother. ‘I live in this area, you know. I was the bank manager. Yes, and I have two children, Susan, who’s forty-two now and is a lawyer and Geoffrey, he’s forty-eight and works in business.’
11.22am Ben, the social worker, brings us mugs of coffee and a plate of chocolate biscuits.
11.20am I’m jealous that Arthur has so much vocabulary. I look over at a man seated by himself. Mary says quietly, ‘That’s Robert. He doesn’t sit with us but that’s OK. We keep an eye on him’.
11.18am ‘Pleased to meet you, Ken. Arthur’s the name. I live in this area, you know. I was the bank manager. Yes, and I have two children, Susan, who’s forty-two now and is a lawyer and Geoffrey, he’s forty-eight and works in business. Yes, they’ve done well and they visit each other regularly!’
11.17am This is nice. This man is just like Dad. He’s wearing a suit and tie.
11.17am Mary does the introductions, ‘Ken, this is Arthur’. Arthur shakes Dad’s hand. ‘Arthur was the local bank manager for many years’.
11.16am Mary, the smiling centre manager, greets us and invites us in. The homely wooden table is scattered with newspapers and picture books. The space is bright and suggests ‘grown up kindergarten’ with posters, comfortable chairs, magazines, games. On a seat near the wall, away from the big table sits a big man, in green corduroys and a fair isle jumper.
11.10am I feel nauseous but we get in the car, Mum, Dad and me, and drive to the Wednesday Social Club for men with dementia.