Welcome to the Christmas posts from Your archives and today the first of two posts from Mary Smith. Mary’s father suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease which meant that events such as Christmas were all the more poignant and a time to be together. I think this post echoes the sentiments of all of us who have cared for parents with dementia.
My Dad’s a Goldfish – Our last Christmas with him by Mary Smith.
I suppose the approach of Christmas will always now be tinged with sadness. Our last Christmas together was 2013. From time to time during 2014 we thought he’d make it to the next one – and he almost did, dying three weeks before.
Christmas 2013 was unforgettable for several reasons. For one thing, Wee-sis and I felt it might be the last Christmas in which the Goldfish would be able to participate and enjoy it all – how right we were. However, at one point it looked as though we wouldn’t even see the Goldfish over Christmas because the step-monster’s daughter decided her mother and the Goldfish should come to her on Christmas Day. As they always go to the step-monster’s son on Boxing Day we were not going to see him other than a quick visit.
Much discussion and gnashing of teeth followed this announcement and Wee-sis (because she is so much more diplomatic than I am) was sent to negotiate with step-monster’s daughter. It was agreed Christmas dinner would be at my house. The step-monster decided to go to her daughter’s house instead, which rather pleased us. She would only spend the time moaning about how she hates Christmas and how glad she’ll be when it’s over.
Then, two days before Christmas the step-monster dropped a bombshell by announcing she was leaving the Goldfish and going to live in her own house. She’d inherited it from her mother and had been letting out for many years. She wasn’t going to say anything to the Goldfish! Nor was she going to move out until the end of January because she needed to get it decorated.
Throughout the last minute organisation for Christmas – the wrapping of gifts (nothing for the step-monster this year), shopping for food, planning the day – the worry of what was going to happen kept intruding. However, we put our fears for the future to the back of our minds and planned a lovely Christmas Day for the Goldfish.
The much-loved Yorkshire terrier – with her head balanced very precariously!
He had a wonderful time opening his gifts. His favourite was a toy Yorkshire terrier we’d seen in the garden centre. The previous year he had admired it but in those days my ignorance of dementia was limitless and I had dismissed the idea of buying it for him. The following year on our regular pre-Christmas jaunts to the garden centre there were piles of toy dogs – but only one Yorkshire terrier. I didn’t hesitate. It went into the basket along with the Guinness chocolate he (and I) loved.
All through the day, he petted and talked to that dog as it sat on the arm of his chair. When we took him home, we put the dog beside him. Next day, it had been moved out of reach. I put it back on the arm of his chair. Next day, it had been moved out of reach. The step-monster couldn’t bear to see him stroking it as if it were a real dog, couldn’t bear to see the Goldfish behave like a child. I still have the dog. He sits on the back of the sofa. His head his hanging off now but he was hugely loved by the Goldfish for many months.
The Goldfish had a really happy day, surrounded by people who talked to him, grandchildren, nephews and nieces and partners came to visit him and he thoroughly enjoyed his Christmas dinner (with wine) – and had two puddings – and a couple of drams of malt whisky to finish the evening.
©Mary Smith 2016
My thanks to Mary for this heartwarming post and it is important to remember that for many Christmas as an event means little anymore, but the company of those that love them is precious.
About Mary Smith
Mary Smith has always loved writing. As a child she wrote stories in homemade books made from wallpaper trimmings – but she never thought people could grow up and become real writers. She spent a year working in a bank, which she hated – all numbers, very few words – ten years with Oxfam in the UK, followed by ten years working in Pakistan and Afghanistan. She longed to allow others to share her amazing, life-changing experiences so she wrote about them – fiction, non-fiction, poetry and journalism. And she discovered the little girl who wrote stories had become a real writer after all.
Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni: Real Stories of Afghan Women is an account of her time in Afghanistan and her debut novel No More Mulberries is also set in Afghanistan.
Mary’s latest book
Having read and reviewed this short story collection I can recommend Donkey Boy and Other Stories by Mary Smith as a great Christmas present.
Shot through with flashes of humour the stories here will entertain, amuse, and make you think. Mary Smith’s debut collection of short stories is a real treat, introducing the reader to a diverse range of characters in a wide range of locations. A donkey boy in Pakistan dreams of buying luxuries for his mother; a mouth artist in rural Scotland longs to leave the circus; a visually impaired man has a problem with his socks; and a woman tries to come to terms with a frightening gift – or curse.
One of the excellent reviews for the collection
How I discovered this book: It was submitted to Rosie Amber’s Review Team, of which I am a member. Two years ago I read No More Mulberries by this author, which I liked a lot.
This is an interesting and diverse collection of stories, set in several locations, from Scotland to Pakistan, where the author lived for a while. Some of them were written as monologues, which have been performed.
I liked those set in Pakistan best, my very favourite being Accidents Happen, about a girl whose mother marries a man she hates. I liked it so much I read it again, straight away. I also liked Donkey Boy itself, about a little boy who has to work for his father instead of going to school, and Trouble with Socks, about the sort of ghastly, patronising auxiliary in a care home who thinks that physically disabled means mentally deficient. The last one, a longer story called The Thing In Your Eye, was interesting. A woman believes she sees evil in people in their eyes; this left me a little unsure, as I didn’t know if we were meant to think it was all in her mind (as everyone else does), or if she really could ‘read’ people.
They’re all unusual, with a theme of private sadness. I liked a very short one called My Name is Anya, too, about an Afghani girl adopted by Scottish parents. They’re ideal for a nice bit of lying on the sofa, afternoon reading when you’re not in the mood for complicated plots.
Read the reviews and buy the collection: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B075VC1XNX
and Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B075VC1XNX/
Other books by Mary Smith
Read all the reviews and buy the books: https://www.amazon.com/Mary-Smith/e/B001KCD4P0
and Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mary-Smith/e/B001KCD4P0
Read more reviews and follow Mary on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5239367.Mary_Smith
Connect to Mary on her blogs and social media.
Facebook address: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000934032543
Blogs:http://novelpointsofview.blogspot.co.uk/ and https://marysmith57.wordpress.com/2014/07/