neighbours observed – Dominic

Dominic is 94 and is suffering from dementia. He doesn’t recognise anyone any more, not even members of his family. It’s hard on him and hard on his children and grandchildren.
His son hired an Indonesian maid to look after his father full time. She’s no more than a young slip of a thing but she’s kind and patient, and every morning without fail she guides Dominic downstairs to go for a walk. It’s more of a shuffle than a walk and the maid holds his hand and the two of them shuffle in step. What impresses me most is Dominic’s bearing. He does indeed shuffle but he’s not bent or stooped, he moves with his head held high, his back straight and his chest out, the bearing of a recruit on parade.
Dominic and his carer shuffle the length of the building and back. For Dominic that’s quite a distance as it’s a long building, more than 100 yards, and he and the maid manage to make three round trips. It takes them the best part of an hour and by then Dominic is very tired and needs to rest. The maid guides him to the lift and they retire upstairs. For the remainder of the day Dominic does little more than eat his meals and sleep.
I hope to see Dominic and his maid going for a walk many mornings to come.

42 thoughts on “neighbours observed – Dominic

  1. I feel like a voyeur, John, standing off to the side and witnessing you watching them! It is such a terrible disease as the afflicted loses all ability for recognition of loved ones. My grandfather would sit and talk to a giant stuffed frog we won at the arcade one summer, as if it were my grandmother. My siblings would laugh so hard, but my heart knew, even at that tender young age when it could have been funny, that it was terribly sad.
    I hope you witness it for many more mornings as well!
    Blessings, John ♡

    • Thank you, Lorrie, for such a wonderful response, your understanding and compassion shine through, and you know from personal family experience the pain of it all.
      I hope you are healing

      Much love


  2. Kindness and compassion. Reverence. These lay like a balm atop the underlying fear each of us has that, someday, we might be Dominic. Your keen awareness and generosity of spirit shine, John.

  3. John, your story intrigues me with a glimpse into the semantics of compassion. When the fascination of life and living wane with advanced age and we are challenged to recall the complex and simple details stored deeply within the mystery of our memories, it is a blessing if there is a compassionate person to lead us gently to the end. Dominic is a fortunate man indeed and his Indonesian maid a rare personality in today’s harried lifestyles. Thank you for this insight into the life of the aging. Ever your friend, Jon Michael

  4. The mind is a mystery. My mother had Alzheimer’s before we knew what it was. Two things seem to out last memory and logic: humor and music. When mom was living with us, one day when I was stressed out doing bookkeeping at the kitchen counter, she insisted on starting dinner. So, finally I put a large pot of water on for corn on the cob and a small pot of water for one package of frozen broccoli and told her to just put them in when the water came to a boil. She called me over later saying, “Somethings wrong, this doesn’t look right.” She had put the corn in the small pot where it was now dry and burning and the broccoli was in free float in the huge pot of water. My response was not kind or spiritual. I shook my head in despair and exclaimed, “Oh, my God!” Quick as a flash, she responded, “Call on someone you know!”
    Some years after her death I was leading devotionals at a nursing home. I kept wondering as I spoke, whether I should call a nurse to check pulses, since most of my “listeners” seemed comatose. But when we started singing the old hymns, they all came to life and knew every word of every hymn. It may be music or it could be faith perhaps. Because one of my favorite stories is about a elderly lady in a nursing home who’s memory was failing. A caregiver was helping her get into her nightgown, when she asked her, “What is my name? I seem to have forgotten who I am.” Before the caregiver could reply, the woman smiled and pointed to a picture of Jesus on the wall, and said, “Never mind, he knows who I am and that’s all that matters.”

  5. Thanks, John, for reminding me that there are caring eyes following as I walk with my 91-year-old husband in our neighborhood. He is stooped, but his mind is still clear. We have good memories of dancing and jogging and traveling. Today’s walks are filled with contentment as I clutch his arm and watch the seasons change too quickly.

  6. This is so moving John, even as we grow very old we want to maintain our dignity ” he moves with his head held high, his back straight and his chest out, the bearing of a recruit on parade”.
    Lovely and poignant writing, we will all get there.

  7. Sad and yet written with sensitivity and compassion. I guess, at the end of everything, the best that we can hope for is to keep hold of our minds and have somebody there. My best to you, John.

  8. If you can afford to hire someone who can afford to take the job – and needs one – this is a good arrangement. People who are caretakers take on this vocation to the benefit of everyone, but it does depend on the income inequality that is such a strong feature of human life.

    My mother has round-the-clock care; three lovely young Mexican ladies with families of their own care for her – and take it upon themselves to find a replacement who will fit in with the others – because my sisters pay higher than the going rate, and treat these invaluable caretakers with respect. But I shudder when I think: Who will take care of me if the same thing happens?

    And I know it will be people whose access to better-paying jobs doesn’t exist. And it bothers me. And I know I’m on the ‘right’ side of that equation – for me. And that feels uncomfortable – because, Who will take care of them when they need that level of care – but don’t have my resources?

    Ah, Life!

  9. This tone in this struck me as, what could be, very parallel with what it must be like to have dementia. So plainly spoken, basic description and clear simple observation. And evoked such personal response. ( you’re a gifted writer.) This struggle seems to have touched almost everyone I know . Hopefully , there will better ways to cope with or heal this someday. Great write.

  10. I have an 87 lady with dementia as a “yoga” client. We stretch a little, walk, talk and sing together. Her family love her dearly and knows how much movement and company mean to her well being. She still recognizes them but has no short term memory. I hope I can support her ability to move, laugh and sing for many years. 🙏

  11. This is wonderfully related John and it invoked emotional response as I read it painstakingly. I slowly lost my mother to Alzheimer’s Disease and dad through the similar ravages of dementia for a lesser period before he succumbed.

    I was particularly struck by your mention of this gentleman’s stature as he strode (or shuffled) along the sidewalk. I observed this in both mom and dad during their gradual transition into a world within, the uncertainty of life and its meaning, their location at any given time or any real sense of response to what was occurring in their midst.

    Despite all the darkness and despair that often surfaced, both of my parents somehow found ‘themselves’, their true heart and spirit, by carrying themselves with dignity and that manifested in their posture; how they sat, how they reflected, how they walked. Dad would fold his hands together behind his back, a dignified posture that he maintained for so much of his healthy years. He was an architect and though he may no longer have had the capacity to recall his beloved profession, I would watch him in the rear view mirror during our afternoon drives together; his gaze inadvertently fell upon the grandeur of architectural elements of homes and buildings, churches and monolithic cathedrals as they struck him.

    Mom, a full-time mother, was the consummate loving mother and wife who tirelessly cared for house and home. Even in her darkest of days, when I arrived for a visit her face bathed the room in her knowing smile. Her embrace was always familiar and a stronghold that assured me that although she no longer knew her own son by name or relationship, she knew I was deeply close and attentive, loving and forever a friend.

    On a day when mom was quickly beginning to show all the typical symptomatic nuances of her illness, I had just arrived. She stood as I approached, quietly crying, sobbing really. Dad was standing there crestfallen and in the moment really not quite sure what to do, how to respond; my sister sat equally unsure. As I drew close, mom, still quietly sobbing with tears streaming down her face, looked me square in the eyes and asked: “Is there something wrong with me?”

    That question brought our emotions welling to the surface as we, too, fought back tears. I took mom in my arms as dad stood, helpless and resigned, hugged her tightly and returned my gaze directly into her own, responding: “No mom, you’re doing fine, just fine.” It was all I could muster in the moment yet she drew her handkerchief, gently wiped her face and eyes dry, smiled and whispered in my ear: “Thank you young man, thank you.” Her hug was then strong and sustained.

    So many are afflicted by mental illness in this day and the numbers are growing daily. Loss of cognitive ability ran rampant through mom’s family, taking fix of eight over the years. Her father dies very young of a heart attack. Her baby brother, aged 19, was killed in the war in France and her oldest brother, age 30, was hit and killed by a drunk driver. Now, mom’s youngest sister has been diagnosed. It tears at my heart. They were all so vibrant, so full of life and fun. They were all family people and if nothing else remained a connection, they always clung to family. In that there is a beautiful sense of knowing.

    A wonderful piece John. Thank you for the memories.

    • Don
      Thank you for reading and responding, and thank you for sharing your family experience in the most wonderfully detailed way, i appreciate it deeply.
      You understand only too well how these illnesses take their course and the suffering and pain for all concerned.

      Thank you again



      • You’re most welcome John and a pleasure to see your post regardless of its subject matter. My wife Andrea and I co-managed two independent retirement living properties for five years together, a period of profound new awareness for the elderly and what life is truly like in their remaining months or year or two with us on this earth.

        I would see the most beloved human beings grapple desperately with clinging to rational response to disguise their inner battle in this regard yet when I needed to see them privately, and often under emergency circumstances as first responder, I came to know the overwhelming darker side with which they battled daily.

        I find today that people generally have a disregard for people of limited cognitive capacity, even the elderly. Every single one of us could very well be in that same position some day and I truly hope and pray there are good and kindly souls at hand to help me spend my final time on this earth in a suitably dignified, respectful way.

        Life is brief in this world and we need to embrace empathy and understanding for the elderly, not hide from their struggles, their reality…for their days are most certainly finite. We, the firm and healthy, need to hold a hand, share a hug, befriend, help one getting on or off a bus…whatever it is in seemingly small measure is, for the elderly, often a monumental effort for normalcy.

        Warmest regards John.

  12. Thank you, John, for this inspiring get story. It reflects the beauty of your soul. Thank God for caretakers who take care of lost minds every day with patience and compassion. A beautiful piece, John! Best. Ellen

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