As I turn the corner and peep round, there he is, in his usual spot fast asleep. I crouch down in front of his comfy chair, place my hand gently on his knee and say:
His eye light up immediately on opening. He’s always so pleased to see a visitor.
The rest of our time together varies. Visits are frequently limited to no more than an hour as he struggles to battle ongoing fatigue. His Alzheimer’s makes it difficult for him to remember what he wanted to ask or think of things to say so the emphasis on finding things to talk about is on me. But pick the right topic, often questions about his past, and he can speak with fluidity and clarity, just like he used to.
His sense of time, especially how much of his timeline I was involved in, isn’t fixed. It’s a bit like stepping into a Tardis when I visit, with him as the Doctor and me as his Companion, as we travel back together to his childhood, his adolescence, his National Service, his early days of marriage.
Sometimes he thinks I was there, expects me to remember the old friends he grew up with, his mother (who died when I was a baby). But that doesn’t matter. Rather than remind him of the blank patches in his memory, I blame my own recall and ask him to remind me of them. Because his memory of his early days is clearer, it’s even been a chance to learn more about my unknown grandparents; I feel like I’ve had a chance to get to know them at last.
Yesterday he told me about the lettuces, runner beans, and radishes they used to grow – small details that add up over time to a richer picture – and it led to a conversation about the vegetables my husband and I are growing now, as well as the tomatoes Dad used to grow when I was a child, and an idea that we might plant up some pots together for his care home’s garden.
And so our Tardis takes sweeps us off on another journey back and forth through time. How many people find out their father is a Time Lord?
(*For those wondering, the people in the photos are as follows: 1. My parents, me and my older brother outside my childhood home probably 1970; 2. My dad in 1934; 3. My parents’ wedding in 1958 – you can just see their mothers each next to the aisle 2nd row back; 4. My mother, my dad’s mother, and me – shortly before my grandmother’s death; 5. My dad’s parents and younger sister in 1945 – he kept this photo while he was on National Service; 6. My dad in 1927)