Authors: Christoph Fischer
Tags: #Alzheimers, #Fiction, #Literary, #Retail
Time to Let Go
First published in Great Britain in 2014
pyright @ Christoph Fischer 2014
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner without permission from the author in writing. The book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not be lent, re-sold, hired out or otherwise circulated without permission from the author in writing
Create Space ISBN – 13: 978-1499130591
reate Space ISBN –10: 1499130597
Cover design by Daz Smith of nethed.com
Dedicated to my Aunt Philomena,
who was like a second mother to me, and to my colleagues at the airline I used to work for.
The radio alarm provided the long awaited starting shot to Hanna’s new day. The 6am news’ presenters broke the awkward and oppressive silence in her bedroom with the day’s headlines. She had been awake for most of the night, haunted by feelings of guilt and repetitive torturing images. The face of the dead woman on the plane with her lifeless body kept flashing before her eyes. Her stomach both cramped and rumbled simultaneously, but the thought of food made her sick. She had tried everything except sleeping pills to get some rest throughout the night but nothing had worked. Her night seemed as if it would never end. Nobody was here to comfort her - that was the price she had to pay for her single life and the isolation that came from her irregular working patterns. What had happened yesterday was not her fault – she knew that somewhere. Everything just still felt very raw today: it was a lot of emotions for her to deal with.
Hanna’s flat had been specifically designed as a shrin
e to serenity and introspection: scented candles were dotted throughout the place; several Buddha statues on shelves or in corners were laughing or smiling and the walls were painted in soothing colours. All of this was meant to provide her with a grounded and peaceful home, according to a colour expert and a Feng Shui master she had hired for the purpose. However, as the night dragged on and sleep was not forthcoming she was no longer looking for introspection and reflection but was praying for effective distraction from her dark mood. She needed to forget that haunting incident, at least for a little while.
She had been scratching a scab on her leg all night long, which was getting too sore now to touch and she wished she had another one - just to give her something to do. But with the day officially started now she switched on the lights and began to make herself more presentable for the outside world.
A chilly November morning was about to break and with the sunrise Hanna not far off, she began to feel a glimmer of hope. As London started to get busy she would be able to keep herself and her mind occupied. Her gym would be opening soon and she could join in with the buzz of this pulsating city.
She brushed her short, blond hair into shape and put her workout clothes on. After a long spell of inactivity she had recently taken up exercise again and had shed a few pounds. She had regained a slimmer but still slightly curvy figure and was proud of it but she covered her tight black workout attire with a large purple jumper and a pink silk scarf. The gym classes and a shopping trip would kill quite a few hours this morning but she was sc
ared of the evening and the night ahead already.
Hanna’s flat had remind
ers of the airline everywhere: her ID, her uniform and her manuals. It would be difficult to keep yesterday’s events from her mind in there. Maybe she should leave London for a while and find distraction by visiting her parents’ home in Somerset. Diving into their troubled life rather than facing her own problems seemed oddly appealing.
As she was listening to the news headlines she pictured her father Walter, who normally got up around this time, probably awake like clockwork several minutes before the alarm went off, waiting impatiently for his signal to start the morning. He would be listening for the weather
report or announcements that might have an impact on his life, such as sports events and traffic warnings. Since his retirement, little of what was covered in the news affected him personally and he had long lost real interest in politics and current affairs. He claimed that he rarely found anything worthy of his attention - even amongst the headlines. ‘Silly private scandals’ dominated the news and since celebrity split ups had become part of the broadcasts of even reputable radio stations he put little value on the quality of information.
“The public is not interested in the serious issues anymore,” and “
…nobody wants to know what is really important. I miss the days of proper journalism and reputable and concise radio programming,” she remembered him ranting as one of those stories had been related by the announcer.
Hanna knew that the absence of important news, however, was a good thing for her father, because usually after intensively listening to those ‘banalities’ he could relax in the comforting awareness that
there was no extraordinary business to attend to.
Last week there had been severe weather warnings on the radio and he had got all worried and called Hanna to warn her.
“Just in case you are out of the country and haven’t heard what was going on,” he spoke on her voicemail. He had reinforced the storm-proofing of the garden shed - just in case - but nothing had ever come of the gloomy predictions. The weather system had hit the country much further east than had been predicted and Walter had been disgruntled for two days about all the time he had wasted through the unnecessary work in the garden, as he told her in a separate voice mail later.
It was a good job her father did not know about her current crisis. Despite a very earthy and grounded way of life
, he could be set off by small issues. She remembered a huge drama he had created when only a few weeks ago a plane had come down on the way from Edinburgh to Poland. Allegedly, the phone kept ringing with enquiries from friends and family if his air stewardess daughter had been on that plane. She could picture him vividly explaining with put-on politeness and poorly faked patience over and over again that his daughter was working for a different airline and because she was part of the long haul fleet she never even flew to destinations in Europe. They should have known and not have wasted his precious time with this idle chit chat.
He had great responsibilities in his life, as he frequently pointed o
ut to her and everyone else. While mainly agreeing with him, she also suspected that those calls had been a safe way for many acquaintances to check in with the family without speaking about the elephant in the room.
Lying next to Walter in the king size marital bed would be her mother Biddy, blissfully unaware of the radio and her husband’s usually slightly grumpy mood. Bidd
y had worked extremely hard throughout her life and Hanna loved that now, in old age, her mother was a sound sleeper and was resting peacefully in the mornings. She knew that her father was ever so keen to get the day started because ‘too much idleness and relaxation was opening the door to sloppines’ as he put it.
Hanna imagined her father being even worse now that he had only his w
ife to focus his attention on; particularly since he seemed to think that this laziness and relaxation was bad for her condition. Biddy was suffering from a moderate stage of Alzheimer’s disease and had turned into a bit of a ‘lazybones’ in his opinion. A distinctive lack of focus and discipline had nested itself in her life and it took Walter all of his energy to steer against this ‘fatal trend’.
s common sense,” he lectured his daughter, “I do not have to read a book about it or discuss it with a social worker; I am living it and I’ll fight for your mother’s mental health in the only logical way: by sticking to what she knows. When you are in your seventies, like me, you will also be familiar with the benefits of routine and stability.”
Given her life as a long haul stewardess she knew these sermons were also directed at her instability. She could defend herself when it came to her professional life but he would frequently criticise her lack of routine in her day to day life when she was not flying off to exotic pla
ces. Telling him about the traumatic incident on the plane would only reassure him that Hanna’s life was a mess and in need of a change.
ideas about Alzheimer’s disease were not founded on proper research or discussion with the doctors. Whenever he and Biddy went to see their local GP he made it blatantly clear to them that all he and Biddy came for were the repeat prescriptions, and not to hear any lectures or gloomy warnings. Since he never missed an appointment and while Biddy was in the earlier stages of the disease the doctors seemed happy to hold back the warnings and lectures.
Walter based his policy on a fixed idea he had. When he had retired, almost fifteen years ago, he had experienced a frightening p
hase of forgetfulness himself: the odd street name; the year in which something significant had occurred and even his own wedding anniversary. He had been disorientated and lost in the long days without structure. Then it was Biddy who was clueless as to what to do with her husband and had asked her daughter for advice.
“Darling, your father is frightening me. He is a changed man. He treats himself to lie-ins now and spends entire days in front of the television, can you believe that?” Biddy had told her daughter on the phone one day. “I don’t know what I should do.”
“That won’t last with our Dad,” Hanna assured her mother. “He will get over it before you know it. He is too hyper to sit still for long.”
“That is what I thought, but he has been doing this for weeks now. I thought he would be on his b
icycle every day when he retired but he has not been out of the house once this week. For someone like your father that is quite worrying.”
“People grieve when they retire. It is a bit like depression,” Hanna
said. “He will snap out of it. I reckon he just needs a new routine.”
so, it is so out of character though, it does worry me. You know how pedantic he can be, correcting people and insisting on the correct usage of the tiniest word. If he didn’t know something he would go to the library to find the answer. Now, not only does he forget names and places, he doesn’t even care to look them up and find out.”
ay, then maybe you do need to worry,” Hanna said thoughtfully.
“Do you think it is Alzheimer
’s? Henrik thinks we should have him tested but I can’t see any good in that. If he gets it, he gets it, right? Or do you think I should?”
“There is nothing that you can do really.
He will never take that test and I don’t think that what he has is Alzheimer’s. He just isn’t focused at the moment. Wait until he snaps out of it. I can’t see it lasting long.”
“I don’t mind the inactivity, in fact, I love having him at home more. It can be cosy, but h
e is getting rusty up here,” Biddy said, pointing at her forehead even though her daughter couldn’t see it. “I would hate for him to go downhill so abruptly. I asked him to speak to a doctor about it, but you know how stubborn he gets. He refuses to acknowledge the issue.”
Remembering the conversation
now, Hanna thought about the irony of it, in light of the events that followed.
Walter soon caught himself and recovered from his retirement disease, as they would call it. He turned this trend around with a vengeance. He began a punishing bicycle regime, made regular tennis play dates and began writing a family chronicle. With his re-born active lifestyle he also improved mentally and his sluggish memory and forgetfulness disappeared as quickly as they had come into his life.
When, almost a decade later, Biddy showed the first stage of Alzheimer’s disease and became forgetful beyond what could be reasonably expected, he had refused to acknowledge the problem and thought that his own tried and tested remedy of continuity and activity was the answer for her, too.
“What your mother needs is a new occupation,” he had argued.
“No, she really needs to see a doctor,” Hanna insisted. “If she has Alzheimer’s, she has to get early treatment for it to slow it down.”
“I read just the other day that the treatment doesn’t even work for many cases,” Walter snapped back at her. “A mere 40 – 70% I hear. It is all just a ploy by the pharma
ceutical industry to cash in. Pumpkin, we are not playing into their hands. I bought her some vitamins and beyond that I think what she needs to do is do some mental exercises. She is healthy; she can fight it off by herself!”
Biddy’s condition, however, was noticed by her attentive doctor during a rou
“What is going to happen to me?” Biddy asked, scared.
The doctor, a calm middle aged woman with a warm and gentle manner, took off her glasses and looked benignly at the patient.
“It is very difficult to predict how the disease will affect you,” she said. “Every person is differe
nt. We need to get you on some tablets as soon as possible to slow down the progress.”
Biddy had tried to be brave but she found it hard to fight back the tears. “And you are sure it cannot be a thyroid malfunction or anything else?” Walter asked, throwing her a suspicious look.
“I am afraid not,” the doctor replied with angelic patience.
She discreetly handed Walter a few leaflets about the disease, which he quickly
hid in his coat jacket, and then she asked them to make another appointment with reception. Later on, when Walter was back home, he briefly looked over the information pamphlets but soon tore them all up and threw them out. He couldn’t face any of this right now. He began to convince himself that, while the tablets could not hurt his wife and were paid for by the NHS, he would not believe anything those doomsday warnings threatened for his and Biddy’s future. He would keep her on a regular routine and schedule; a common sense approach to combat the disease. What had worked wonders for him should be sufficient for his wife and also for his unsteady daughter and her chaotic ways.