November 22nd 2015
Today I had an evening with my Grandad. Because my Grandma has gone away for the night to visit the set of Coronation street (or something), and my Grandad needs, shall we say, “looking after”. It was my job to do just that.
My Grandad has mild Alzheimer’s/Dementia. It’s nothing too serious, he doesn’t end up walking around town lost and forgetting where he parked his car or what year he was born, or anything. But if he’s known you less than two years don’t expect him to remember your name. I’ve been with my girlfriend 8 years and he still calls her ‘Marie’ (which you can probably guess is not her name)
Other than names he has a habit of retelling stories, and asking the same question five minutes apart. Although because he’s now medicated for it, he’s aware of the fact that he’s doing it. He’ll start a story with “I’ve told you this before…” He’s aware he has memory problems, which in itself is a good thing in my opinion.
I spend every Tuesday (as long as I’m in the country) with him playing golf, and every week I hear the same thing from him. I can recite from the top of my head his army, batallion and regiment number. (Third batallion of the parachute regiment) I know the license plate number of the first and only new car he ever owned. (A 1965 mini) I know the names of the three people with whom he remained friends after finishing school. (Dennis Kilby, Tony Crouch, Keith Watts) I know the make and model of the fighterplane for which he designed a new cockpit air conditioning system after he left the army and worked in technical drawing. (Supermarine Scimitar)
And I know all this because he tells me every week. And every time he tells me it doesn’t get any less interesting. Because he’s telling me it as if I’ve never heard it before. Because he wants to share with me these bits of information from his life. And it doesn’t matter how many times I’ve heard it, to me that is special.
He has this question that he repeatedly asks me.
“If there are X amount of people in a circle, and each person has to shake the hand of every person in the circle exactly once, how many handshakes (Y) are there in total?”
And years and years and years ago he taught me the formula to work it out.
Y = (((X/2)-0.5)*X)
Let me translate, you take the amount of people, divide it by 2, take away a half, and times by your original number of people.
The formula isn’t important, because for him X is only ever this one specific value. He sat down one day and worked out this formula, and then he worked out the number of people which resulted in the highest amount of handshakes that would fit on his calculators screen.
14,142 people results in 99,991,011 handshakes.
(14142/2 -0.5)*14142 = 99991011
And every week he asks me… “If there are 14,142 people in a room…” And before he can finish his question I cheat and say “99,991,011” and he says “how the bloody hell did you know what I was going to ask?”
And every week I laugh.
Before I memorised the numbers I used to carry around a cheat sheet and leave it in my pocket so if he ever asked me I’d already have the answer ready.
My Grandad is a special bloke, and I love him a lot. His memory problems don’t matter to me, everyone else worries about how he’s getting worse, or his memory isn’t improving. But every week when I see him he’s just the same funny old bloke who tells me funny old stories about the army. One time he was driving back to the army camp after “courting”, as he put it, my Grandma and he was so tired that he fell asleep on his motorbike and ploughed through a hedge and woke up in a field, he brushed himself off and drove on to camp.
I crack up every time he tells that story.
Until tomorrow, Mum, sorry if you’re crying.