I don't know why I wrote this down but essentially it's a story of my last year. Sorry it's not advice or anything like that, I hope you don't mind because it's long. It starts last September: We are rushing home from Cornwall. Dad has been sectioned. Looking back, we stumbled through summer, inexorably creeping nearer to the edge of our cliff. Normality so precariously balanced but not knowing it. Freefalling emotionally. I feel overwhelmed by fear and sadness. Months of visits to the hospital, always wary of what mood he is in. I read his scribbled notes and tidy his stash of oddities. Important nothings and endless obsessions. He’s saved a stone and a secret note in his slipper. My heart is breaking for what he has become. He accuses Mum. He despises us. His venom cuts to the heart. I can’t reason with him. I’m angry, and then I feel selfish and small. I look at the top of Mum’s grey hair as she bravely copes. I love her so much. I look at my reflection. I’m scared of the future now and search for my fate etched in my face, but I can’t see it. I long for my light-hearted sunshine days. I miss my old Dad. New Dad has bipolar and dementia. New Dad inhabits a strange reality. New Dad has pale and distant eyes. People ask me “how’s your Dad?” “He’s fine. You know”. I search for an amusing anecdote to avoid the uncomfortable. I know they are being nice, but I can see their apprehension. I feel so isolated. I turn to my husband for advice and support. I’m lucky. I search eagerly for clues in the anonymous chat room voices reaching out into the void, sharing comfort and knowledge, once avoided now so eagerly absorbed. Dad is finally going into a home. Long meetings, people talking in capital letters, confused because we don’t know the process. But I allow myself to be optimistic. Please let him be happy. I hope with all my heart. First day and I meet Dick who is waiting to catch a train, my heart smiles. I watch the carers, grateful we are not alone. We buy a TV and make plans for his room. I wish so much my strong intelligent Dad could understand. Dad’s not settled, but we’ve learned the rules. Say the right things. Agree. Avoid. Distract. Be bright and breezy. Don’t take it to heart. We leave, less tattered as the months roll on but still damaged and weary. On the way home we talk about the weather. Winter is turning to spring. Mum nearly finished the crossword. We lock our deepest feelings away. Sad. Frustrated. Wretched. Guilty. This last year a tsunami of emotions engulfed us temporarily in its madness. Scraps of old life scattered wide, new horizons formed. I still cry for what was, but I find smiles hidden in extraordinary places. I feel tenderness for my poor dear difficult Dad who is never far from my thoughts and can’t help what happened to him. We will enjoy spring as it bursts into summer, a long year will almost be gone. We must begin living again despite our long goodbye.