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“Take Care, Son – The Story of My Dad and His Dementia” by Tony Husband

Cartoonist Tony Husband turns his attention to a subject very close to home in this slight, but charming book which chronicles the final years of his father, Ron. We follow Ron’s journey from a Dementia diagnosis right through to his death. Told from both the perspective of Tony and his father, the story reveals the close relationship between the two and the way this relationship is significantly impacted as Ron’s Dementia takes over his life. At first Ron is able to continue living with a degree of independence. The opening sections of the book allow the reader to find out a little more about his lifestyle, family and history. He seems like a larger than life sort of man. As the story progresses Ron becomes more and more confused about his own present condition and eventually moves from the family home into a residential care facility. 

The small snippets of first person narrative and the illustrations which accompany each page give the reader a real insight into the practicalities of Ron’s decline. He laments the loss of his independence when his car is taken away and is heartbroken to discover his dog, Lossie won’t be able to stay with him in the nursing home. However, Husband is quick to point out that the move into residential care hasn’t been an entirely negative experience for his father. Ron enjoys the company of his fellow residents, the entertainment that’s laid on for them and even manages to start a new relationship with a fellow resident. He’s also delighted to discover that Lossie is welcome to come and visit. The dog proves incredibly popular with his new friends. 

Take Care, Son doesn’t go into an awful lot of depth when it comes to exploring the Dementia experience. But what Husband records is very familiar and resonates particularly strongly because each little thought and musing is accompanied by a gorgeous illustration which adds a lot to the telling of a familiar story. I also felt the sections offering the reader a glimpse into Ron’s personal thought life were really clear, insightful and loaded with meaning.

“My memories were confused, jumbled… nothing made sense, the world I knew was disappearing, it didn’t make sense and I presume I didn’t either.”

However, my favourite thing about this short book was the tone in which Husband tells his father’s story. It reads like a warm and deeply respectful conversation between a father and son who really love and care for each other. There’s so much respect and dignity implied within this story that even, in the final few pages when Ron talks honestly about facing death and Tony confronts the loss of his father, the narrative felt sad, but not unbearably so. This is a testament to a life both well lived and concluded with dignity. The whole book is shot through with little nuggets of hope and joy. 

Take Care, Son was published by Robinson in 2014 

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