Vascular dementia is a mystifying ailment.
This afternoon I showed my father the 1942 photograph of him astride a motorcycle in his backyard in Florence Street, Hornsby . He could remember it was a Panther and that its headlight had a blackout cover. He told me the story of remoulding the exhaust pipe to ride lower to avoid it burning his younger brother’s leg. He told me the story of riding a BSA through the mud and slush of New Guinea in 1943 as a Signalman riding despatch between command posts. He linked this to his love of bicycles, walking from Hornsby to Pennant Hills in 1935 to buy his first pushbike for 10/- and how he wished, upon his demob in November 1945, he had set up his own cycle shop.
Then, without so much as a pause, he turned to me and asked me about a specific photo on his wall.
Who is she?
She is Olwen.
Why did I have her photo on the table in my tent in New Guinea?
You were engaged to her.
Who is she?
She was your wife.
Did you know her?
She was my mother.
(Pause) So, am I your father? Yes, Dad. You are my father.
(Pause) That was a good bike that Panther ...
Then I really made his afternoon by producing his Army Driver’s Licence which showed he was licensed to drive a range of vehicle types (1A, 1B, 2A, 3B and 5B) but not tanks.
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