On the NPR radio show Fresh Air, Christopher Eccleston talks about acting, faith and coping with his dad's dementia. He came to realise that he had to pretend to live in his dad's world (if his dad thought he was a taxi driver he would play along) and not impose his world on his dad (by telling him he was his dad's son).
“And as I'm writing it down into the crossword, I felt him staring at me very fiercely. And he said to me - are you related to me? And I looked at him, and I said yeah, I'm your son. And he said - what? You're my son? Where'd you get that from? I said, well, Dad, I'm Chris. I'm your son. And my dad became extremely agitated.”
Eccleston's dad then became very angry with his mother because his dad believed that this implied that he had a son out of wedlock.
“But I - from that moment on, I understood that I cannot impose reality on my father. I cannot bring him into my world. I have to go into his. So I stopped calling him dad. I would say call him mate or pal. And if he thought I was a taxi driver, then I was a taxi driver.”
During the period of dementia his dad did have some moments of lucidness.
“My mother was on the sofa. And my mom said - Ronnie, do you know who I am? And he looked at her, and he said yeah, of course I do. She said - well, who am I? And he looked at her, and he said - I don't know, but I love you.”
You can listen to the rest of the interview here.
I find stories like this quite heart breaking. It reminds me of part of a documentary on Terry Pratchett where he begins to stumble his words. I still find it a hard watch!