Phyllis & Grace
Scallywag Press, 2022
32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99
Phyllis and Grace live next door to each other, and Grace like to take Phyllis little gifts like a slice of cake Mum has baked, or biscuits she has baked herself. Phyllis is always grateful and invites her in, even though she doesn’t always remember Grace’s name or even her own…
This is a delightful story that is being replicated in many communities and families as the Baby Boomers move into senior citizenship and choose to stay in their own homes rather than “being a burden” on family. Not only does it echo the difficulties faced as their independence declines, but it reflects the rewarding relationships that children and older people can share. Grace sees Phyllis through the clear lens of a child, accepting her for het she is in the moment and responding to the moment, rather than getting impatient and frustrated as some adults do because they wish the old “Phyllis” who was sharp-thinking and focused was still there.
Grace’s visits give Phyllis the connections she needs, not just with her immediate community but also those she has known before, bringing back the memories of childhood in a gentle way,. Even when Phyllis can no longer live on her own, encouraged by her parents who clearly see this as a friendship that is as important for Grace as it is for Phyllis, Grace continues to visit, meeting Phyllis’s son and learning that this old lady is more than her dementia; that there is so much more to her than an illness or disability.
With soft illustrations as sensitive as the story, this is one to not only help little ones understand dementia better, but also to help them understand that whatever a person’s illness or disability, they are more than that with a rich life to share or dreams and wishes to fulfil. While their condition might shape their life in the now, there is so much more that was and will be in the sufferer’s story. And that should be our focus as friends.