Love, luck and the demon by John F. Roe

cover image

Wakefield Press, 2019. ISBN: 9781743056431.
(Age: Adult) Non-fiction. Memoir. This is very much a love story. John F. Roe tells how he fell in love with Ella the first time he saw her, but through various misadventures it wasn't until years later that they actually came to spend much time together and then to get married. Roe describes his life then as incredibly lucky, to be with the woman he loved, to gradually find a rewarding career in teaching, and to have adventures in England, Rhodesia, and eventually Australia. His descriptions of that time are rich with wit and humour and many references to the literature he loves - reminding us how powerful literature is in sharing experience and understanding.
We know that his luck changes, because the first chapter warns us of the demon that comes to haunt his dreams and invade his life. And as we read on there are mentions of what is to come - but always that is for later. Really more than two thirds of the book is full of happy memories and funny stories - which must have brought so much pleasure to write. Because what does eventually come is incredibly sad. The writing changes as Roe goes on to tell us of the demon of dementia that took over his beautiful and intelligent wife, causing a horrible period of distrust and unhappiness. Through all that time, the doctor consultations and the eventual move to nursing care, he held onto to the love that still united them, and there are lovely accounts of their outings, him pushing her in a wheelchair, to all their favourite cafes and shops near the care home in North Adelaide.
Dementia is a cruel disease, and it is something that more and more of us are going to have to confront, as it is predicted to become the second most lethal killer, after heart disease. What is uplifting about this story is how Roe managed to keep love central to their life, and the care and companionship he provides for Ella is rewarded by happy moments of shared memories even at the end.
Helen Eddy