Daily Archives: March 13, 2023


The purest form of tragedy is when an attempt to thwart Fate – to avoid a feared outcome – brings about the very result it seeks to avoid. In the original Greek form that may be a fate that is itself entirely outrageous. Thus when the baby Oedipus is prophesied to kill his father and marry his mother, the parents expose the baby to avoid this fate, but inevitably he is found and adopted, and events take their course. Had he grown up normally (with his own family), the subsequent events would of course never have happened. Neither would his own and his childrens’ great tragedies, nor his final meeting with Theseus at Colonus and his posthumous status as protector of Athens.

I fear I am witnessing modern tragedy unfold with a family member suffering dementia. He is living a nightmare, in which he imagines people and voices, and terrible plots against him. His pursuit of these phantoms leads to the intermittent but too-frequent behaviour so often associated with dementia: paranoia, aggression, refusal to accept simple facts or help, and in practical terms, wandering off in a confused state and getting lost.

What the plotters against him are doing, and what motivation they could possibly have, is hopelessly confused. They want his money, but the plot itself involves elaborate cloning of his house in different locations – an exercise that, even if feasible in the first place, would wipe out the entire estate many times over. As I write, the time is something after 3a.m, but he refuses to go to bed because they’re out there and he’s watching. Which is, to be fair, a big improvement on 24 hours ago when I was in league with them and holding him hostage.

Refusal to be helped, and behaviour that denies my sleep and my opportunity to go out, is looking increasingly likely to bring about precisely the rational outcome we all most fear: that he’ll need to be moved to a care home. Fees for that would of course consume his estate – and a whole lot quicker than Jarndyce’s altogether more substantial one.

Proper tragedy.

And if this post reads as Pseuds Corner, I need my sleep, and my fresh air and exercise. The other family member who is alternating with me on care duty could doubtless tell a similar story.