The Elephant in the Room – by John Barber

My mother has always had a thing about elephants. There isn’t just one elephant in the room, there are hundreds. They are everywhere – wooden, pottery, porcelain and brass, almost anything you can think of. Even on the walls there are images: photographs and paintings, some with her in them or other members of the family, but mostly ones she has bought over the years.

The whole family have encouraged this habit. Every birthday and Christmas: elephants in every guise – scarves with elephants on, slippers with a trunk, bedspreads with the head of a big bull elephant, magnificent and majestic.

Now she has dementia. It’s odd but this once obsession now gives her turmoil and angst. “What are all these things?” she will shout on a bad day. The television, the vases, the furniture, the dog are never the subject of her distress, just the elephants in the room.

Over the past two years we have removed them, one by one, to try and help her. Now we are down to one large elephant that no one seems to want. She still complains, but no one has the heart to get rid of the one elephant in the room.


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