THE BLOG
21/09/2012 10:58 BST | Updated 21/11/2012 05:12 GMT

A Day to Remember

Muhammad Ali came with a legend surrounding him. I interviewed him four times and was fortunate to map out the rise and fall of this fascinating man. He was an extraordinary man, and a great athlete, with charisma; nobody I have ever met had that in such abundance as he.

Muhammad Ali came with a legend surrounding him. I interviewed him four times and was fortunate to map out the rise and fall of this fascinating man. He was an extraordinary man, and a great athlete, with charisma; nobody I have ever met had that in such abundance as he.

I remember the first time I interviewed him, I found him breathtaking. He was wonderful. The most glorious man I have ever seen; funny and great but with a kind of innocence. He was illiterate and couldn't write his own name but could remember and recite poetry.

The privilege is not so much in the meeting of the man; its the charting of a mans life, who through the four interviews I did in ten years revealed a significant phase in a different time of his life.

But my life was not defined by Muhammad Ali, Carrie Grant or Orson Wells. It was defined by my relationships with those closest to me. My lasting and most important memories are about my family and my parents. My mother was a remarkable woman, but she slipped away and looking back I try to chart the moment I felt something was radically wrong.

Sometimes she would say things to me; that she was frightened, that her mind was going and that she couldn't remember things. And I think we very quickly got to a stage that she couldn't remember what she had done.

She was found wandering around the streets in her nightdress where she lived looking for my father who died 30 years ago. The next day she had a hazy recollection of what had happened and she'd invented some kind of fantasy about him. In her head she thought he was a drunkard and was in the pub getting 'drunk again' and she'd gone out to look for him. She even started to call the landlord to chase him but my father didn't drink.

At one point I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. I said to my mother,"Can I say something to you?" She said, "Whatʼs that?", I said, "my father, your husband died 30 years ago." And she said: "Well nobody told me!" I didn't know whether to laugh or cry!

I think the ultimate problem you have to face with anyone suffering with dementia is that you lose them before they die. I lost my mother 18 months before she died and that's the ultimate desperate tragedy I think.

Michael Parkinson supports A Day To Remember to help increase early diagnosis of dementia across England. For more information about dementia and how to spot the signs visit www.nhs.uk/dementia