A November wind swirls the last leaves on the sidewalk in front of my house: ruffle-edged, yellow gingkoes and pointy red maples. Cooper and Reilly–the neighborhood Labrador twosome–bark to herald me from their corner yard. I pass by with my ragamuffin dog Tati who points her nose into the wind blowing down from Alaska, so they say. I pull my cap tighter. I wonder if my life-long walking friend Linda knows–wherever she has gone in her next life–whether Linda knows that an unseasonable cold has settled in this November.
I’m celebrating publication of “MARS,” my new creative essay, in The Lindenwood Review (Issue 4). It’s all about a journey to a faraway place that one of my grown-up kids led me on. And how I survived.
“God & Alzheimer’s,” my story from the Huffington Post (10/3/13), appears in INTO THE STORM: Journeys with Alzheimer’s (ed. Collin Tong). Twenty-two other writers, journalists, social workers and more share their Alzheimer’s caregiving stories. A rich volume that will be a support and a solace for many. A must-read for caregivers.
A tart green orchid, fuchsia at the center, blooms in my sun room.
Fragrant with cumin, lentil soup bubbles.
Grainy snow covers ice outside our door.
A fat Sunday paper waits for me there.
Against a steel gray sky sparrows peck at seed scattered from the feeder.
Snow menaces, so does melancholy.
My ever joy-filled college roommate died in January.
John and I map out grandchildren visits.
In the big Webster’s dictionary, we look up “out of the box.”
Hellebores hide in my garden, late this year.
My boots sit ready to carry me through six more weeks of winter.
Paul, my elderly father-in-law, telephoned: “Silvia has lost her lights.” Silvia was his wife. She had lost what?
Paul began to speak in riddles. Circumlocutions around a word. Then we had to guess. Paul was losing language.
And it took us months to grasp that this wasn’t ordinary aging, but for Paul a sign of oncoming Alzheimer’s.
My article “God and Alzheimer’s” was featured in the Friday edition of the Huffington Post in their religion section. I’m so pleased to get this kind of national exposure for a subject that is near and dear to my heart.
A yellow school bus stops kitty-corner from my house. A mom and dad walk their boy with loaded backpack to Flynn Park School. Friends arrive from Connecticut to deliver their son to his freshman year at Washington University. I picture new faces on opening day of my French teaching years. I hear again the first hello-bonjour of the fall semester.
In “The Sense of an Ending” ( New Yorker, 5/20/13), Rebecca Mead shows how the Beatitudes Campus in Phoenix offers dementia care with a focus on flexibility and calm. Hershey kisses, “pleasurable moments,” and acceptance of patients’ decline anchor the program. Worth a read as is my Alzheimer’s caregiving memoir SWIMMING SOLO.
Stone Phillips’ terrific documentary debuted on May 7 on St. Louis’s PBS channel. It’s a warm story of adult children making a tough decision about moving their aging parents. Caregivers will identify with the adult children, the untenable situation, and the endearing elderly couple. It’s great to see the visuals, hear the vintage music. In my memoir, SWIMMING SOLO, I tackle the same dilemmas as my husband and I look after our 4 aging parents with Alzheimer’s. Read the first chapter at www.susanrava.com.
Carol Mithers captures the “singularity” of the old and the love and grief of caregiving in “Suddenly, They’re All Gone” (NYT 3/22/13). She talks about “drowning. . . as endless crises unspooled.” That same feeling of going-under inspired the title of my Alzheimer’s caregiving story, SWIMMING SOLO. http://newoldage.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/03/22/suddenly-theyre-all-gone/