Alzheimer's Daughter

The Story

Alzheimer’s Daughter introduces the reader to my healthy parents, Ed and Ibby, years before their diagnosis, then recounts painful details as our roles reversed and I became my parents’ parent.

Their disease started as translucent, confused thoughts and ended in a locked memory care unit after a near decade of descent into the opaque world of Alzheimer's.

I began writing Alzheimer’s Daughter one week after my mother's death––when I was stunned, realizing Dad had no memory of her or their 66-year marriage.

I write to pay tribute to the undying spirit at Ed and Ibby's core, and with the hope that the story of their parallel decline might be helpful to others.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

An Alzheimer's Love Story

Last night I attended a picnic in my hometown and had the opportunity to visit with one of my dad's buddies. I was surprised when he told me he'd just finished Alzheimer's Daughter. 

I braced myself, preparing to be scolded for writing about the disease which took both of my parents'. Instead, he gave me a thumbs up and said, "You did a good job, Jean." 

I felt my unease replaced by a softness as I whispered, "Thank you for your kind words." 

He continued, "No one really understands what a caregiver goes through." 

During the four years I wrote, I envisioned my readers to be women like me, caregivers, caretakers, family members struggling to make good decisions for their loved ones.

Last week I received a note from a young woman in her thirties. Her grandfather recently died of Alzheimer's. She said Alzheimer's Daughter helped her understand what her mother had been going through as a caregiver——the things her mother never spoke of.  She also realized what she herself might go through if a caregiving role was thrust upon her at some future point. 

We never know who will read what we write and I never envisioned Alzheimer's Daughter having meaning for those older and younger than myself.

I've become convinced that caregiving is not something we prepare for or talk about enough. Countless daughters, sons, spouses, and partners of Alzheimer's try to give our best to the people who have given us everything, yet we remain shrouded in silence, not connecting with others who share our experience and could offer us support.  This daughter is thankful and humbled by your feedback. 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Timelessness of Music

Good music has a timelessness, regardless of the date it was released.

I love pop music. I'm not a classical girl.

Pop music energized my classroom when I taught. I'd download pop songs for every area of the curriculum, and kids counted on me to have the hits rolling when they be-bopped into the room. In collaborative learning situations, I'd say something like, "I'll give two songs to find the answer." The music would play in the background and as the second song wound to a close, students knew they'd better wrap up their group conclusions, and be ready to share with the class.

Music helped me through my years of caregiving for my parents. When we moved my mom and dad out of their home, my nephew gathered their CDs and made MP3 digitalized copies for family. My playlists run in random order, so at any time, I might hear top 40 songs bookended by songs from more than half century ago.

When I drive I like to keep up with pop music by listening to top 40 stations. I'm always amazed by the ability of today's music to bring back images and memories of my now deceased parents.

Since mom and Dad's deaths, I've been especially touched by Coldplay's "Paradise" and "A Sky Full of Stars." In my mind, these songs speak about pondering the eternal and the lasting love between two people that can endure past death, forever.

Most recently, I look forward to hearing Ed Sheeran's "Photograph."
(Sorry about the ads at the beginning of the video)

Granted my mom didn't wear ripped jeans, but Mom and Dad did, and I do

Keep their love in photographs, 
Where their eyes were never closing, 
Their hearts were never broken, 
Time forever frozen still. 

To me the most powerful line is, "It's the only thing we take with us when we die."

Thank you, Ed Sheeran, for recording this tender, timeless song.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Senior List

Many thanks to The Senior List for including me as a guest on their blog.