from Witnessing Alzheimer's: A Caregiver's View
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Ten week catch-up: lots of changes, yet none ...
March 23, 2010
I haven't been here at the blog for over two months. Lots of changes. But the more things change, the more they remain the same. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose - Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr
I went to Abe's yesterday afternoon. He was at the men's club meeting, so I stayed only a few minutes. A minister runs the group. They were talking about health care. No surprise. Congratulations, Mr. President!
Abe's the only one in the group with Alzheimer's. I have no idea what he understands, but he seemed to be listening. His condition is the same: wheel-chair bound; speaks only a few words.
One day he said a whole sentence: "Look who's here!" Another day while lying in bed, he said: "I'm scared." A few minutes later: "Who's that?" referring to people walking in the hall outside his room. That same evening he asked me: "Are you healthy?" Although confused, he was aware of his environment; and he seemed to know me.
The other day when it was warm outside but not warm enough to take him out, I wheel him to the window to see the sun. He points to the man on the motorcycle, delights in seeing a bus pass by, smiles at the woman coming back from the library, a stack of books in her arms. My car is directly below: I wonder if he'd react if he saw me downstairs.
When I get to my car, I look up. There he is in the window, his eyes glistening. He sees me. I wave, he waves back. I can't believe he's responding like this. We wave and wave. I'm jumping up and down. Here we are - me in the parking lot of the nursing home, Abe upstairs - a married couple still, waving to each other as if there's no tomorrow. I want to run back up to him, but I continue waving. I don't know how to get in the car.
I'm finding a balance between this Alzheimer's journey and other parts of my life. In the last two months I've gotten back to my research on Dr. Edith Buxbaum's psychoanalytic pedagogy in the Pacific Northwest. (Ok, so it's not the most exciting topic on earth, but it's mine; and I love to dig in the University of Washington's archives). Writing on Buxbaum leads me to her peers who are as fascinating as she was.
Since taking a leave from this blog I wrote an article for Washington State's on-line encyclopedia, HistoryLink, about educator, Eleanor Siegl, who started The Little School, one of the first alternative preschools in Seattle. Buxbaum was consultant to the school, and the two women were friends.
It's women's history month. I've been conducting interviews. Among them, octogenarians Pat Melgard and Marjorie Whittier Johnson who taught at The Little School and created its Central Branch after Martin Luther King was assassinated.
In addition to my research, I continue curating the It's About Time Writers' Reading Series at the Seattle public library, Ballard branch; and I teach my class Poeming the Silence.
In January I was awarded a Jack Straw Productions' residency. This means I attend workshops and receive audio training. It's a lot of fun. I work with a great group of people and I get to do a podcast. I'll let you know when it comes out.
I went to Hawaii for a few days, compliments of my daughter; and I let my hair grow. I'm walking more and I'm actually getting my hands into the ground to garden.
As for reading:
Mary Guterson, Gone to the Dogs (St. Martin's Press, New York, 2009)
Mary Guterson, We are all fine here (Putnam, New York, 2005)
Andre Gide, Madeleine (Elephant Paperbacks, 1998)
Taha Muhammad Ali, So What: New and Selected Poems: 1971-2005. Translated by Peter Cole, Yahya Hijazi, and Gabriel Levin (Copper Canyon Press, Port Townsend, 2006)
Adina Hoffman, My Happiness Bears No Relation to Happiness: A Poet's Life in the Palestinian Century (Yale University Press, New Haven, 2009)
Lucille Clifton, Generations: A Memoir (Random House, New York, 1976)
Lucille Clifton, The Book of Light (Copper Canyon Press, Port Townsend, 1993)
I forgot what else I read. Nothing on Alzheimer's. I can't. Some books by John Dewey connected with my research. It's been a good 10 weeks. I'll talk to you again soon.
Thanks for stopping by,