Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Friday, December 19, 2008

Letter to Dr. Alois Alzheimer

The latest entry in my Witnessing Alzheimer's blog

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Friday, December 05, 2008

"Witnessing Alzheimer's"

The Seattle. P.I. has just launched my new blog, "Witnessing Alzheimer's."

I am honored and delighted that they have given me such a fine space. I hope you will drop by.


Monday, October 20, 2008

New at Beth Shalom

Writing the Jewish Self

Each of us who identifies as a Jew comprises diverse backgrounds of Jewish (and non-Jewish) experiences that contribute to the workings of Congregation Beth Shalom and the larger community. Through in-class writing exercises we will develop tools to record life events. While I use poems to trigger writing and to uncover silences within us, all written forms are encouraged -- diaries, fragments, stories, poems, memoirs, dreams, recipes, lists, whatever we discover.

Participants interview each other, write poetic dyads, read their work and sometimes combine writings with collage art. The group is structured, yet informal. It is organized as a personal development or creative expression's group. We do no critiquing. Our primary goal is to create a safe and nurturing environment so we can write, speak and breathe ourselves into the world.

Writing the Jewish Self is scheduled to take place at Beth Shalom Synagogue on Wednesday nights, November 5, 12, 19 and December 3, 10, 17 (6 sessions) from 7:00-8:30pm. Cost: $162 for members, $180 for non-members. Writer Esther Altshul Helfgott is the instructor. Proceeds go to the Homeless to Renter Program established by Temple Beth Am and administered by the Jewish Family Service. Please register for the class by calling Beth Shalom at 524-0075.

Esther Altshul Helfgott is a non-fiction writer, teacher and poet. She believes everyone has a story to tell and, with practice and encouragement, everyone can write. Esther's work has appeared in more than sixty journals and periodicals on-line and in-print. She has a Ph.D. in history from the University of Washington and has been nurturing writers through her It’s About Time Writers Reading Series (now at Ballard Library) for 18 years. For more information www.estherhelfgott.com

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Memory Loss: Abe and Sarena


He has begun
to speak of
in the third


When asked
her name
she says:
I used to be

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Drash: Northwest Mosaic

Drash, vol 2 is out on the bookstands. I'm proud to have a poem and an interview in pages that include:

Wendy Marcus (editor), Pesha Joyce Gertler, Diane Ray, Martin Perlman, Suzanne E. Edison, Susan Monas, Judith E. Freimark, Ken Shiovitz, Maureen Sherbondy, Michael Bonacci, Marilyn Greene Johnston, Elaine Bishop, Justin Vicari, Lois Rosen, Jerome Richard, P.Hurshell, Rob Freedman, Fredda Jaffe, Diana Brement, David B. Williams, Linda Clifton, Erika Michael, Jed Myers, Selma Bernstein, Rachel Wolf, David Dawson, Ilana Long, Sue Schwartz, Paul Lichter, TA Delmore, Jane Levin, Murray Gordon, Tree McCurdy, Donald Kentop, Sandra Larkman Heindsmann, Michael Schein, Rochelle Kochin, Akiva Miller, Frances Behar Israel, Daniel W. Rasmus, Vishwas R. Gaitonde, David Hirsch, Priya Keefe, Willhem Gates, Jeanne Lesinski, Rabbi Dan Fink and Gretchen Flesher.

There's a 5:30 pm reading today at Lake Forest Park Third Place Books, 17171 Bothell Way NE.

I'll be reading with Drash contributors on Sun, July 27th at Tree of Life Books. 3 pm. Hope to see you there.

Here's a Bellingham-Herald interview with editor Wendy Marcus

My poem Age Eleven, on the way to the mailbox appears in Drash, vol 1, 2007.

Drash, vol 1 is featured here

Ballard library will be hosting a Drash reading in Oct.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


May 27, 1952 - June 24, 2008

For more information, visit Our Lovely Crysta

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Alzheimer's Guide Dogs

What an amazing Video on Alzheimer's Guide Dogs. Who would have thought.

My German Shepherd, Emma, wouldn't get an A but going into my own old(er) age, I'll re-think working only for her to be happy and safe instead of, in addition, letting her - or a future dog - work for me.

It never occurred to me to get Abe a guide dog during his wandering period. How wonderful that the concept is out there now and can be integrated into our caregiving consciousnesses. The video is worth the 10 min watch.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Bettelheim: Living and Dying

Bettelheim: Living and Dying
David James Fisher

Amsterdam/New York, NY 2008. IX, 181 pp. (Contemporary Psychoanalytic Studies 8)
ISBN: 978-90-420-2380-2 Paper € 38,-/US$ 57,-
ISBN: 978-90-420-2427-4 Textbook € 16,-/US$ 24.-

New Publication Offer: € 27,-/US$ 41.- Valid until July 11, 2008.
Online info: rodopi


“A self-declared ‘critical admirer’ and final confident of Bruno Bettelheim, David James Fisher succeeds with as balanced and nuanced a portrayal as seems possible of the character, the lifetime contributions, and the final justifications of a most controversial psychoanalytic eminence. Bettelheim was at once the center of major professional polemics, and at the same time, the psychoanalyst who, after Sigmund Freud and Erik Erikson, has had the greatest impact on the wider culture of the twentieth century. Fisher's book is highly recommended reading for all concerned with the interplay of ideas and personas in the evolving history of the psychoanalytic place in the scheme of human development.”

Robert S. Wallerstein, M.D., Emeritus Professor and former Chair, Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine.

“David James Fisher has written a moving, personal portrait of Bruno Bettelheim as thinker, writer, and friend. His story of Bettelheim during the last two years of his life makes for riveting reading, as does his balanced view of both Bettelheim's personality and his many contributions to psychoanalysis and the treatment of disturbed children. Fisher's work is a valuable volume in the history of psychoanalysis in America, and a wonderful narrative about this enormously complex man.”

Joseph Reppen, Ph.D., Editor, Psychoanalytic Psychology and Chair, Council of Editors of Psychoanalytic Journals.

One Introduction
Two: Psychoanalytic Cultural Criticism and the Soul
Three: Towards A Psychoanalytic Understanding of Fascism and Anti-Semitism: Perceptions from the 1940’s
Four: On Parenting and Playing
Five: The Relationship and Debates between Bruno Bettelheim and Rudolf Ekstein
Six: In Memoriam: Rudolf Ekstein (1912-2005)
Seven: A Final Conversation with Bruno Bettelheim
Eight: The Suicide of a Survivor: Some Intimate Perceptionsof Bettelheim’s Suicide
Nine: Homage to Bettelheim
Ten: An Open Letter to Newsweek
Eleven: Concerning Bruno Bettelheim: A Reply to Former Patients from the Orthogenic School
Twelve: Two Letters from Bettelheim to the Author
About the Author

Rodopi Publishers

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Back to Blogging

I didn't go to see Abe tonight or last night. Seeing him right after the Alzheimer's Grief group, as I did Monday, is not a good idea. Wipes me out. I don't know these things until I try them.

Reading Pauline Boss's, Ambiguous Loss was helpful. Now I'm trying Shenk's book again. Sometimes when reading AD literature I think there are no old people with memory left, but then the sound of Daniel Schorr's voice on NPR and I feel safe again.

What about Obama! I can hear Earl Robinson singing Proud to Be An American at Mother's 90th birthday party.

And Hillary. What a force she is. Congratulations to both of them, but I want to do battle with McCain already.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Alzheimer's Diary: Wish List

I wish I'd stop holding on to every little
piece of us.
I wish I'd stop making him a Saint.
I wish I'd gone on the doctor's trip to Vietnam with him.

I wish his Silences wouldn't have bothered me.

Once, before Aphasia ruined his speech,
he said he was glad for all of it,
that I kept him on his toes,

I wish Alzheimer's would just go away.

But then he wouldn't be here
and he's still him,

Last Wish List for awhile...

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Alzheimer's Diary: Another Day

I didn't think I'd make it there today. I felt like a piece of mush, but the dog kept jumping on me and the mail came with the new DRASH: Northwest Mosaic, including a poem about my mother and the interview I did with Pesha so I pushed myself out the door.

I was afraid to go there and that's not usually the case, afraid more of how I'd be than of how he would be. I think I can handle his condition better than I can handle handling his condition. I didn't want to go there and feel numb or cry. For company and courage, I took Emma. The residents like her, and she behaves well. She licks them. They laugh.

He was sitting on the love seat just staring ahead. Lit up when he saw me. A week or so ago I decided to change my status from caregiver to visitor so I sat down in his upright NY Hospital Intern graduation chair and said, "Hi, I came to visit." But in minutes my head was on his shoulder and Emma was licking and kissing and wondering why I was crying.

I don't know why people say you shouldn't cry when you go there. His eyes twinkled into mine and he recognized me more. We sat for awhile and I got myself back. Even the dog flopped down into her relaxed mode, and Abe had a conversation with me that he really enjoyed. He interspersed medical terminology with almost-words that stuck to his tongue. He was telling me something about the condition of a patient and work going on in the lab. I loved hearing him talk, just the sound of his voice, and he loved watching me watch him talk.

We sat awhile. I picked up a prayer book and we read along together - yes, he read too, sometimes half of a whole sentence! - and we sang The Star Spangled Banner, America the Beautiful, Hatikva and read a few psalms. After about an hour, we said the sh'ma and I said "I'll see you later." We kissed goodbye, smack on the lips. I unscrambled Emma, and walked out the door, just as the caregiver was coming in to take my Sweet to dinner.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Alzheimer's Diary: Catching Up

I haven't posted anything on Alzheimer's since Oct 31, 2007. There's no way I'll be able to catch up so I'll start from now.

I didn't feel the assisted living facility could handle the final stages of Abe's care so last January I moved him to a nursing home. He's well-cared for, the nursing staff is right there with him and the care giver training program appears to be more in tune with the needs of AD sufferers than the for-profit facility where he was.

The journey continues with no end in sight. I requested that the Alz Association create a small Grief Group and it did. Much better for me than the larger 12-20 person group.

I stopped writing about Alz's (though I continued in my handwritten diary) because I was completely overwhelmed by involvement with the disease. I needed to get back to work on my academic research and writing. I've stayed away from making poems because Abe and Alzheimer's contain as much poetry as I can take in a day. I'm already down to the bones.

I've cut out most readings, there's just so much energy, but hope to get to the Roethke reading at UW tonight. Mary Jo Salter and Brad Leithauser are reading and I know nothing of their work. Besides the phone keeps ringing with: "Are you going?" so I better get myself together. I planned not to go to the home today anyway...