Saturday, November 27, 2010

Caregiver update - They keep calling him

First thing this morning after Thanksgiving (which was very nice - thank you guests), the ACLU calls for Abe to give another donation. If it's not the ACLU, it's NARAL or Planned Parenthood, or the Democratic Party or the Simon Wiesenthal Center or Cornell Alumni, or Doctors Without Borders or a Native American Indian Center or an ambulance service in Israel, or or or. He wrote checks to everybody.

A reader wrote: "Since my dad's death I can't wait to throw away any fund-raising requests or newsletters I get in the mail about Alzheimers." Amen! Read more

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Witnessing Alzheimer's update

Small steps
It's five months since Abe died and little by little I'm finding a new routine. It's not easy, and my steps are small. I think of the nursing-home vigil pretty much every day; and at times it seems my body longs to go back to that scenario, to mingle with patients and staff in the dining room and wander the halls waiting for this social worker or that. I went back a couple of times and will go again this holiday season; but, for the most part, I'm scared of the place. Scared I'll end up there myself. I wonder how many caregivers of Alzheimer's patients come away from the caregiving experience feeling the same. read more

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Sitting In Front of Picasso's "Self-Portrait in Straw Hat," While Writing a Letter to Abe

Witnessing Alzheimer's: A Caregiver's View update, October 19, 2010

Jack Straw Productions curates SAM WORD, October 21, 2010, 7:30 - 8:30 pm, third floor galleries. I will be reading, along with Tara Roth and Denise Calvetti Michaels. Please join us in the third floor galleries.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

J.W. Marshall & the Poetry of Illness

by Esther Altshul Helfgott

Of the mountain of books I have used to help me manage my life during Abe's illness, J.W. Marshall's Meaning A Cloud sits at the top. Marshall's first full-length collection of poetry, Meaning A Cloud carries us from the accident-site where he was struck by a car, to his Seattle neighborhood and, finally, through his mother's stroke and subsequent death in a nursing home. Read more

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

It's About Time Writers Reading Series #250

It's About Time Writers Reading Series #250
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Time: 6:00pm - 8:00pm
Location: Ballard Branch, Seattle Public Library
Street: 5614 22nd Ave. N.W.
City/Town: Seattle, WA

Thurs. June 10, 2010 #250 Selene David, Bruce Taylor, Anne Sweet
+Terry Grabstein on The Writer's Craft

Terry Grabstein earned a Certificate in Nonfiction Writing and a Certificate in Literary Fiction Writing from the University of Washington. She has contributed work to Writers in Performance Anthology, Mercer Island Reporter, The Leaflet, and Between the Lines. Silken Water, (Finishing Line Press, 2009), is her first poetry collection.

Selene David was raised in Virginia and wrote her first poem when she was 9 years old. She has been employed as a therapist for 23 years and continues to love writing poetry. Two of her poems were included in The Poet Within, edited by Diane Tait. Selene says she writes about everything she loves: family, friends, nature, spiritual practice, and love itself.

Bruce Taylor, aka “Mr. Magic Realism,” currently has a magic realist novella ”13 Miles to Paradise” in the collection Alembical. His other recent work, Edward: Dancing on the Edge of Infinity, (Redjack Press, introduction by Jay Lake) took eighteen years to get published. Bruce has his first of the Kafka’s Uncle series published by Afterbirth Books (nominated for the &NOW AWARD FOR INNOVATIVE WRITING (SUNY, NY, 2009) and with introduction by Brian Herbert) and has the other two (Kafka’s Uncle: the Unfortunate Sequel and Other Insults to the Morally Perfect and Kafka’s Uncle: The Ghastly Prequel and Other Tales of Love and Pathos from the World’s Most Powerful, Third-World Banana Republic out to various editors.

M. Anne Sweet is a poet and artist. Her poetry collection, Nailed to the Sky, is out from Gazoobi Tales. She has read extensively throughout the Puget Sound area, and her poetry has appeared in many print and online literary journals. She is a past winner of the Bart Baxter Poetry in Performance Award. For more information, visit;

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

March 2010 update

from Witnessing Alzheimer's: A Caregiver's View
Seattle P.I on-line

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,