Monthly Archives: August 2015

Reflections ~ Back into the Rising Sun

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I’ve just returned from a brief trip to a bit of my past. For ten years I lived in Plains, Montana. A tiny town of 1,065 in a county that holds 11,365. I’m pretty sure someone counted a few cows. It is a beautiful place that changes slowly, and in some ways not at all. Other than a few drive-throughs, I haven’t been there for 14 years.

My primary reason for going was to see my mother. A lady who has twice beaten cancer, only to find it sneaking back up on her. In typical stoic fashion, she is dealing with the consequence in a cheerful, “today is a good day” manner. Her attitude does much to show others the world is a better place when you do what you can, but accept the unchangeable with grace.

The trip served other purposes, too. Plains is where I met my husband. It is where dreams were born and dreams died. The Interstate Highway between Seattle metro and Plains (I-90) is littered with places that were part of bringing my husband and me together. We both traveled that road often enough. All those stopping places, Cle Elum, Ellensburg, Tokio, Four Lakes, Naughty Ladies Park (private joke based on a brief meeting with a theatrical group), Two Mile Road, St. Regis. I’m sure there are others.

The drive also consists of three passes, Snoqualmie, 4th of July, and Look Out. The last of which nearly cost me my future husband when he totaled his T-Bird on a sheet of black ice. The next morning I rescued him in Kellogg. Memories – dancing through my mind as I drove into the rising sun. I took my time, not pushing to cover miles, visiting moments long buried in the rush of life.

When I arrived a storm moved in. At first it was only wind – scary in the heart of a fire season. Breathing was not all that comfortable without air filtered through air conditioners. But then rain came, too. Not enough, but things did cool down – and the lights went out. Mini panic ensued until I (with the help of her ever watchful caregiver) was sure Mum’s oxygen was covered. It was nearly midnight when power returned – and stayed on, and her condenser was operational. The storm did, however, clear the air and the next day sported beautiful, blue Montana skies.

I took a drive to visit a hillside near a lot my husband once owned and from where I could see the property that had been my home. The road was overgrown and not really passable. Again caught in the wrong footwear, I couldn’t really hike it, either. I think, perhaps, the goodbyes I said years ago were meant to be final. At least now I know that.

I visited a friend who had lost her husband a year ago. She did not know about Doug’s illness and death. The visit became much harder than I had anticipated. She, however, is moving on and will remarry soon. I am truly happy for her.

Then there was a dear friend who has been near to both Doug and me for many years. A person who has helped us both in business and personally and seems forever faithful. Dinner was a real opportunity to unwind and enjoy conversation I had sorely missed.

I stayed in the guest house of a client and friend that has followed me wherever I went in the world. Then, there is the lady who cares for my mother with genuine love and consideration.

Yes, it was an important trip, a trip to touch that place I remembered and see if it was still there. It is. Now it is my past. I don’t belong there anymore. It has moved away by remaining the same-but changing. I will always love those hills and will find pleasure in visiting when the need or opportunity presents itself. Sometimes moving forward requires the active pursuit of sorting through the past to find the bits from which to build the future.

There is a beautiful song by Anne Murray called, You Needed Me. When I once told a friend I had found the hero of all my favorite love songs – this was one of them – still is.

“You gave me strength to stand alone again/to face the world out on my own again”

That strength is only one of his lasting gifts to me. There is a tomorrow and I intend to pursue it.

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Filed under Personal Journeys

Reviews ~ Losing a Mind

Still Alice by Lisa Genova available for $7-18

Still AliceI was introduced to this title through a Facebook support group of folks dealing primarily with the various forms of dementia and primarily as caregivers. There are a few professionals in the group, as well as a few who have been recently diagnosed with one of the many forms of the disease. If you are a caregiver reading this I highly recommend the group. There are now over 20,000 members from around the world. This means that among the many quick little supporting hugs and prayers, you rarely have to wait long for a practical idea (or several) if you post a specific issue. Many members have contributed to the files section with information, books and suppliers. It is a place to rant, to cry to share funny stories, to seek advice. The group is quite diverse and not all things are for all people but that is what scrolling, hiding and even blocking are for. I lived in that group for several months and still visit when I feel I can contribute something of value.

It took me awhile to get around to reading this book. I tend to be more centered on nonfiction and direct application. I was, in the end, surprised and feel that it is a work well worth the read. Still Alice is not based on real events, it is a work of fiction. It is, however, well researched and the events and reactions within the tale are portrayed in an accurate manner.

Alice is a brilliant and sought after psychologist and linguist that begins to notice issues with memory, her sense of direction and general mental function. After losing her way and her thoughts far too frequently, she seeks the advice of a neurologist and is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. The story is a beautifully depicted tale of her decent into the disease.

I appreciated this book because it brought out several issues directly related to Alzheimer’s, such as the chance of inheritance of the related genes and how to be tested. It also brought out the very real issues with dementia and the problems of caregivers. For instance, it is not an issue that you forget where your keys are, the issue arises when you can’t recall what a key is. Getting lost is one thing, but staring at the same street signs you have seen for years within a block or two of your own home and having no idea where you are – well that may be another matter.

Genova’s research is also evident within the plot line in other ways. We know that dementia can strike the brilliant as well as the average mind – simply “exercising” your brain is no guard against the disease. However, in the words of one of the doctors in the story, when someone spends their lives in active pursuit of knowledge, he or she develops multiple pathways to the same bit of information. When brain cells begin to die, there still remains pathways or pieces of pathways to the same conclusions; it just takes longer to get there.

This last is something that I and others noted in my husband. Until he became bedridden he pushed to learn. He was an active participant in the care that I and the hospice team provided. Perhaps he could no longer walk, but he would turn on the bathroom light when I would wheel him in. On more than one occasion his team would state, “He knows, you can see it in his eyes.”

We were not wishing it true. There was one instance when a volunteer was sitting with him and they were singing. I was in my office working. Suddenly I heard him say, “Oh, Shut up!” I flew out of my office to the dining room and leaned over to eye level. I told him I knew he felt like shit and I was sorry that was the case. However, he had never allowed that to make him rude in the past and now was no time to start. I left and returned to my office. Things seemed to calm down and later, when I went to the kitchen for something to drink, he motioned to me. Drawing me close he gave me a hug. No longer able to walk or take care of any of his needs and fast losing the ability to eat or drink – he still thought, he still reasoned, he still accepted responsibility.

The human mind is the most amazing thing. We know so very little of how it works, how it dies. It is way past time we learn how to care for and protect this most precious gift.

If you have any interest or connection with the world of dementia, give it a read. Through tears and chuckles I think you’ll find it worthwhile.

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Filed under Caregiving Backstage, My Bookshelf ~ Fiction