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Category Archives: Alzheimers

One by One

They often wondered if she was even there anymore and she could see it in their faces.  It was hard on them, but it had been harder on her.  She had watched her friends one by one succumb.  At every bridge table someone would bring up the latest to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s  and the nods of sympathy, which really only masked their own fear, would begin.  It was like a domino effect around the table, the nodding one by one.  The  silent murmurs of “hope I’m not next”.

At first she though that she would escape, but then the little things started to happen to her as well.  The misplacement of car keys, the slip in memory of a familiar name, the pattern was developing and the fear began to manifest.  Soon she knew it was time, when she forgot how to get home from bridge club.  How can anyone lose their house?  She was becoming one of the “one by ones”.

There was the denial then the anger…. all the painful steps going thru all the diagnostic  levels till she was gone… or so they thought.  What they didn’t know, nobody did, was that she was still there, all of them,  were still there.  They couldn’t not speak, they could not express themselves, they could not even hint of their continued existence, but they were whole, just locked inside their own private worlds.

She wanted to tell them, it wasn’t so bad.  The going thru it was the tough part, the not knowing scared the bejesus out of them all,  which is why they fought so hard; but once they had totally surrendered to it, it took them to a place of peace and wonderful memories.

In that place they all were  there.  Those that had gone before her, one by one.  Her friends and relatives, they were all waiting, so while those on the outside only saw an aged women in a wheelchair, with a glazed and lost look on her face, inside she was young and whole, again. On her bike, peddling  the streets of  Boston with her brothers, her hair flying in the breeze, a smile on her face as she headed out to relive the glory of her life.

She hoped even if they could not see it that they would perhaps feel the aura of her happiness as a lifetime of remembrance  played before her eyes and continually lifted her soul.

 
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Posted by on April 23, 2011 in Alzheimers, Flash Fiction

 

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Ole Man

Every morning…Slab of home-cured country ham, left from the night before hardtack biscuits (with sorghum molasses of course) and a couple a scrambled eggs;  his daughter would call um’ organic, he thought, shaking his head,  he just called um borrowed from Miss Henny Penny.  Big ole brown ones, double yoke most of the time.   Strong coffee for making red-eye gravy and enough in the pot for a cup or four or more…. black with cane sugar, nuff to stand the spoon straight up in the cup. … Every morning, yep, every damn morning,  for more years than he could remember or even attempted to try.

Ole’ woman had fixed it for him for forty years or more. When she passed…he made do his-self, with his over concerned daughter flitting in and out of his kitchen,  always nosing around where she had no business being.  “Are you eating breakfast, statistics say it’s the most important meal of the day ” (....like he’d miss having his scrambled eggs), You need to start watching your cholesterol (….cholesterol-schma-esterol…), You shouldn’t have so much caffeine, it makes you jittery ( nothing that a little corn liquor wouldn’t calm, he’d chortled silently, as that response floated thru his mind), You need to start taking better care of yourself (..like he any intention of starting now)”.    On and on his daughter could prattle, so much so that( in his mind) he started calling her  “Miss Henny Penny”….. cackle, cackle, cackle, till it became a background hum.

After his morning repast, he’d gather up his cane, strap up his bib overalls and with a small flask of home brew as well as some unauthorized smokes hidden deep in the pockets, he’d head out to the fields, hollering to his daughter he was going to visit the family and he’d be back, when he felt like it.  This morning constitutional was something he never missed, rain or shine, cold or hot.  While he was long past the time of actually working the fields, he ( for damn sure ) could peruse them in passing as he headed to what he thought of as his sanctuary. A place where time spent with the ones he loved most, kept him going.

He always took his time.  Speed was not necessary for him, in fact, the slower the better.  Shuffle a little, sip a little and light um if ya got um, that was his motto.  Out there, away from the house, the memories of better times as well as the not so good ones, seemed to swirl in the air around him.  Remembrance of the years of drought brought out a sigh or two,  while a mind’s eye view of rows of tobacco, like a siren waving green, would bring a hint of smile to his grizzled face.  His walk wasn’t a long one, but at his age, his ultimate destination, if it had been any further would not be feasible.

He’d make it out to the lone oak tree in the middle of the once fertile fields and there in the shade, recouping and regrouping, he’d have his daily chat with the family.  The old woman lay in the ground surrounded by her brothers and sisters and other long forgotten relatives.  He would respectfully say hello to all of them, with a special and loving nod in her direction.   He would remind her she was missed and then he would begin his harp on their busy-body-bossy daughter and their good-for-nothing son.  He’d talk to them all a little about the politics of the day and how the prices of things kept going up, up, up.  He’d bitch and moan enjoying the fact that none of them ever interrupted.  When the flask was empty and the smokes were gone, he’d begin the trek back to the house, first telling them to have a nice night and that he’d see them again in the morning.

Back at the house in the twilight of dusk,  the daughter watched him stand as if to salute,  then turn slowly with his cane over his shoulder.  She knew the corn liquor had given him an imaginary spring to his step and having successfully  completed his daily sojourn, the evening would be a peaceful  one, for the both of them.  At supper,  he began to talk about his visit in depth to her, commenting on the health and well being of the family he had spoken to that day.   She smiled and nodded , just as the old woman had done when she was alive.  Before she left him for the night she hovered over him, just like he did over his precious Henny Penny. After finally tucking him in, like a child rather than the old man that he was, she finally left at dark, worrying and feeling, after hearing about his conversations, that his brain was as scrambled as the eggs he would once again have in the morning.

Thinking 10 – Plot Thickens, Thursday:

Scrambled eggs

 

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Undeliverable as Addressed.

It was wedged between the salt and pepper shakers and her Mother’s antique pewter sugar bowl. She had finished writing the letter way past midnight and had placed it on the kitchen table so that she would be sure to see it when she sat down for her morning coffee. Once it had been “Out of sight out of mind” but recently, even when things were in plain view, she would become confused as to their purpose, almost to the point of teary frustration. Was the letter going out or was it something she had opened and read, then placed on the table for further review? That would perhaps be the question that would rise at her first glance upon the unsealed envelope laying in wait.

It had taken great courage for her to pen it. Her thoughts would come and go and when they returned, more often than not, would arrive in a jumble waiting for translation. She had made notes to herself on the clearer points and left the post-its where she would have to see them; on her pillow, stuck to the mirror in the bathroom, tucked in her left shoe. Things that needed saying, truths to be told, explanations that were long overdue…confessions of faults and declarations needing forgiveness, it was time. Actually, she had finally decided, it was way past.

How many opportune moments over the years had she wanted to say these things, but there was always an excuse…not the perfect time, a sudden lack of courage, a rising fear of dismissal or worst of all the panic of potential rejection. As the months turned into years the excuses grew into perceived truths while the truths remained buried under the fear.

Finally when she was forced to admit that soon she would be unable to open the Pandora’s box that she had carried in her heart for so many years, had she come to the conclusion that there was no time like the present, for if she didn’t act quickly her present would soon be a dismal fog in her past.

Thankfully she had taken her Meds before coming down to make her coffee, so on this pivotal morning of her life, she had the wherewithal not to immediately toss out the open envelope without first glancing at its contents. When she had reached for the sugar, for just a teaspoon in her coffee, the envelope fell on its side with its contents beckoning to be heard. As she slowly unfolded the letter and began to read, the pain and sorrow in the tale being told, brought tears to her eyes. How sad she thought, that someone would be burdened with this their entire life. What a strain it must have been to bear hiding these secrets. She read thru to the end and when she was done, she folded the letter and returned it to the envelope. Rising from the table she slowly made her way down the hall and back to her room. She would say a prayer for the author of that letter and perhaps God in his compassion would grace forgiveness on their soul.

The Plot Thickens, Thursday:
A letter sits unsealed

 
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Posted by on October 21, 2010 in Alzheimers, Flash Fiction

 

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Class supplies

He had his spiral notebook,  an assortment of pens in his pocket protector  and  just in case they got picky, he even had some old number 2 pencils.   These were what he had brought with him the first time he went away to live, in a college dorm, so he figured this was gonna be pretty much the same thing.    “Of  Course,”  he thought to himself, with a rare sharp insight,  “Since everything  gets done by computers in this day and age, they will probably laugh at the pencils.”   But then again, one never knew.

His bags had been packed for quite sometime.  His daughter had seen to that as she was perhaps more ready for the move than he.   Not only had she packed him up she had also cleaned the house around him.   He had sat in his old worn lazy-boy watching and she, being the whirling dervish that she was, had dusted, polished, wiped, moped and generally tried to remove any trace of his existence in the home he had known for 50 years.  His home, now to become hers.   He wondered if  he would get to come home over the holidays or if there would be a spring break after exams.  He guessed there would be exams, though with a smile he sighed, probably  medical not educational.  Well, he had his class supplies just in case.

He wondered if his dorm room would be light, airy and on the first floor  and if his room-mate, should there be one, would be into sports as much as he was.  Of course if his room-mate was a geek, he could get him to show him how to work one of them newfangled computers. Then  he could do away with the pens and notebook and just type his letters to the folks back home.  Not that he would miss his folks or anything, but he knew he  would have to  write home asking  for spending  money from the ole’  man, wouldn’t he?    Hell, he was old enough to date and maybe they would give him his license back, since he was in school and all, and he could then go to the malt shop or the drive in movies.  Boy, that would be fun.

He reckoned he was as ready as he was ever going to be for this final move. He had made his daughter promise to pack everything on his list.  She said she had done so and had returned the list to him with little tiny check marks next to every item on the notebook page.   Yep,  he had everything he needed, his clothes, his multiple bottles of pills, his school supplies and what was left of his clouded and confused  mind.

Words, Inc., Wednesday:
(1) spiral, (2) pocket

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2010 in Alzheimers, Flash Fiction

 

Full Circle


She would tell them today. This had just gone on long enough. All the fussing around, the lifting, the feeding, the bathing, the changing, the incessant chatter and the looks. The looks were the worst. Standing around her with those pasted smiles. She knew it was all just a show put on for effect and not necessarily for her enjoyment.

The days had started running together, lets see, was it last year?. She remembered, or thought she did, a better time. A time of warmth and love. A time of freedom where she was her own person. It had been a time immersed in the sound of solitude, which she had come to love. The atmosphere surrounding her had been like a gentle caressing wave and it had calmed her nerves and soothed her soul. She had been alone in her world then and had been happy there. Able to shut out all extraneous distractions, the time had been found to do just what ever she pleased. No one interrupted her when she wanted to sleep. No one bothered her to make her sit up straight or to try just a spoonful of this or that. God, things seemed to have gone down hill so quickly and it had all become such a bore.

She remembered that far-away distance past all so clearly now. She wanted to go back to that time. That time of being in a better place. That time of being whole. So it had to be now, she was so tired of putting it off. Today would be the day she would tell them.  Today would be different. She would make them see and then they would understand what she wanted. From nursery to nursing home…yes, it was time to return to the very beginning. Let me go, please, let me go..all the way….full circle.

Take
it Away, Tuesday
:
Today would be different.

 
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Posted by on May 25, 2010 in Alzheimers, Quick Fiction

 

Joined

She:   He must be someone from the past.  Think.  Think, dammit.  Why can’t I remember who he is?  There is something about his face that is just so familiar.  Maybe it’s just one of those faces that you see everywhere and you automatically believe you have met that person before.  No, it’s not that.  Something in those blue eyes and that kind smile say he must be more than a casual encounter at a ticket booth or a passing glance in the Starbucks line.  Let me concentrate harder.  Perhaps if we touch?

He:  She reached out and lightly patted my hand.  Was she struggling to remember something of our 40 years together or just needing to feel that something or someone could be real in her world?  It had all started in such an innocuously  devious,  slight-of-hand manner, lost keys and misplaced pocketbooks.  Standing at the door, not knowing to come or to go.   Now this.  “I’m here” I shout in a whisper,  “I have been and always will be, here.”

Them:  How could one not believe in soul mates?

The Plot Thickens, Thursday:
(1) someone from the past, and (2) a ticket

 
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Posted by on April 8, 2010 in Alzheimers, Quick Fiction

 

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…the gift of Elinore..

Day in and day out she sat  in the room with very little changing in her world.  Rise and shine, up and at-um.  Bathing and dressing and being placed in her chair to be rolled off to meals and  then  returned, back again to her room.  Long was gone the spark in her eyes.  It had faded slowly, not like  the blowing out of a match but more  of a  candle being enveloped by a mysterious and evil fog.  Some days you could see the flicker as if a quiet breeze would part the mist, but those days had become fewer and more far between.   As the spark faded so had  the recognition, the laughter and the memories.    Was she even there?  Buried deep inside, was she just  lost without anyone to help her find the way out?  The television only flickered  with  background images  and the many  portraits  hanging on the wall had lost their ability to jog any memories, good or bad.

She sat in the chair holding the photograph.  I had placed it in her hands and she had grasped it, almost hungrily.   Having a new one,  unfamiliar yet familiar, would that create a spark?  I waited.  She must be waiting too I thought.   Blank eyes only focused periodically and she took her time to look down at the picture.  I had selected one of  her with her  younger sister, Elinore.   Nothing recent since the recent was definitely gone, but instead a photograph of the distant past.  A black and white with tints of grays, where their youth and vibrancy could bring the colors to your imagination.  Young girls, sisters excited to be down by the ocean.  The pleasure of  summer and swimming and just being together shown on their faces.  They had the whole world ahead of them and while maybe not a pearl was awaiting in a found oyster,  their excitement and enjoyment of the moment out shown any imaginable or discoverable  treasures.

She stared and I waited.  How powerful can a picture be?  Can images dredge deep enough to stir a too long dormant soul?   What would it take to pull out some joy, some hope , some semblance of meaning?  The hum of the heater and the background noise of the nurses station droned on around us.  We waited together.  She and I.  Compassion had long lost the ability to revive her, did a photograph have enough power?

Then it began.  Slowly at first.  A glint of light in her blue eyes?  Was it my imagination? Could there be a parting of that mist in her mind?  Then there it was.  The smile.  She saw it.  The love and the memories for a brief moment flooded back, as a wave of  awareness caressed her soul.  It wasn’t but a flash, but she was there.  The color on her cheeks and the tear in her eye said it all.  Blood is thicker than water and images of the past can sometimes impart wonders.  Wonders for her and relief for myself.  She is not gone..Not yet…her time with the sister that she loves, while perhaps locked in the photograph, is still hers to remember.

 
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Posted by on March 16, 2010 in Alzheimers

 

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