Friday, September 05, 2008

Re-Writing a Life

I believe in the power of writing to help us make sense of our world or to see more broadly into the world than our single perspective allows us to see unaided. I could wax lyrical about that in the language of the academy that granted me an MA in English, but now that I am a farm wife I have a more pragmatic perspective.

Someone I love has lost his memory. More like it has been stolen from him. The mysterious plaques and tangles of Alzheimer's have blocked the pathways to the file cabinets where his memories are kept. Our minds, I am convinced, are vast unkempt libraries where nothing is lost, but the path may be obscured. For most of us, we can wiggle around and find another way into the file we want when we want it--or shortly after. In my brother's case, the pathways to the memories are more overgrown than for the rest of us. Also, the flexibility of mind to seek out other paths is encumbered. Something dumped out the card catalog to the library of his mind.

On bad days I think that Alzheimer's is the cruelest disease. It can turn someone into a real life zombie. It can destroy not only the person but also those around him or her. It can create a black hole where a person used to be. But my loved one has the good fortune to be loved by several hard headed women. They look after him and refuse to let him go. One of the things to keep him in this world with us is to provide an external route back into the file cabinet of his memory library. That is a convoluted way of saying writing down the memories we share. The stories have been a hit with him and they have also helped to give him back to me. When I remember the stories, I remember. And remembering no matter how or when we go about it is a good thing.
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At 3:14 PM, Blogger Clay Perry said...

tragic, and touching...

At 4:22 PM, Blogger landgirl said...

Thanks for visiting and for the kind words. Everybody gets their hard times; sometimes we can choose the flavour of our hard times, usually we just have the opportunity to find as much grace as we can in accepting it.

At 3:13 PM, Blogger Hayden said...

"I believe in the power of writing to help us make sense of our world or to see more broadly into the world than our single perspective allows us to see unaided."

I couldn't agree more - it's why I run on and on sometimes, trying to order thought and understand.

Beautifully written story here, and the photos are priceless.

When my mother was dying I wrote her a long, weekly letter filled mostly with memories. I know she read them repeatedly and shared them with her friends. What I was trying to give her in those months was the reminder that she had done well, had given me a beautiful childhood, that her life had deeply mattered.

She was a shy, someone diffident woman who responded to hardship as inevitable. She created moments of grace for others, but had few of them to comfort her through her life. Sometimes I comfort myself that my stories were the best I had to offer.

At 7:20 AM, Blogger landgirl said...

Oh, Hayden, thanks for your thoughtful comments. I know what you mean about writing until you understand or to understand.
I am sure your mother treasured her letters. She may have had more moments than you think, but no matter how many, yours were most welcome no doubt.

At 1:50 PM, Blogger The Curmudgeon said...

So frightening on so many levels, particularly when it hits so close to home. Your caring and concern rush to the front, but there's that little weasel trying to sneak in... am I next? it worries. You push it back because you want your focus on your loved one. (And a nice way you've found for this, too.)

But that little weasel is hovering nearby, waiting....

At 5:01 AM, Blogger TerriRainer said...

It's sad when you lose someone either to death, separation, or loss of memory.

I think what made your post so poignant was the picture at the bottom.


:) Terri

At 7:49 AM, Blogger landgirl said...

Hi, Cur. I didn't notice your comment til just now. Yes, I love your analogy of a weasel something that slinks along the floor and around the corners of the room. An extra layer of angst when I can't remember someone's name or where I left my car keys.

At 7:51 AM, Blogger landgirl said...

Hello, Terri, welcome back. A photo can be worth a thousand words. I have been working harder on my writing lately which means writing closer to the bone. I am glad that it helps keep my brother in this part of the world for a while and maybe helps others with their own losses.


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