This month’s topic of Alzheimer’s, I admit was a little perplexing to me in the theme of books and reading. The topic holds a special place in my heart, yet how I could relate it to my column was challenging. I hope my post delivers some inspiration to your reading needs.

As a college undergrad and a member of Sigma Kappa Sorority, I admit, I did not realize the depth, nor fully understand the serious nature of Alzheimer’s disease. While I participated in the Memory Walk, it still didn’t sink in as to why we, as a sorority, were so involved.

As an adult, and a granddaughter, I now understand the importance of making such a disease known and its needs to be researched. The sheer sadness of having a grandparent suffer with dementia is one I didn’t think I would experience. Forgetfulness and losing your memory seems common, and mostly normal, in the elderly. Yet, when my beloved PaPa, developed dimentia in his later elder years, it broke my heart. He still had his charm with the ladies, his goofy laugh and smile, and the best WWII stories in the world, but this strong, tough, handsome, gentle and intelligent man started to forget more than normal. It was then I realized just how serious Alzheimer’s and dementia can be to a person, and to the whole family.

How to relate this personal experience to reading? Well, it certainly has peaked my interest in the topic. I expect a large amount of nonfiction to be published about the disease and didn’t want to cover that aspect. One idea I have is that Alzheimer’s is the loss and gaining of stories; family stories, individual histories, personal accolades. While it can be easily understood that the disease is a form of loss, the gaining of stories is one more difficult to articulate. We as family members lose a part of our beloved when they have Alzheimer’s, yet we also gain compassion for the sick and respect for the caregivers. We realize the fragility of the mind. We laugh at the silly new things our family member says or does because without a sense of humor, we will not be able to get past the sadness. We gain new stories, accomplishments and histories to share.

I was surprised in doing my research for this post at the vast numbers and wide range of fiction stories available concerning Alzheimer’s patients as characters or stories about how the disease affects a family or person. In an attempt to see how we can gain stories rather than lose them, I would like to share some thought provoking novels concerning the topic.

One book I picked up on a whim because it was a ‘bookmarked’ selection at Target, is called Still Alice by Lisa Genova. It became a book I read in one night because I couldn’t put it down. It became a book I suggest to everyone who enjoys reading about character-driven stories that will give you a new respect for your mind and brain. Intelligent writing told in a brilliant perspective from that of the woman suffering from Alzheimer’s, makes this a must-read, especially if you are interested in the elderly or Alzheimer’s care.

I haven’t read these others, but they have made my to-read list. Check them out and let me know if you’ve read any of them or how you like/dislike them. The summaries are from NovelList Plus and I’ve included links to Google Books so you can find out more about these books and authors.

The Story of Forgetting by Stefan Merrill Block
Resigned to memories of the family he has lost, seventy-year-old recluse Abel Haggard spends his life alone on the family farm while, hundreds of miles away, fifteen-year-old Seth Waller seeks to uncover his mother’s genetic history after a diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s.

The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean
In a novel that moves back and forth between the Soviet Union during World War II and modern-day America, Marina, an elderly Russian woman, recalls vivid images of her youth during the height of the siege of Leningrad.

Memory Wall: Stories by Anthony Doerr
A collection of short stories, set on four continents, describing how memory affects different people.

Keeper: One House, Three Generations, and a Journey into Alzheimer‘s by Andrea Gillies
‘Keeper’ is a very humane and honest exploration of living with Alzheimer’s, giving an illuminating account of the disease itself. Gillies tells about the time she and her family spent living with someone with dementia, in a big Victorian house in the far, far north of Scotland.

The Good Husband by Gail Godwin
The brilliant, charismatic Magda Danvers had once taken the academic world by storm with her controversial book, “The Book of Hell,” and now, gravely ill, she still influences and transforms the lives of those around her.

The Wilderness by Samantha Harvey
With his memories slowly eroding from Alzheimer’s, sixty-five-year-old Jake Jameson struggles to preserve his sense of identity by building stories about his feelings and the events of his life, unaware that even his clearest recollections may not be true.

Tangles by Sarah Leavitt
Recounts in graphic novel format how the author’s well-educated, intellectual mother, Mildred, known as Midge, began showing signs of Alzheimer’s disease at fifty-two, and follows the effects of the disease on the woman and her family.

Choke by Chuck Palahniuk
Medical school dropout Victor Mancini comes up with a complicated but ingenious scam to pay for his mother’s elder care, cruises sex addiction groups for action, and visits his zany mother, whose Alzheimer’s disease hides the bizarre truth about his parentage.

What is your story? Share yours in the comments or message me.

One Response to Gaining Stories Through Loss

  1. Teri Centner Teri Centner says:

    My mom’s Alzheimer’s took her ability to verbalize, so while we didn’t have the opportunity to laugh at silly new things she said, she still gave us plenty of opportunities to smile — and gain stories. She was a great companion on her good days — fun to watch TV with, go for a walk, take in a movie, shop at the mall, or share some ice cream at Braum’s.

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