And, really, not just a book about the disease, but a heart-wrenching, depressing, there-is-nothing-good-about-this-disease kind of book? All I know is that when I heard Meryl Comer give an interview on NPR, I had to read her book, Slow Dancing with a Stranger: Lost and Found in the Age of Alzheimer’s (ISBN: 978-0-06-213082-2).
To say that this book was painful to read would be an understatement. Here’s the plot in a nutshell. Comer’s brilliant husband gets Alzheimer’s in his 50’s. She takes care of him. Meanwhile, her mother gets the same disease. So, she takes care of her, too.
But, of course, the book isn’t just about the disease and the difficulty of caring for loved ones with the disease. It’s a book about the Love. Sacrifice. Dignity. Despair. Compassion. Sorrow. Frustration. Loneliness.
Comer writes with such clarity that you feel her agony with the turning of every page. But—and unbelievably—she doesn’t write to complain. She writes to illuminate. To give a face to the suffering, which includes both those with the disease and those providing the never-ending care.
I thought I knew a bit about Alzheimer’s. A relative suffers from it. My best friend’s mother died from it. Some of my colleague’s parents struggle with it. But, I didn’t know anything.
Here’s what I do know, though. Some people carry a burden that is more than those of us with cushy lives can fathom. We easy-life people need to think twice before complaining about something in our own lives. We need to be thankful every day for every blessing we enjoy. We need to understand that what we have is a gift. We don’t deserve this blissful life. And we have no guarantees that we will always enjoy this life of luxury.
During My Year Away, I have a cornucopia overflowing with the delights of a care-free life. I don’t want to take it for granted. I want to savor it. Appreciate it. And, somehow figure out a way to share it.
As Malala Yousafzai (herself no stranger to pain) so eloquently has said: “Let us remember: one book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world.” Amen.
October 18, 2014 at 5:49 pm
Yesterday I was convicted of whining about what my nephew calls “first-world problems.” Reading your post about this book reinforces the point that I take much for granted. My sister-in-law, who is 47, has been dealing quietly and lovingly with her mother’s Alzheimer’s for several years now. I sometimes forget what a burden she carries.
October 18, 2014 at 5:56 pm
Thank you, Carol, for the beautiful reflection and reminder for us all. It was the perfect way to start my birthday day — with the right perspective!
October 18, 2014 at 6:05 pm
October 21, 2014 at 5:57 am
October 22, 2014 at 7:37 pm
Very beautiful post, Carol. Thanks. Alzheimer is very present at my family’s genes, and that is scaring. I have witnessed what you described and have full respect for those who dedicate themselves to help their relatives with so much love. When put in the right perspective, our daily issues become irrelevant.
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