My Year Away. And Back.

The Joys of Getting Back into Academic Life after a Year-Long Sabbatical.


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Why in the World Would I Read a Book About Alzheimer’s During my Sabbatical?

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.