Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Life and Alzheimer's, Part 1A

Last night I wrote about Alzheimer's disease and its dread cold touch on my family. The post was refracted through a lens Ms. Moon provided to us when she wrote about the scripts we follow as people in long-lived relationships. There are other lenses, of course. I mean to look at this thing again through some of them, but spaced out and relieved by the prosaic happy things I like to write about like light and natural beauty and friendship. This is partly because I can only take Alzheimer's in small doses, and partly because my guess is that you feel the same way. So tell me how you feel. Until I figure it out, I'll just push on. Rain is coming, the weather people tell us, coming with a change in the barometer tomorrow. Rodney is a pretty reliable human predictor of such changes, and his readings seem to be falling. So I talked to a couple of colleagues today and bargained my way into taking part of this afternoon away from my computer for a beach walk, and was able to finish my work this evening after the sun went to bed. Thank you, work pals.

This is what it looked like. Could you just lose yourself in those colors of blue? That perfect clarity of air, those tiny, breathy wisps of wind-streaked white clouds? But perhaps you live in a place where beaches, when warm enough to be habitable, are crowded with blankets full of people. Maybe your beaches actually find themselves dusted with snow in the coldest part of winter; maybe people don't even allow themselves to think of beaches when the wind howls around their houses. And if this is true for you then you, perhaps more than my readers who are fellow southerners, truly understand the nature of my endless fascination with the beach: it is the best hiding place of all. It is chapel and yoga mat and therapy session; it is nature walk and meditation and beautifully shared consciousness with my life's partner. It is fresh with each visit and as timeless as time itself. It is healing. God lives there, and so does the Goddess. And all this was taught to me, very slowly, by the plodding work of Alzheimer's on the patient fabric of my family's life. There were other things, too, of course, including Rodney's medical stuff. But I can say without the least shadow of question that I took refuge from every worry during Pop's illness at the beach. And this was the kind of worry that woke me at 3 or 4 in the morning with horrible, heart-pounding anxiety. But not at the beach. So I took refuge there, and I think Rodney did, too, in his way. There's more to tell, but as I said, I think it's a tale best told in small chapters.

Tomorrow? Something completely different. Rodney took pictures of our tiny, beautiful wild violets, and I have yet to share those. And I was thinking about the next installment of The Booksmith Stories, one in which Gamble Rogers comes into the store and featuring my extended family's views on the hagiography of Will McLean, a Florida folk hero in a wholly different category. I was thinking of Miss Ada Mickler, the only woman I knew in my own lifetime who went home and cooked supper for herself and her sister on a wood stove every night, not because she wanted to but because that's how she grew up cooking, and it was easiest and most natural for her. I was thinking of the Old Red Brick Road, which was once U.S. Highway 1, and was just wide enough for a Ford Model T car in the days when there was little chance of a car passing from the other direction. That made me think of our bridges (not the beloved Bridge of Lions, in downtown St. Augustine, whose lions will be replaced about a year after the restored landmark re-opens) but the ones that used to connect us to our beaches via narrow wood plank construction that would scare you to pieces to drive across...so I guess local lore has been on my mind. And then there's the red beans and rice we made this week. Red beans and rice always gets people to talking.

Perhaps you'll share something of your own; there are certainly better cooks of red beans than me (although these were damned good red beans) and much experience of caring for beloved family members who have gone off their heads, off their feed, off the rails. Memories and legends of your own local lore: there must be a wealth of this, if you need inspiration look at The Surly Writer's recent photographic recollection of an artifact of Pittsburgh-area history. There is much to talk of, my loves: shoes and ships and sealing wax, and whether pigs have wings. Much to talk of, indeed. For now: love, love.


  1. I have often thought that people move to the coast for self-medication. Just look at your typical beach community- CRAZY PEOPLE! Okay, not you but you know what I mean. Where else do people in this country paint their houses pink, aqua, and bright, bright yellow? We do use the water and its shore as medication/meditation and I have known that since I was a child. Now that I live under these grand oak trees I do not have such a need for the water as I once did. But I still need it sometimes. And I am glad you have such easy, quick access to a place where you can go to be renewed, relieved, calmed and joyful.

  2. Somehow my response seems to have been lost, possibly through user error (shocking!) but I was partially inspired by your comment to write tonight's post. This is worth saying again, though: when you walk down the beach at Guana, which is undeveloped and gloriously beautiful as a consequence, you can see the houses extending beyond the boundaries to the north and south. And all thes houses are painted not in the colors you might see in the Caribbean. To my eye, they are painted the colors of money: they are white or beige or eggshell (whatever that means) or a pale, inoffensive green. They look like what they are: rental properties or houses owned by people prosperous enough to absorb the mental health freely offered by our mother, the ocean.


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