Alzheimer’s Awareness Month:November
Once a month, a group of caregivers and I meet at the Sacramento Alz office as poet/caregivers.
We sit around a wooden rectangular table to share our intimate lives through our pens. Often, we share the seasons from our garden: figs, strawberries, blueberries, plums, apples,peaches, zucchini, zucchini, zucchini during the Summer and Autumn months.
Sometimes there is complete silence in the room, as though there is nobody there, sometimes belly laughs so loud, I close the door to keep our laughter in. There are poems that bring the Kleenix out, poems that receive nods, “yes, I know what you’re saying.” We become poets, admiring images, metaphors and the beauty of language. But most of all, we are caregivers, using poetry to pause, reflect and to make sense of our lives as caregivers, and to discover the abundant gifts of humanity hidden beneath the everyday-ness of caregiving. We also create new words if need be. And we learn from each other, how to be the most compassionate and knowledgeable care givers, without being afraid of truth. And there is complete trust as we open the doors to find meaning in this relationship between caregiver and the ones being cared for. We are no longer suffering caregivers but poet/caregivers, creating art from among the “ruins.”
Mary Swisher, caregiver for her husband shares two of her poems:
A Daughter’s Lament
(the labor of becoming our own mother)
It’s as if the overcast day has
Blown this unknown Niobe of tears
Into our midst.
Silently she rains down her
Salty drops until it puddles at her youthful feet.
The first daughter tells her sorrow … “I left my mother
In “that” home, my sister hates me, it breaks my heart.”
Our Niobe gives an audible sob and we can feel her
Tears lap at our ankles.
The second daughter speaks “My husband can no longer drive
He could get lost … and he knows it.”
More tears, enough to put a monsoon to shame, and yet …
Another daughter has gone to work, left her mother-child
The deluge continue, tissues mound into a white mountain now
We are sitting in a sacred lake
Another daughter: “my brilliant husband can’t walk…on the floor
I can’t … too heavy and my mom needs more and there’s no money…”
She reads a poem, crying, out of breath.
By now we have become a Greek chorus
Buoyed on salty swells of tears
Our new daughter speaks
Amid gasping sobs, she cries, a desperate howl
For the mother she has lost, but still holds,
And will not let go.
©Mary Swisher Feb. 201
These are the days
I write bitter poems
These are the days
don’t cry, just
hate the person I have become
wonder who I ever was
ever compassionate, understanding
full of joyous kisses
pranks and laughing fits
over some shared escapade
the person who wrote
love notes to tuck under his pillow
or his lunch sack.
Now I write angry words
That I hide, even from myself
I have become a liar, a plotter
mapping his days and mine to avoid
conflict…I agree when I don’t really,
I say “never mind” or “it’s not important.”
Explaining is like
my speaking Greek to a Greek,
I know so little Greek.
Everything becomes confusing
to the point where
NEVER MIND … FORGET IT!
and he says
voices of other caregivers will be posted throughout November.
Read Full Post »