At twenty-one years of age, I was a newlywed living on the eastern side of Washington State.
In 1974 I had married my high-school sweetheart who was enrolled in the Masters of Business Administration (MBA) program at a local Washington university. I met my then-husband in high school while living in Honolulu, Hawaii where my family moved in 1965.
It was a beautiful, spring day when my husband and I walked hand-in-hand through the streets of the eastern Washington city looking for a restaurant where we could have a weekend lunch date. We approached a corner, my husband pushed the WALK button so we could cross the street, and when it flashed green we proceeded to walk across the street.
A woman approached us from the other direction on the crosswalk, pointed her finger at us, and yelled,
Thou shalt not mix with other races! You are an abomination!
I am white, my former husband, Chinese.
My happily married, joyful self was astounded at the hatred and intolerant attitude thrust our way. We had never encountered such vehemence when living in Hawaii as a young couple, so please understand how hurt and shocked I was. I was so taken aback, the first words that came out of my mouth were, “F*ck you!” My twenty-one-year-old self stood up for herself and her marriage partner in the quickest way she knew how.
As of this writing, in all my sixty-seven years of life, that is the only me-directed racism I have ever experienced. But that is not the case for people of color.
- I have never been pulled over for driving while being white.
- I’ve never been asked to prove that I belong in the neighborhood in which I was walking or riding my bike.
- To my knowledge, I have never been followed through a department store by a store employee or store security personnel while shopping as a white woman.
- Again, to my knowledge, I have never been turned down for a job for which I was highly qualified because of the color of my skin.
My current husband of twenty years and I have three daughters between us. My daughter is a beautiful mixture of Caucasian and Chinese, my husband’s daughters are Caucasian. While our girls were growing up, we instructed them on how to be safe when out and about; we helped them recognize dangerous, every-day situations they should try to avoid but we’ve never had to have “the talk” that so many parents have had to have with their non-white children, especially their sons.
- If asked, show law enforcement your hands and ask permission to get something from your vehicle’s glovebox.
- Don’t wear your hood out on the street and don’t put your hands in your pockets.
- If you get stopped, don’t run.
- And by God, please, please, just get home alive.
I have an educated knowledge and keen awareness of the issue but I lack sufficient experience to truly understand the challenges faced by many people of color. I am ignorant in the sense that other than that one incident forty-six years ago, I have not been personally hurt – emotionally or physically – in the manner in which so many have been, and still are.
I understand the sentiment, All Lives Matter, but Brené Brown offers the following in her book, Braving the Wilderness – The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone:
I believe Black Lives Matter is a movement to rehumanize black citizens. All lives matter, but not all lives need to be pulled back into moral inclusion…the humanity wasn’t stripped from all lives the way it was stripped from the lives of black citizens.
It is my hope that one day soon, we will all get it right. The general public learns more each and every time an incident of racism makes it to the news, but shouldn’t we have learned something more by now, given the number of horrid headline incidents that have occurred nationwide?
We all can do better.
I will do better.
June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, a time to increase understanding of what dementia is and how it impacts the lives of those it touches. It’s also a great time to work to decrease the stigma and silence that too often accompanies an Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
Each June AlzAuthors hosts a book sale and giveaway to help caregivers and those concerned about dementia find knowledge, guidance, and support offered through shared wisdom and experience. AlzAuthors is the global community of authors writing about Alzheimer’s and dementia from personal experience. I’m proud to be a part of this growing non-profit organization, and I’m excited my eBook, Requiem for the Status Quo, is a part of this sale for only 99 cents, but only for a week!
June 15th through June 22nd you can take advantage of this biannual opportunity to purchase excellent resources on the dementia diseases for free or at reduced prices. AlzAuthors offers a variety of genres, including fiction, memoir, non-fiction, and children’s and teen literature. Most are available in Kindle and ebook, and many are available in paperback and audio. I would like to encourage you to build a library of carefully vetted books to help guide and inspire you every day.
These books are written from a deep place of solidarity, vulnerability, and love. May you find one – or two, or more! – to help guide you on your own dementia journey. Click here for the sale’s discounted offerings.
This post is about anticipatory vs sudden death. I know that doesn’t sound like a very positive post in honor of my sixty-seventh birthday, but this subject matter weighed on my heart the other day so I decided to write about it.
The last time I saw my mother was the 3rd week of August 1994. She died one month later. Mom and Dad visited their adult children during the month of August: my brother and I in the Seattle, WA area, and my sister in Northern California. What a gift that was – the impact of that gift not fully appreciated until Mom was taken from us during her sleep on September 24, 1994 – a life-changing shock to my father who found her, an occasion for us kids to receive the worst news possible by telephone.
The last time I saw my father was October 13, 2007 at his bedside as cancer and Alzheimer’s disease leeched the life from him. When my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s four years earlier, we knew there was no cure; we had time to prepare for the inevitable, an inevitability accelerated by a cancer that was not operable due to my father’s frail condition resultant from the slow deterioration of his body by Alzheimer’s disease.
Which death was more difficult, the fully unexpected one, or the expected one?
There is no comparison, and by that I mean you cannot compare grief in that manner. Grief is grief and although the shock of my mother’s death was a jolt to our emotional systems, so too was the slow death that occurred for my father. The outcome was the same: someone we all loved no longer existed, but more importantly, we became painfully aware that whether a person is seventy-seven years old when they die, as was our mother, or eighty-nine years old as was my father, life is short.
The child who succumbs to an illness, the teenager killed in an automobile accident, the newly married sweethearts starting out on their journey as a couple, the sixty-something-year-old or centenarian whose days come to an end, all those lives are valuable and their ending won’t always be anticipated.
It may be trite to say live each day as though it were your last, but trite or not, that’s what each of us needs to do. I do so without being morbid about it – rather, I have gotten into the habit of living and loving fully, always respecting and honoring those with whom I come in contact, and spreading kindness and truth wherever I go. Because, as I’ve said: life is precious.
Won’t you join me?
by Susan McCormick
Granny Can’t Remember Me, my lighthearted picture book about Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, was motivated by our family’s experience with my mother’s Alzheimer’s. My sons witnessed her agitation when she knew her memory was failing, yet we learned how to shape our conversations so they were pleasurable for all. My boys always started a visit with my mom with, “Hi, Granny, it’s me, James, or it’s me, Peter.” This set my mother up to know she was the grandmother and this was her grandchild. If not for those clear introductions, my sons would be greeted with, “Which one are you?” I wrote this book for children like mine, who need coping skills for this sometimes scary and sad all-too-common family situation.
We learned not to ask any questions, because this would make my mother anxious and worried. Before her Alzheimer’s progressed, my lawyerly mom would try to figure out why she didn’t know the answer, and she would often try to fake an answer or turn the conversation away from the question. This upset her. So, my boys would just state the facts and start a conversation. “Today is Friday and it’s root beer floats and milkshakes day. I love root beer floats and milkshakes.” Then my mom could join in with, “I love chocolate milkshakes best of all.” In the book, six-year-old Joey doesn’t ask his Granny what she ate for lunch because he knows she can’t remember.
Another trick was to have a story my boys knew my mother enjoyed, usually about Albert, our huge, slobbery Newfoundland dog. The boys could say, “Albert got stuck in the pantry and ate an entire bag of flour.” Then my mom would say, “Oh, Albert, what a dog! What a mess!” They could tell the same story over and over; my mom always loved it and couldn’t remember that she’d heard it before, which always presented an interesting conversation topic. Alternatively, they encouraged my mom to tell her favorite stories. In Granny Can’t Remember Me, Joey hears Granny’s stories again and again, how Mom cut Uncle Jim’s hair playing barbershop or when Jim got a bump on his head playing catch with rocks.
We never questioned anything my mom said. When I told her James wanted to learn to drive a manual transmission but couldn’t find a car with a stick shift, my mom brightened and said, “My car is a stick shift, he’s welcome to borrow it.” Instead of telling my mom she hadn’t driven in years and that her car was long gone, I said, “Thank you, I’ll let him know.” She beamed, knowing she was helping. In Granny Can’t Remember Me, Joey knows his grandmother’s dog was alive long before he was born, but he doesn’t tell this to Granny, he just goes along with her story.
These methods, not asking questions, going with the flow of the mind of the person with dementia, and telling favorite stories, served my boys and our family well. In the book, though Granny can’t remember Joey likes soccer and rockets and dogs, with the endearing stories of her Three Best Days, Joey knows she loves him just the same. Granny Can’t Remember Me shows a boy’s acceptance and love for his grandmother despite her unfortunate illness. I hope the story helps other families dealing with dementia as well.
Susan McCormick is an author and doctor who lives in Seattle. She also wrote The Fog Ladies, a cozy murder mystery with spunky senior sleuths set in an elegant apartment building in San Francisco. She graduated from Smith College and George Washington University Medical School, with additional medical training in San Francisco and Washington, DC. She served as a doctor for nine years in the US Army before moving to the Pacific Northwest. She is married and has two boys. Her mother and father-in-law had Alzheimer’s disease.
Social media links
Author Website: https://susanmccormickbooks.com
A five-year-old in San Diego, CA was concerned about school lunch debt incurred by those households not able to keep up with their children’s lunch expenses. Wait until you see how she set out to rectify this ongoing problem that occurs in so many school districts. What a great story to start February’s weekly good news!
So many in this world suffer unbearable loss; I do not know how such losses are reconciled, or how one survives such a loss without losing one’s soul. A young mother in Wisconsin lost her baby boy, shortly after his birth. The generosity she exhibited after her loss absolutely floored me.
It is so easy to take the comfort of our Home Sweet Home for granted, even when so many, through no fault of their own, have nowhere to live: homeless on the street or living in their vehicle, there are countless numbers of fellow human beings who have no home to call their own. This story about a school bus driver will warm your heart. Let us all be careful not to judge those whose stories we know nothing of.
Happy New Year! May 2020 see kindness, love, and abundant health as your portion!
If I tried to describe the story that makes up the first Good News story of the year, I would fail miserably. Please click on this link to both read, and listen, to proof that miracles happen, and because they do, we should never give up hope.
Thank you to all who have chosen to keep in touch over the many years I have hosted this blog.
Please stay safe during the Holidays and take some time for yourself as we plod toward a New Year!
Lending a hand when needed is something at which customers at a Birmingham, Alabama Waffle House excelled. I am certain one particular employee at this eating establishment had the experience of a lifetime during his work shift. I sure do love good news like this.
Your parent is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia and as their biological child you wonder, “Will that be my fate?”
An article of mine, Me Worry? Not on your Life was recently published on the CogniHealth website, a company that in partnership with Alzheimer Scotland, developed a caregiver aid for those – especially family members – providing care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia.
I chose the topic of whether or not dementia might be passed along to biological family members because as a daughter who witnessed the decline of her father as a result of dementia, I certainly had an opinion on the matter. Does one need to worry their entire life about the chance of acquiring Alzheimer’s disease?
I hope you will read my article that while transparent and painfully clear, also provides many rays of hope and encouragement for those in similar circumstances.
At the very least, I am certain you will come away with a clearer understanding of how little value worry contributes to ones’ life.
Chad Kollman knows how to make lemonade out of lemons. The thing is, he doesn’t even consider that he’s been served a heaping portion of lemons, even though the casual observer might conclude that to be the case. Enjoy this story that is certain to brighten even the darkest of your days.
by Sue Anne W. Kirkham
How it all began:
It was late October when my husband, Jack, and I showed up at my father and stepmother’s townhouse to walk their two dogs—a duty we’d taken on several months earlier, after they announced they no longer felt up to the task. At 84, my father suffered from respiratory and circulatory problems; at 81, my stepmother showed early signs of dementia, with some Parkinson’s-like tremors erupting, just to keep things interesting. I was determined that they not be forced by these circumstances to give up their pets. On this day, Dad greeted us at the door with another shocker. “We have to move into assisted living.” No hello. No how ya doin? Just this stark declaration.
Dad and Zelda had always been younger than their years in every respect. He continued his career as a psychologist into his late 70s, and the warm, witty, delightful woman he married in 1972 had always been active and ready for a new adventure. Each enjoyed absorbing hobbies, and they eagerly traveled the globe together for most of their 32-year marriage.
As Jack and I herded the pups that chilly autumn day, I remained troubled by the prospect of a radical change in lifestyle for my beloved father and stepmother. So I hatched a plan: leave my dreary clerical position and devote myself to lightening their load and injecting some sparkle back into their lives. I would carve out a new weekday vocation as companion/housekeeper/social director/exercise coach/assistant cook.
I kept a journal from Day One as, over the next 18 months, Zelda suffered incremental losses of mental acuity. Less noticeably, my father’s COPD was cranking toward a dramatic climax that none of us anticipated. While I focused on finding enough fingers to plug the ever-multiplying holes in the home-front dike, Dad’s staunch self-sufficiency propelled him through his own physical deterioration. Meanwhile, I watched Zelda—former organizer of Fourth of July kitchen band marches—fade into confusion. To be at her side through the slow, agonizing loss of her Self would prove to be the most affecting experience of my life. It soon became clear that the course I was chronicling was strewn with striking contrasts: moments of high hilarity and wrenching despair; snapshots of the struggle for dignity in the face of decline; arcs of mood between fear and optimism, gratitude and resentment. Hobbling my efforts to navigate these troubled waters was the crushing blow of friends and family members challenging my motives, questioning my trustworthiness.
This enterprise had much to teach me about life and death, human limitations, faith, and endurance. The struggle, as they say, was real. But the joys and rewards were every bit as genuine.
Why I wrote about it:
As my time with Dad and Zelda ended, a fresh commitment shaped my mission: I had been seeking a book topic I felt passionate about. This was that subject. I would share our experiences, unique amidst all the universal similarities, to promote understanding and support others confronting the challenge of caring for those who once cared for us. I chose the memoir format because, as dementia robbed Zelda of her voice, my journal became the story; it painted a complete and authentic picture for readers. Memoir also allowed for the interweaving of family history, a fleshing out of characters, and a means of affirming through narration the individual’s continuing worth, untainted by the loss of physical and cognitive abilities.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sue Anne Kirkham is a freelance writer who blogs atwww.yourrecipesforlife.com. She has published print articles on aging and family relations as well as online profiles of inspiring everyday heroes, and essays on health-conscious living and the peculiarities of contemporary culture.
FOLLOW THE AUTHOR:
FOLLOW THE AUTHOR:
Author website: www.lovingzelda.com
Author Facebook page: @LovingZeldaCaregiving/
LinkedIn: Sue Anne Kirkham
One of my sisters-in-law died of breast cancer earlier this year. It was – and remains – an event that is prominent in our minds and in our hearts. This story warmed my heart, as I hope it does yours. A former Pittsburgh Steelers running back is fighting the disease that took his mother’s life.
Angels exist everywhere, and if you’ve ever been touched by one, you’ll agree. This story out of Milford, OH will touch you like none other. I certainly hope each of us meets an angel like the one portrayed in this brief story. If you’re having a not so great day or week, this angel is sure to improve your outlook.
Twelve years ago today, my father died from complications of Alzheimer’s disease. That morning I had received a call from the memory care unit where Dad had lived for several years. The nursing manager of that unit said if I wanted to see my father again before he died, I should come as soon as possible. (I had spent a week with him the month before and knew that his prostate cancer would most likely hasten his death.) I first called my husband at work to let him know I would find a flight from Seattle, WA to Medford, OR and be gone…for how long? I didn’t know. Then while on the phone with my brother and sister, I booked my flight online with a tentative return, threw the very minimum of clothing in an overnight bag, and headed to SeaTac International Airport.
If you have read my novel, Requiem for the Status Quo, you’ve pretty much read the account of what transpired for me at my father’s bedside; some of the happenings that day/evening were altered, but the gist of what transpired are contained in Chapters 41 & 42.
Upon my return to Seattle, my energy level was depleted yet still on alert. When you have a loved one with a debilitating disease, a state of alertness is the norm – the status quo of constantly being in a state of emergency, if you will. You keep waiting for the phone to ring with the latest development – such as it did for the last time on October 13, 2007 – but that phone number’s appearance on my Caller ID had ceased.
What hadn’t ceased was the business of dying – all the financial and estate matters one cannot ignore – but because of my father’s diligence and organization leading up to his Alzheimer’s diagnosis, much of what I needed to do on behalf of his estate and us survivors, was readily dispatched in the months that followed my father’s death.
But the “now what?” of life post-caregiving was front and center for me. Initially, I wanted absolutely nothing to do with anything having to do with dementia. I continued to financially support my local Alzheimer’s Association and participated in one more Walk to End Alzheimer’s, but that was it. Then my heart called and I became an Alzheimer’s Association caregiver support group facilitator and shortly thereafter, I entered the world of long-term care advocacy by becoming a Washington State LTC ombudsman, both of which I did for five years.
Then my heart spoke to me again, this time it said, “How about writing about your experience as Dad’s caregiver?” I ignored that thought until I no longer could – it wouldn’t leave me alone! I dragged out all of Dad’s records and my numerous journals, sat at my dining table, and over many months’ time, outlined how I would honor my father’s journey and my family’s experience within the pages of a book that might benefit others.
That was five years after my father’s death. My book was published five years later.
Now twelve years after the end of my father’s Alzheimer’s journey,
my book still manages to make its way into the hands of those who need it.
If you, or someone you know, needs encouragement and a renewed sense of hope,
please make your way to your favorite bookstore, or find it right here.
Blessings to you today, and always.
In celebration of the many former and current family caregivers in the world, and in honor of their loved ones with Alzheimer’s or other dementia, AlzAuthors has released the eBook of Volume II of Alzheimer’s & Dementia Caregiving Stories. The introductory price is only $1.99. Be sure to get your copy now!
I absolutely love seeing a variety of age groups doing something grand for others. We all have the same number of hours in a day and choosing to use a few of those hours to benefit others can go a long way toward improving our little corner of the world. I hope this story about a very industrious young man who lives not far from me, impresses you as much as it did me.
How often have you felt defeated because your day-to-day existence is somewhat routine and boring?
The life of a family caregiver, attending to a loved one with a disease or malady that is all-encompassing, is never Same-O Same-O. Any semblance of status quo flies out the window shortly after taking on this learn-as-you-go caregiver role. The boring life about which the family caregiver used to complain no longer exists as she or he memorializes that long-abandoned way of living. My memorial to status quo existed while attending to my father during his Alzheimer’s journey.
Requiem for the Status Quo speaks of that memorial to things that once were.