Tag Archives: Alzheimer’s

Bearings

Bearings

“I’ve lost my bearings,” she said to me, perplexed. She was sitting alone in her room, surrounded by piles of clothing on the bed and floor around her—the collapsed small tents of abandoned full skirts, the shards of scarves and small mismatched clutterings of shoes.

She had been abandoned in a daydream world that only she lived in, but that she seemed as confused by as she was by those of us who tried to visit her there. For her, even changing clothes had become an insurmountable obstacle—a challenge that rivaled childbirth, an unfaithful husband, an addicted son, an autistic grandson. It rivaled the war she’d staged against her much-younger sister—the power she held over that sister by her rejection of her. It rivaled her efforts to enter the world again as a single woman and to try to win the world over to the fact that it was all his fault. It rivaled her insistence that it was the world that was confused in refusing to go along with all her beliefs and justifications.

She had barely if ever left a word unspoken when it came to an argument. It was so simple, really. She was always right. That everyone in the world, and more particularly her younger sister, refused to believe this was a thorn in her side. The skin on her cheek itched with the irritation over the unfairness of the world. She had worn a path in it, carving out a small trench so that the skin even now was scaly with that road traversed over and over again by one chewed-off fingernail. “Are you she?” She asked me, and when I admitted I was, she added, “Oh, you were always so irritating. Even as a little girl. Why could you never be what anyone else wanted you to be? You were always so, so—yourself!”

It was my chance, finally, for an honest conversation with this sister 11 years older—more a crabby mother always, than a sister. A chance if she could keep on track long enough to remember both who I am and who we both once were.

“So what was wrong with how I was, Betty? With how I am?”

“Oh, you were always so . . . . “ She stopped here, as though struggling for a word or for a memory. I saw her eyes stray to the floor between the door and the dresser. “There’s that little fuzzy thing there,” she said. I could see her eyes chart the progress of this creature invisible to me across the room.

I hung on to the thought she had so recently abandoned. “But me, Betty. What do you find wrong with me?”

Her eyes came back to me and connected, suddenly, with a sort of snap that made me think we were back in the same world again as she contemplated by last question. I tried to keep judgment out of my own gaze—to keep her here with me for long enough to connect on at least this one question.

“You were,” she said, and it was with that dismissive disgusted tone she had so often used with me since I was a very small child. “You were just so mystical!”

I was confused, not sure that the word she had used was the one she meant to use.

“What do you mean by mystical, Betty?” I sat on the bed beside her and reached out for the static wisps of hair that formed a cowlick at the back of her head—evidence of the long naps which had once again taken over her life, after a long interim period of raising kids, running charities and church prayer circles, and patrolling second-hand-stores, traveling to PEO conventions and staying on the good side of a number of eccentric grandchildren.

“Oh, you know. All those mystical experiences! The E.S.P. and all those other stories you told my kids. And Mother. Even Mother believed you.”

Then a haze like a layer of smoke once more seemed to pass over her eyes, dulling her connection to this time and reality and to me.

Her chin trembled and a tear ran down her cheek. She ran one fingernail-chewed index finger over and over the dome of her thumb and her face broke into the crumpled ruin of a child’s face who has just had its heart broken, the entire world of sadness expressed in this one face. I put my arms around her, and for the first time in our lives, she did not pull away. We rocked in comfort to each other, both of us mourning something different, I think. Me mourning a sister who now would never be mine in the way that sisters are meant to be. Her mourning a self that she had not been able to find for a very long time.

“Oh, the names I have been called in my life,” I was thinking.

“Oh, the moon shadows on the table in the corner. What do they mean?” She was thinking.

The last time I gave my sister a fortune cookie, she went to the bathroom and washed it off under the faucet, chuckling as though it was the most clever thing in the world to do. She then hung it on a spare nail on the wall.

When I asked her if she needed to go to the bathroom, she nodded yes, and moved in the direction of the kitchen. Then she looked at the news scroll on the television and asked if those were directions for her. If there was something she was supposed to be doing. And that picture on the wall. What was it telling her she was supposed to do?

In the end, I rubbed her head until she fell asleep, covered her and stole away. I’d fly away the next morning, leaving her to her new world as she had left me to mine from the very beginning.

Prompt words today are hang on, contemplate, daydream, bearing and surround.

Fandango’s Provocative Question #27

DSC08394

“If you could choose one — and only one — particular malady, condition, or disease for which a safe and effective treatment was available, what one condition would you choose to treat and why is that your choice?”

If there could be a cure for one disease in the world, I would choose Alzheimer’s. Other diseases deprive you of your life. Alzheimer’s deprives you of yourself. I can’t imagine a worse fate than being trapped inside myself, losing my personality, intelligence, memory, mobility and dignity–and having my loved ones witness this. I’ve watched this happen with my sister and will seize any means to keep it from happening to me. I’ve speculated that perhaps you just go into an interior world that is magical in its own way, but I think that is really just wishful thinking. In truth, I fear it the most of anything, as by the time you are in its throes, there is really nothing that can be done. With other diseases, you have a choice… attempt a cure, and if it doesn’t work, choose a bridge to jump off or a pill to take. With Alzheimer’s, unless you make this choice early-on, it is too late.

 

 

For Fandango’s Provocative Question #27

Memory Care

jdb photo

Memory Care

I’m tumbling backwards into silence.
My words have lost their spark.
When I seek enlightenment,
I’m only met by dark.

When I try to pick a theme, 
my thoughts quickly retreat.
Looking for a place to rest,
they rarely find a seat.

Where do memories go to 
when they cannot find a door—
when there’s no exit for them, 
and there’s no room for more?

Does our memory simply melt
starting with today
so the things that we remember
are only yesterday?

Do we wander empty corridors
or is our distant past
our favorite thing to think about
so they’re the thoughts that last?

 

I’ve been thinking a lot about dementia lately, but no, I don’t feel I’m describing myself in this poem. I am, however, trying to put myself in my sister Betty’s place to try to figure out what might be going through her mind…or what in her mind she might be going through. Certainly, we all have enough memories stored to entertain ourselves for life, and perhaps as we run out of room it is the last memories, more seldom thought of, that vanish first, leaving us with a rich inner world we are loath to leave. I hope this is true, or that we go back to a state of consciousness similar to where an infant exists before it is born, listening to the mystery of outside sounds and wondering where we are going to fit into them. Without words, are there thoughts? Unfortunately, not all mysteries are solved.

Prompts today were spark, pick, silence and backward. Here are links:
https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2019/05/28/rdp-tuesday-spark/
https://fivedotoh.com/2019/05/28/fowc-with-fandango-pick/
https://onedailyprompt.wordpress.com/2019/05/28/your-daily-word-prompt-silence-may-28-2019/
https://wordofthedaychallenge.wordpress.com/2019/05/28/backward/

Bewildered: Gray Walls with Boxes

 

Gray Walls with Boxes

Once I knew words that fit together.
Now my mind still has the answers,
but rarely lets me in to find them.

People who seem to know me
bring pizza in a box
and we eat it in front of another box I’ve forgotten the name for––
a small world with other people moving in it that I don’t know.
Sometimes words appear in a ribbon on the bottom edge of that box
and I wonder if I understood them
if they ‘d tell me what I’m supposed to do.

On the walls are other flat boxes
with people frozen in them
and I think it is my fault.
There is something I am supposed to be doing.
There is something I am supposed to be doing.
“They are your pictures, Mother.
They’re there for decoration—
for you to enjoy,”
a woman tells me
when I ask her
if she’d like to take them
home with her.

I don’t belong here.
My high school boyfriend
must be wondering
where I’ve gone
and my daughter is as confused as I am,
claiming to be her own child;
and then one day my sister comes
and I have to laugh because they all
look so much alike—
my sister and her niece and her niece’s daughter
whom they try to convince me
are my daughter and my granddaughter––
so many layers of daughters
that it is too hard to keep them
all in mind.

But then that floats away
and I am trying to remember
when I am leaving this hotel
and I feel I’m not suited to run for president
although all those people
cheering at that big convention in that little box
want me to––
that little box they turn off and on each day,
sometimes before or after I’m ready
to have it turned off.

And they take me to that large room
where all those silent older people sit.
I do not want to go into this room,
but I am lucky, and we move through it.
Someone’s daughters have come to put me
into a box that moves us through the world
without walking. At first, I am so surprised by it,
then I remember what it is
but can’t remember the word for it.
As we sit in it, the world moves by
too fast, scaring me, and I try
to weep unnoticed.
But then they take me out of it,
give me popcorn
and lead me into a very large room
with many people sitting down
and an entire wall with larger people
moving on it, and it is so confusing, like déjá vu,
for I remember being in a room like this before,
but I don’t know if I’m supposed to
make them do something other
than what they are doing
or if I’m already controlling them with my thoughts
or if I’m supposed to be
up there on the wall with them.
I can’t remember whether these people
on either side of me are my sisters
or my children or strangers,
sitting chair after chair down the long aisle.

Most days, I am so sad all day long,
but sometimes my real self
comes to visit and I think,
how did I become a martyr like my grandmother
and why can’t I stop myself from crying, just like her?
One gray wall meets another at the corner
and I’m sure
that I am being punished
for things I did but can’t remember.

That blank face
in the mirror
has me in it,
but I can’t get out
and for a moment I know, then forget
that this is why I cry
and cry and cry
and cry.

 

I think the deep stage of bewilderment that Alzheimer’s brings us to is the biggest fear of many of us who are over the age of sixty.  I’ve written poems about earlier and later stages of this dread disease, but  this poem describes as closely as was possible for me the way my sister Betty seemed to be feeling at a couple of different stages of her dementia.  Her delusion that it was she who was running for president the year Obama was elected, her befuddlement over the television and later over the art on the walls, over the identity of family members, and finally her astonishment over being in a moving car and at the movies.  This may have marked the last time we took her out of the care facility where she still resides. I went to see her a few months ago and still plan to write about her present state. Anyone who has a loved one in some stage of this heartbreaking disease will know haw hard it is to imagine how they may be feeling and how equally hard it is to write about it.  That is why I keep putting it off. I’m running this poem again after five years because it seems to fit today’s prompt, which is bewildered.

Controlled Chaos

IMG_7018

The other day in a comment to another blogger, I said something on the order of how I think life is cyclical.  We go from the intuitive state of children to the increasingly rational world of the adult and then, as we retire and age (or age and retire, depending on how anxious we are to do so) and get on to the next stage, we start evolving back into the state we were in as children.  We perhaps start to forget details of the present in favor of remembering vividly details of our past. Our present seems to fall into an increasing sense of disorder as our past comes back with a strange clarity.  In the farther stages of dementia, this seems to be true as well.

Judging by the fragmented comments made by my sister who is experiencing the journey of Alzheimer’s, she seems to be going backwards through her life.  In her mind, she was for awhile once again married to a husband from whom she had been divorced for twenty-five years.  A year later, she was talking about her high school boyfriend as though he was waiting for her; and this year, when given a baby doll, she sat rocking it and calling it Judy.  Eleven years older than me, I’m sure she was remembering me as a baby.  More proof of my theory, because she has had three children and five grandchildren since she rocked me in that long-ago rocking chair, most of whom she doesn’t remember.

All of this speculating is a roundabout method of preparing you for what I really want to talk about, and that is the topic of “chaos.”  As we age, our rational mind seems to give way to intuition–forgetting details like what we are driving to town to do or what we came from the bedroom to the living room to find. Instead, we wander from task to task as we get distracted by whatever our eye falls upon, much as we did as children.

IMG_7024

In a similar fashion,  objects collect on the table-like headboard of my bed and on my night tables. Have you ever seen the room of  a teenager?  A perfect example of chaos.  Dirty clothes and caked ice cream dishes are swept under the bed, dirty clothes are in piles mixed in with the clean ones delivered by mom a week earlier, magazines, electrical equipment, soccer balls and school books all seem to be placed in the same category and spread evenly over the surfaces of the room.

The bedroom or playroom of a toddler or child seems to follow the same organizational plan:  Leggos, the detached limbs of G.I. Joes or Barbies, coloring books, plastic kid-sized furniture, trikes, blocks, kiddie computer games, unmatched socks, clothes outgrown months ago, plastic trucks and assorted game pieces from kiddie games cover the floor as though organized by a tornado into the perfect organizational plan of a child: chaos.

So it was in the house of my oldest sister.  Every year, more piles appeared in her bedroom.  Her kitchen drawers were a jumble of knives, jewelry, old electrical receipts, diamond rings, half full medicine bottles, plastic lids to butter tubs, photographs, drawings her children had done twenty years before, unused postal stamps and corroded batteries.

When I visited a few months before she went into a managed care facility, hoping  I could facilitate her staying in her house for at least another year, I reorganized her house–– putting labels on all her drawers.  In the bedroom, I sorted out a tangle of necklaces, rings, earrings and bracelets.  In doing so,  I discovered  23 watches–all dysfunctional.

“Betty, why do you have so many watches?”

“Oh, they all stopped working.”

“Did you exchange the batteries?”

“Oh, you can do that?”

Now I look at the boxes of slides and photos of the art work of my husband and me–sorted and condensed from four boxes  into two boxes, then abandoned unfinished when I needed to use the dining room table to entertain guests. Now the unresolved mess resides between the bed and the closet in my bedroom. Sigh.

IMG_7029

There are junk drawers I’ve been shoving things into for 15 years thinking one day I’ll sort them.  Boxes of miscellaneous papers I packed up 15 years ago to bring to Mexico still sit untouched in my garage.

Like the rest of the universe, having come from the chaos of childhood, I seem to be returning to it and I wonder what the solution will be.  Perhaps, as many of my friends have, I will start shedding the accumulations of a lifetime and simplify my life so there is less in it to be transformed into chaos.  Or, perhaps as has been my pattern for the past 15 years, since divesting myself of most of my possessions to move to Mexico, I will continue to collect thousands of little items for my art collages, dozens of bracelets, rings, necklaces, earrings–even though I wear only a few favorites.

IMG_7037IMG_7036

Perhaps I’ll continue to buy the books of friends, the paintings of talented Mexican artists, huipiles from the market, woven purses and alebrijes from beach vendors, gelato makers from the garage sales of friends.

I have a special fondness for one basket vendor who sells the lovely baskets made by his family in Guerrero. I have them in every shape–square, obelisk, round, rectangular–as well as every size from coin purse to three feet tall.  Yet I keep buying them because I admire his perseverance.  For the fifteen years I’ve been here, he has traversed the carretera from Chapala to Jocotepec, laden front, back and to each side with these baskets.  He wears five straw hats piled neatly one on top of the other on his head.  Baskets nest within other baskets or are threaded onto a long cord and worn diagonally over his chest.

Version 2

He is a a master of organization–and to query about any basket as one sits at at table in the Ajijic plaza  will invite his ceremony as he divests himself of baskets to display them.  Soon the floor around your table will be covered in so many baskets it seems impossible that one man has been carrying them up and down the ten miles between the towns on this side of the lake–all day and for years long before I moved here.  His is an incredible sense of organization that is the opposite of chaos, and in admiration, if I am unable to persuade visiting friends to buy his baskets, I always buy something myself.

Back home, I fill one with outgrown underwear, another with scarves, another with old keys and padlocks I may one day need.  It is as though his organization rubs off on me as I fill baskets, instilling some order into a life potentially chaotic–but at the moment held within the confines of normalcy.

Ten years ago, my other sister opened my junk drawer in my kitchen and declared, “There is no excuse for anyone to have a drawer like this.”  Because I know of no one who does not have a drawer like that, I was somewhat surprised, and was especially surprised because before her visit I had more or less organized my junk drawer.

IMG_7015

But now I look around and realize I have a number of those drawers.  In spite of the basket vendor’s good example, my sense or organization seems to be veering toward having a special drawer to thrust categories of things into: batteries, items of clothing, kitchen tools, jewelry.  Controlled chaos––the way of the universe and certainly the seeming course of our lives. For some of us, at least.

(If you are dying to make out exactly what is in these drawers, clicking on the photos will enlarge your view.  Snoopy!)

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/chaos/

Ashes and Dust and : NaPoWriMo 2016, Day 25 and “Whisper,” WordPress Daily Prompt

DSC00620 (1)

“After all our years have settled like dust . . .”
                                           ––okc forgottenman

Ashes and Dust

When that cruel wind
blows against memories
that have settled like dust
on our lives,

what  will remain
sealed in our crevasses
––fine furniture that we are
of a bygone age?

What remaining minutes
of a long life of years
will define us then?
A kiss? A child held in arms?
Regrets? Terrors?

In those storerooms
where people  sit
stacked in silent cubicles,
what zephyrs whisper through
to stir the embers
of their minds?

Is there music in those currents
or are they the sad
whining winds
that curl over headstones
and lament the dust that settles there,

moaning through cracks in attics
and around hanging eaves troughs,
causing them to swing and bump
lonely against the fading
wood of abandoned houses?

LIfe builds us and wears us away
like the mountain.
Like sand on the beach.
We are not above it all.

No matter how much power
we think we gain,
Nature is a wind that breathes
into us at birth,
then blows itself away.

The NaPoWriMo prompt was to write a poem making use of the first line of someone else’s poem.  You can find the poem by okc forgottenman that I drew inspiration from Here. The WordPress prompt was “whisper.”

 

http://www.napowrimo.net/day-twenty-five-2/

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/whisper/

 

Voice

The one word prompt today was “Voice.”  “Gray Walls with Boxes”  is a rewrite of a poem I wrote four years ago.  In it I attempt to act as the voice of my sister Betty who is in advanced stages of Alzheimer’s.  Everything in the poem is an attempt to see the world as she was then seeing it, as evidenced by what she said to me and I recorded either in notes or with a voice recorder during our visits.

I often wonder whether those suffering from dementia are actually in a different world of their own making that is pleasant to them.  I think my sister now is, but four years ago––at the stage I describe in this poem––she was often in distress, confusing the interrelationship of people, objects, paintings on the wall, the television and what was going on around her.  To her, all seemed to be part of the same reality.

Gray Walls with Boxes

Once I knew words that fit together.
Now my mind still has the answers,
but rarely lets me in to find them.

People who seem to know me
bring pizza in a box
and we eat it in front of another box I’ve forgotten the name for––
a small world with other people moving in it that I don’t know.
Sometimes words appear in a ribbon on the bottom edge of that box
and I wonder if I understood them
if they ‘d tell me what I’m supposed to do.

On the walls are other flat boxes
with people frozen in them
and I think it is my fault.
There is something I am supposed to be doing.
There is something I am supposed to be doing.
“They are your pictures, Mother.
They’re there for decoration—
for you to enjoy,”
a woman tells me
when I ask her
if she’d like to take them
home with her.

I don’t belong here.
My high school boyfriend
must be wondering
where I’ve gone
and my daughter is as confused as I am,
claiming to be her own child;
and then one day my sister comes
and I have to laugh because they all
look so much alike—
my sister and her niece and her niece’s daughter
whom they try to convince me
are my daughter and my granddaughter––
so many layers of daughters
that it is too hard to keep them
all in mind.

But then that floats away
and I am trying to remember
when I am leaving this hotel
and I feel I’m not suited to run for president
although all those people
cheering at that big convention in that little box
want me to––
that little box they turn off and on each day,
sometimes before or after I’m ready
to have it turned off.

And they take me to that large room
where all those silent older people sit.
I do not want to go into this room,
but I am lucky, and we move through it.
Someone’s daughters have come to put me
into a box that moves us through the world
without walking. At first, I am so surprised by it,
then I remember what it is
but can’t remember the word for it.
As we sit in it, the world moves by
too fast, scaring me, and I try
to weep unnoticed.

But then they take me out of it,
give me popcorn
and lead me into a very large room
with many people sitting down
and an entire wall with larger people
moving on it, and it is so confusing, like déjá vu,
for I remember being in a room like this before,
but I don’t know if I’m supposed to
make them do something other
than what they are doing
or if I’m already controlling them with my thoughts
or if I’m supposed to be
up there on the wall with them.
I can’t remember whether these people
on either side of me are my sisters
or my children or strangers,
sitting chair after chair down the long aisle.

Most days, I am so sad all day long,
but sometimes my real self
comes to visit and I think,
how did I become a martyr like my grandmother
and why can’t I stop myself from crying, just like her?
One gray wall meets another at the corner
and I’m sure
that I am being punished
for things I did but can’t remember.

That blank face
in the mirror
has me in it,
but I can’t get out
and for a moment I know, then forget
that this is why I cry
and even though it tries to comfort me,
I cannot stop.

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/voice/

The Sticky Fingers of Things

The Sticky Fingers of Things

Over the past year, I have started to feel so encumbered by things that I feel like they are choking me.  Even my art-filled and carefully arranged house, which I love, has started to make me feel like I’m trapped in one of my own collages.

I once wrote that I like to do assemblage because it is an arrangement that is glued down so other people can’t rearrange it, but recently I’ve begun to feel like one of those objects.  I just can’t get myself unpinned from my present life.  It is not that there is anything terribly wrong about it.  Just that I no longer have a feeling of freedom..

Recently, I was asked what I would save if my house were on fire and I could only save five things.  My answer would be an album of childhood pictures, an album of pictures from Africa and Australia, my computer and two backup drives.  Then I’d put them in storage, buy a new computer and go on another trip around the world with no planned itinerary and no planned start or stop dates.

Why can’t I do this on my own?  Who knows why we let ourselves be controlled by things? Maybe it is because we know we can’t take them with us and so we strive to get as much pleasure out of them as possible while we can.  Perhaps it is because we fear that without things, we ourselves are nothing.  Perhaps it is because we cannot see that the beauty is within ourselves.  Perhaps it is because we fear that others give us value simply because of the things around us.

I once heard my eleven-year-older sister tell someone that she liked to visit her younger sisters because they both had such interesting lives and friends.  I felt so sad that she hadn’t said that she loved to visit me because I, myself, was interesting and loved.  I think this has influenced my feeling for her ever since.

My sister is now in the stages of dementia where pretty much everything has been taken from her.  She no longer knows what most common objects are for, but my niece recently told me that she had been given a life-sized baby doll that she holds and rocks and talks to and that the other day she called it Judy. I guess she waited too long to express any feelings of love she might have felt for me. Now, she is seemingly expressing that love toward an object when all these years she could have been expressing it to the person who could have returned it.  Is this what I’m doing by refusing to surrender the objects that fill my life?  Maybe it is time to find out.

DSC09458
The Prompt:  What five objects would you \save from your burning house?

Bearings

Bearings

“I’ve lost my bearings,” she said to me, perplexed. She was sitting alone in her room, piles of clothing on the bed and floor around her—the collapsed small tents of abandoned full skirts, the shards of scarves and small mismatched clutterings of shoes.

She had been abandoned in a world that only she lived in, that she knew less about than any of us who tried to visit her there. For her, even changing clothes became an insurmountable obstacle—a challenge that rivaled childbirth, her master’s thesis, an unfaithful husband, an addicted son, an autistic grandson. It rivaled the war she’d staged against her much-younger sister—the power she held over that sister by her rejection of her. It rivaled her efforts to enter the world again as a single woman and to try to win the world over to the fact that it was all his fault. It rivaled her insistence that it was the world that was confused in refusing to go along with all her beliefs and justifications.

She had barely if ever left a word unspoken when it came to an argument. It was so simple, really. She was always right. That everyone in the world, and more particularly her younger sister, refused to believe this was a thorn in her side. The skin on her cheek itched with the irritation over the unfairness of the world. She had worn a path in it, carving out a small trench so that the skin even now was scaly with that road traversed over and over again by one chewed-off fingernail. “Are you she?” She asked me, and when I admitted I was, she added, “Oh, you were always so irritating. Even as a little girl. Why could you never be what anyone else wanted you to be? You were always so, so—yourself!”

It was my chance, finally, for an honest conversation with this sister 11 years older—more a crabby mother always, than a sister. A chance if she could keep on track long enough to remember both who I am and who we both once were.

“So what was wrong with how I was, Betty? With how I am?”

“Oh, you were always so—“ She stopped here, as though struggling for a word or for a memory. I saw her eyes stray to the floor between the door and the dresser. “There’s that little fuzzy thing there,” she said. I could see her eyes chart the progress of this creature invisible to me across the room.

“But me, Betty. What do you find wrong with me?”

Her eyes came back to me and connected, suddenly, with a sort of snap that made me think we were back in the same world again. I tried to keep judgment out of my own gaze—to keep her here with me for long enough to connect on at least this one question.

“You were,” she said, and it was with that dismissive disgusted tone she had so often used with me since I was a very small child. “You were just so mystical!”

I was confused, not sure that the word she had used was the one she meant to use.

“What do you mean by mystical, Betty?” I sat on the bed beside her and reached out for the static wisps of hair that formed a cowlick at the back of her head—evidence of the long naps which had once again taken over her life, after a long interim period of raising kids, running charities and church prayer circles, and patrolling second-hand-stores, traveling to PEO conventions and staying on the good side of a number of eccentric grandchildren.

“Oh, you know. All those mystical experiences! The E.S.P. and all those other stories you told my kids. And Mother. Even Mother believed you.”

Then a haze like a layer of smoke once more seemed to pass over her eyes, dulling her connection to this time and reality and to me.

Her chin trembled and a tear ran down her cheek. She ran one fingernail-chewed index finger over and over the dome of her thumb and her face broke into the crumpled ruin of a child’s face who has just had its heart broken, the entire world of sadness expressed in this one face. I put my arms around her, and for the first time in our lives, she did not pull away. We rocked in comfort to each other, both of us mourning something different, I think. Me mourning a sister who now would never be mine in the way that sisters are meant to be. Her mourning a self that she had not been able to find for a very long time.

“Oh, the names I have been called in my life,” I was thinking.

“Oh, the moonshadows on the table in the corner. What do they mean?” She was thinking.

The last time I gave my sister a fortune cookie, she went to the bathroom and washed it off under the faucet, chuckling as though it was the most clever thing in the world to do. She then hung it on a spare nail on the wall.

When I asked her if she needed to go to the bathroom, she nodded yes, and moved in the direction of the kitchen. Then she looked at the news scroll on the television and asked if those were directions for her. If there was something she was supposed to be doing. And that picture on the wall. What was it telling her she was supposed to do?

In the end, I rubbed her head until she fell asleep, covered her and stole away. I’d fly away the next morning and leave her to her new world as she had left me to mine from the very beginning.

Mind Freeze

  • The Prompt: Overload Alert—“Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense.” — Gertrude Stein. Do you Agree?

    Mind Freeze

    There is new news all day long, for every single minute.
    By radio and television, we are immersed in it.
    Even on the Internet, they repeat and repeat
    every warlike action, every athletic feat.

    We know before their spouses do when politicians slip,
    view every starlet’s nightclub spree via a Youtube clip.
    Stock market scams and Ponzi schemes and other news that scares
    as big guys pick our pockets in order to line theirs.

    Sans Blackwater and Monsanto, we would be better off,
    but we’d still be deluged by news of Enron and Madoff!
    We consult Wikipedia to see what it might say,
    keep up with the Kardashians a dozen times a day.

    It’s hard enough to keep abreast of those they might be bedding,
    let alone to know the date of their most recent wedding.
    Who has gained a pound or two or who’s the most hirsute?
    This information makes our lives a Trivial Pursuit.

    There are so many details that come at us day and night,
    filling up our minds until our craniums feel tight.
    We’re stuffed with sound bites, news clips and every TV show
    until it is inevitable. Something’s got to blow!

    No wonder that we can’t remember names of our best friends
    or what we came out shopping for or how that movie ends.
    We can’t remember song lyrics or what we meant to do
    when we came in here for something. Was it scissors, paint or glue?

    I am forgetting everything I always used to know.
    Every mental process has just gotten kind of slow.
    It’s taking me much longer now to ponder each decision—
    a factor that the younger folks consider with derision.

    Like-aged friends agree with me, for they all feel the same.
    They all have minds stuffed just as full, and we know what to blame.
    There’s too much information, and like any stuffed-full larder,
    to locate things within them gets progressively harder.

    If we could sort our minds out the same way that we pack—
    putting unimportant stuff way at the very back
    and all the more important things in front and at the top,
    we wouldn’t have to search our minds and wouldn’t have to stop

    to figure out the names of things or places or of folks,
    and then we wouldn’t be the brunt of all their aging jokes;
    but it seems that we can’t do this so perhaps the answer is
    to just turn off the TV news and gossip of show biz.

    The scandals and the killings—all the bad things that astound us—
    we’d leave behind to concentrate on happenings around us.
    We’d notice more the little things in our immediate world:
    the spider in the spider web, the bud that’s tightly furled

    and notice when it opens, and the dragonfly that’s on it
    and take a picture of it, or perhaps construct a sonnet.
    See the children who are hungry and instead of our obsessing
    on matters where we’re powerless, instead bestow a blessing

    on all those things around us where we have the power to act.
    When we see whatever needs doing, to take action and react.
    Perhaps then all the horrid facts that rise up in the mind
    will settle to the bottom and then all of us will find

    the keys we’ve lost, our glasses, and remember why we came
    into this room and how to recall every person’s name.
    And all the time we save we’ll spend on the important things
    and feel the sense of purpose helping others always brings.

    The world is too much with us with its bad news of all kinds,
    and all this information simply freezes up our minds.
    Perhaps with less input, there would be less facts to astound us
    and we could concentrate on what’s important close around us.