I see myself, along with my brother and father, as the carrier of my mother’s sacred legacy. I imagine myself tenderly fanning the embers, adding dry leaves and crumbled paper, creating a blaze with each memory. I realize I don’t have to give up Mom’s old self: I can be her historian and her scribe, carrying her stories with me, and making sure they live on.
The moment I read these words, I felt like I had written them myself. I think the urge to assume responsibility for a person’s identity, to make sure it retains the dignity and purpose it has rightfully earned, is a universal ambition among caregivers of people with dementia.
Such is the spot-on goodness of Love in the Land of Dementia.
I can’t decide which I like better: the stories that resonate with all caregivers of someone with dementia, or the crafty way the author’s visual writing is so easy on the senses.
It is a good thing I don’t have to choose. Deborah Shouse’s collection of stories is seamlessly woven together by the bittersweet thread of a caregiver’s journey. It is both emotional and practical, and a wonderful way for caregivers to feel like part of a larger story. I have read many memoirs, heard countless personal testimonies, but there is something different in Shouse’s gift for writing. She chronicles the shift in roles and relationships, the pain of letting go and making hard choices. And although her writing is warm and clear and easy to read, it is also mind-blowingly awesome!
A wave of anguish starts in my belly and howls into my mouth. The sound is too raw, too primitive to come from me, and I put my hands over my lips, then bite down on my fingers. The snap of pain, the nip of my teeth against my hands steadies me.
The writer in me adores this woman. The caregiver in all of us needs this book.
Buy the book, either for yourself or for someone who’s been through or is going through the journey. You’ll find it at Rainy Day Books, the Heart of America Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association and selected other chapters, and at Barnes and Noble, nationwide.