Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Terrible Alone-ness

A few days ago I came across a book that has moved me deeply. Alzheimer's Diary: A Wife's Journal by Michelle Montgomery tells of the day-to-day challenge with her husband's disease and the impact on their lives. She writes with great simplicity and honesty, and it cracks my heart open to read each page. She has written my book. The similarities between her life with Dave and mine with Tom are striking. Dave's A.D. is more advanced when she begins her story, but I see myself on every page, always trying to balance what is possible against what is gone forever. Their marriage was a close and loving one also, which is the foundation on which each day is built, no matter how frustrating.

While I find myself close to tears on page after page, it is a feeling of recognition and almost relief that what we are experiencing is not unique, that someone else can articulate so accurately the sadness mixed with determination that we live. We are not alone in the constant struggle to extract pieces of normalcy from a distinctly abnormal existence.

She knows my flashes of anger, followed closely by guilt, when my frustration pushes me to raise my voice in anger. She knows the look in her husband's eyes when they both know he can't help forgetting the things that used to be so important. She knows the awful ache of watching a brilliant man fade into a shadow of himself. But she also understands how precious those flashes of connection are, how much joy can be felt when a joke makes us both laugh or an authentic moment in the present is shared.

I find myself slowing down as I read toward the end of this book. Her story, like mine, will not have a happy ending and I resist and deny whenever possible. It's my only weapon, ineffective though it is. I have wanted to tell our whole story, and maybe someday I will. But for now, I feel a kinship with someone who has told a story so close to home for Tom and me. I feel less alone in this very lonely place.

The poem that follows is from my first book "Sip Wine, Drink Stars" (with apologies to Alan Ginsberg).


Don’t bother with the moon
howl instead at love
that weaves your breath with another’s,

in the intimacy of oxygen
only to take it back
while you still need to breathe.

Howl at the vampire of memory,
who broods in the labyrinth of empty rooms
and hedge mazes of remembered events.

Howl at loneliness that fills the lungs
and drapes itself heavily around the shoulders
while memories pile up

on your side of the bed.

1 comment:

  1. Nancy, this is so beautiful it defies comment! I would have trouble reading such a book, and am glad you draw comfort from it. Your poem is so good.