Before we could read, most of us were read to. And we loved it. Just as we still love “story time;” even if it’s sitting with someone at or after work, listening to stories. We still love it.
Somewhere along the line we learned that reading was something serious that we did by ourselves. But it can be other things, too.
Go to a reading. Shut your eyes, sit back, listen to the author read the words he wrote.
Get the CD, or download the audio book, or watch a video, of me reading most of the poems in My Father, Humming. Let me do all the work of making it make sense. All you have to do is listen.
Come, if you can, hear me read from My Father, Humming. Sit in a room with a group of other people, and listen. I am telling you a story—my story about my father’s decline with Alzheimer’s, and how I learned to deal with his death. But I’m also telling your story.
My words are talking to each of you, individually; they are also talking to all of you—about what we have in common, what we share as human beings. What better than to do that together, to be part of the community in that room. To be reaffirmed by all that peace and love and positivity, in the aftermath of losing a loved one.
We are all stronger—happier and more peaceful, even free—if we face the hardest things in life together. We don’t have to feel alone.
Having someone close to you with Alzheimer’s is a crisis. You can ignore it—but you can also take this opportunity and deal with it.
The first thing to do is to admit what is happening: that this person has Alzheimer’s disease, and is disappearing.
Admit how you feel about that.
Admit how you feel about them: if you are angry, what are you angry about?
If you feel guilty for feeling angry, admit that too.
Admit how you feel about others in relation to this person—if they’re making you do all the work in caring for this person with Alzheimer’s, if they’re helping, or not.
Next, address this.
Figure out your feelings, as best you can, toward the person who’s declining in health. And, to the extent that you can, address these—with the person, if possible. You might not be able to, or they might not—physically or psychologically—be able to hear. Progress might be slow, and it might not happen. But it’s almost impossible once they are dead, so keep trying it, even if it’s only in conversations with yourself.
The same with other loved ones. If you are angry, let them know—whatever you are feeling. And why. Not done angrily, but as in, “I can’t do this myself. I need some help.”
Do what you can.
And then, let go. Not everyone can change. No one can change the past. Maybe you can get someone to apologize for something hurtful they did, but they might not even be able to do that.
You’ve done what you can. Don’t hold on to it. That doesn’t hurt anyone but you. Letting go provides relief.
The alternative is holding on. That only makes you feel bad, bogs you down with all that weight.
Let go of being in control, being able to control.
Not everything is going to be the way you want it, or think it should be.
Let go of that.
And, finally, accept. You’ve done what you could. Maybe they can’t do what you want.
Maybe they will never be able.
Accept how things are.
Do you still love them, despite the hurt and anger?
Accept that. Accept them.
If you can do that, an enormous weight will be lifted off you. You will feel lighter, more peaceful, perhaps comforted.
What started off as something awful and unthinkable will become positive and healing.
To quote the Amazon reviewer again, “Gillman’s poems show us that, if we can manage to stay emotionally present, the demise of a loved one paradoxically offers a unique and gratifying opportunity for intimacy and connection.”