Who He Was, With or Without Alzheimer’s

Posted | Jonathan Gillman No Comments

In regards to the poems that make up My Father, Humming, people say, “It must have been difficult to write these poems about Alzheimer’s disease,” and they comment that they are so candid and honest.

Actually, writing the poetry was “easy.” What was hard was doing all the work so I could write the poems: being honest with myself. Thinking about my father—what it was like growing up with him—what I was like as a father, things like that. But also accepting: this is where he is now, with dementia. Nothing about him is going to change. And no one can ever change the past.

I didn’t think it at first, but when you’re dealing with a past you don’t like, you have two choices: to stay angry about it; or do what you can—which, in this case, meant accepting it.

That’s who he was, with or without Alzheimer’s.

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