by Donna Newman-Bluestein
A poem to help me cope with my dad’s vascular dementia.
Pathos. Pathetic. Sad.
My dad. Sitting
in his dirty blue jacket.
An unlucky penny goes into his pockets
goes down – all the way
and back up again.
Know anyone who can sew pockets?
Sitting in his cap. In his recliner. Waiting.
Whatcha waitin’ for Dad?
Ride to the Center.
Yuh. They started coming on Saturdays.
Starting when Dad?
They didn’t come for you last Saturday, Dad.
The guilt is wrenching.
Tearing at my wings
My broken wings.
I can’t fly
Can only sit and cry.
My Mother's Voice
By Bonita Moore
I was in the kitchen, bustling about to get snacks for my guests, when my mother’s voice wafted in from the parlor. Suddenly, I was shot through the heart with a piercing barrage of unexpected and conflicting emotions. The force and intensity nearly knocked the breath out of me. Sixty-five years of hearing that voice, the source of my life, love, wisdom, comfort, experience, guidance, centeredness. How many times had I heard that voice through the wall, down the hall, on the phone, across the room, on the other side of a hug? How many times more do I have left to hear that voice, before it becomes only a memory?
Now that voice is no longer the source of strength and wisdom. It has become a bit more frail, a bit more tentative, and, most disturbingly, more than a bit confused. Now the stories that it tells are the same stories that it told yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that, but with each retelling it becomes more distorted. Now the stories still have a moral, but the moral is no longer comforting and instructive, but angry, jealous, muddled, grasping. Like an annoying dream, the details don’t make sense together, and they pour out like the cacophony of several off-key songs that get mingled and mangled into a bizarre medley.
I am filled with sadness and foreboding, a sadness for her and her life. I have been watching closely as she, once lovely, strong and talented, has been watching her own world contract, her words disappear, her memories fade, and her physical strength and beauty dissipate. She speaks often of how beautiful and brilliant she once was, or still is, sounding shockingly boastful as she whistles in the dark, yearning to hold on fast to the self that is unfairly slipping through her fingers.
And I am filled with sadness and foreboding for her daughter, myself, as I cling to my own dependence on her, her love, her wisdom, her healing embrace. I am impatient with her, and angry, when she fails to make sense, when she boasts and when she criticizes. I am angry with myself for my anger and impatience with the woman who so patiently carried me and bore me and raised me and continued to love me and to love the husband whom I chose, the mysterious stranger, and the children whom we bore and raised.
And I am filled with sadness and foreboding for my own aging self, as I look in the mirror and see her face, as I walk in her footsteps and see myself losing words and memories and agility and youth and beauty.
And her voice echoes within me.
written by Donna Newman-Bluestein
Read by Emily Cousens
Danced by Donna Newman-Bluestein and EMMA Jack
I see you, imaginary person with dementia.
I can be with you in your suffering
if you are in pain.
I don’t have to look away.
I cannot be with all people in their pain.
I don’t feel afraid of the suffering of dementia.
I am not afraid of not-words, not thinking, not-memory, non-rational.
I’m afraid of a world without love.
I can only touch down for a moment or two
to be with you in your despair.
If I stay longer, I won’t be able to help.
I, too, will be stuck in the mire.
But perhaps I can lift you up
and you can lift me up
and we can touch down again when need be.
You need me to get you started
and I need you to play
so together we can dance in an imaginal world.