Since each person is unique with a life, body and brain that is singular to him or herself, each person with dementia is going to experience a unique version of the disease. Yes, there are patterns to different types of dementia. We know that Alzheimer's disease has certain stages. However, people can seem to be in one stage one day, and bounce back to another stage the next.
So too, each caregiver experiences his or her role in a different manner. Again, as with the person with the disease, the caregiver will have different feelings on different days. One would think that the market for Alzheimer's books would be saturated by now. I've read literally dozens of books by and for people with dementia and/or their caregivers. Yet, as with dementia itself, each book I've chosen to read - I've chosen not to read a few, as they seemed too generic - but each book I've chosen to read has contributed something unique to the literature as a whole, and dementia literature as a genre.
A few weeks back, I reviewed The Alzheimer's Action Plan, a book that is geared toward science and toward giving practical information primarily to the person with Alzheimer's, though it also has information for the caregiver, as well. The book I'm writing about in this post is the polar opposite of the Action Plan.
The Glass Seed: The Fragile Beauty of Heart, Mind & Memory, by Eileen Delehanty Pearkes, is a personal account of one woman's journey as she learns to cope with, and understand, her life within the context of history, family and her mother's dementia.
Pearkes is an accomplished writer. She leans heavily of poetic references, ancient mythology, wisdom passed through the ages by aboriginal people (she lives in Canada and uses the term aboriginal when we in the U.S. would likely use Native American), the rhythms of nature as it compares to the female body, and a need to connect generations of women throughout time.
There are times when her mother's Alzheimer's seems to be a small part of the author's journey and even the point of the book, yet as Pearkes' works her way through her mother's disease, the reader puts together the pieces, like the buttons and beads she uses as symbolism throughout. Pearkes writes about the dysfunction of the generations in her family and her struggle to come to terms with her feelings.
What I take from the book, other than my personal delight in reading a literary work by a modern writer, is Pearkes' ability to illuminate a truth few people notice - that
we who do not have dementia have much to learn from those who do.
What was Pearkes' mother seeing when she stared off into space, seeming to the ordinary eye to be looking at nothing? Pearkes works at understanding that we can not know what her mother is seeing, but we can learn from observing the person with Alzheimer's. It's possible they are seeing things beyond our "normal" sphere.
This is a book that is a pleasure to read, by a daughter who tries hard to understand why her mother must suffer; a daughter who tries to learn what her mother is teaching her throughout the progression of the disease. It is not a book for someone who just wants the facts, nor is it for someone who is looking for a list of answers. The book is a piece of art that is an experience in and of itself. If the reader is willing to flow with the book, she will uncover life lessons in the process.
Published On: July 07, 2008