Growing Up Alzheimer’s 2: Blog to Book

This blog post is a series about my family’s history of Alzheimer’s through three generations of women. This history is as I have experienced it, and continue to experience it. No, I have not been diagnosed with this disease myself (fingers crossed), but the signs have crept up to my eldest sister, nine years older than I, and tapped her on the shoulder. So, this is the story I want to tell in these blog posts, as well as talking a little bit about the blog to book, blog to memoir process. I am going to switch to italics for the memoir post part and stick to regular text for the writing process part.
For my second post, what do I do? What do I do!? DON’T PANIC. Like the big, friendly letters on the front of the Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy say. And I don’t have to panic, and you won’t have to either. If you look at my previous post about writing Memoirs and family Alzheimer’s the answer is right there. Step three of my process is write a list. I may or may not use chronology of history as my guide. Mostly I review the list and see what scene or story or remembered dialogue or image is begging to be written. Then I go with it. Just go with it. It was on the list so it must be done. God, I love lists.

Writing lists is my #3 step in my memoir writing process:
3.) Then I write a list of scenes, events, stories, snatches of dialogue, images, thoughts, worries, interactions.
For this step I am going to focus only on brainstorming for my Mother’s journey with Alzheimer’s:
  • How she was a hermit and possibly Asperger’s and our Google before Google 
  • The stories she told me about post part-em before they knew it was post part-em
  • Her walking that everyone noticed
  • The first signs we knew: Story about giant raccoons and laser beams
  • The coins she compulsively stacked up
  • The car accident
  • The first time she got lost
  • Getting POA and a will
  • The struggle between the sisters and the aunts
  • The 600 nuns study
  • The sushi picnic and the wasabi (see Mystery of Mom blog post)
  • Taking her to Madame Butterfly
  • The research we did of support and how that support has changed
  • The change of her personality to sweet and compliant
  • The garage sale and the lie from the difficult sister
  • The uninvolved brother who missed telling me about the NM book
  • The first home she lived in “this is a really great person”
  • The second home, “stealing” and tripping out on the flowered shirt
  • The man who wanted to escape together
  • The years and sister tension
  • The decline
  • Dentistry, bladder infections, operation
  • The decision at the end
  • The end scene , cold hands, staring, my sister’s cold comment and my aunt did not want to see her body
  • The wake, the dream the amazing night before

I can see from this that this is a lot of material. In fact, I suspect that 1-3 of those bullet points could constitute one blog post of probably 1000 words each.  Just to make it easier on myself and to give you and actual story to read I will reprint a portion of a previous post where the story of the sushi picnic was told.  Here it is from the Mystery of Mom post:

She was still living independently at the time, but we soon had care workers in for her and had her on the long waiting list for a care home. At this time we would frequently ask my mother questions cautiously and her answers would always be: “I know that!” and she’d look at us like we were crazy, when in fact we rather suspected the truth was she had no idea what we were talking about. We were all testing the waters at the time, unsure of what she really knew and didn’t know.

It was at this time, my two sisters and I decided to take her up to Capilano Dam one day to the picnic area. We had each brought a little something for the picnic including some prepared sushi we had picked up. My sister carefully explained to my mother that this was sushi, and in this dish was soya sauce, and this was wasabi (very hot horse-radish), and this is how you put them together. This was something she would have known before she started telling us stories about raccoons as big as men and laser beams bouncing through her apartment.

Inevitably she said, “I knew that,” as she grabbed the chopsticks and expertly started picking up the sushi. Okay, we all thought, and relaxed until we looked over moments later and saw the entire blob of green wasabi on the end of her chopsticks rapidly heading into her open mouth. We simultaneously let out a cry of warning and lunged across the picnic blanket to stop the impending mouth-burning culinary disaster in progress. She was rescued just in the nick of time, to her dumb founded looks and our relief and laughter.

And so part of my journey of my book of Growing Up Alzheimer’s is already on the way. But, on the journey of writing any one of these posts from the list above, I know I will undoubtedly remember more.

Next post step #4 and #5 in the writing process for a memoir… the art of transitions is EVERYTHING. But that comes later in the game. Now, blogging now, is about generating material.

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