My friend is buying baby food for her father.
There are 168 hours in a week, she tells me.
Even with help and hospice, that's a lot of days and nights to live wide awake.
He falls out of bed. He can't chew. It's too much. The nights too dark. The days too long. She cobbles together a routine of helpers and hospice and friends and still there are too many hours with the slow loss.
You never know what you're signing up for. I wouldn't not care for him, she says in a whisper, but Alzheimer's is a mean disease.
I wish I didn't know today is World Alzheimer's Day. I wish September 21st meant nothing. But increasingly — enough to make a day of it — more of us know about this mean disease.
Here are the sobering facts:
- One in two people over the age of 80 have Alzheimer's.
- People as young as 40 have been diagnosed with the disease.
- Someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s every 70 seconds.
My grandpa, Bart Myron, a wheat farmer, lived for decades with an eroding brain. He was one of the 5.3 million people who suffer — whose families suffer — with Alzheimer's. On this day I wanted never to know, I think of him, and my friend's father, and the increasing numbers of us walking through long days and sleepless nights, living with this mean disease.
Who knows how
the mind files memory?
missing pieces, your
history, this life, lies
three states to the south --
lost rusted cars, bindweed
decay in the sun
wild geese fight winds
that rattle shingles, shake doors
your vacant eyes sort
through weeds, neglect
lands against antelope
bones blanched in desert heat --
futile to search for data:
the face of a son, the hand of the wife
price of wheat, words
any words to rise, rescue us
from this wait
this long silent loss.
- Drew Myron
This poem appears in Beyond Forgetting, an award-winning collection of poetry and short prose about Alzheimer’s disease written by 100 contemporary writers — doctors, nurses, social workers, hospice workers, daughters, sons, wives, and husbands — whose lives have been touched by the disease. Through the transformative power of poetry, their words enable the reader to move “beyond forgetting,” beyond the stereotypical portrayal of Alzheimer’s disease to honor and affirm the dignity of those afflicted. To read sample poems, see a schedule of upcoming readings, or purchase a book, visit www.beyondforgettingbook.com.