Sunday, June 17, 2018

Sky: At Least I Know

Last night I was visited by an Alzheimer’s factoid so simple and haunting that it wouldn’t let me sleep. It was passed on by Meryl Comer in her memoir, Slow Dancing with a Stranger, her story of caring for first, her husband, and then her mother, both with very high-needs Alzheimer’s dementia. Hers was a harrowing journey of well over 20 years of non-stop, sometimes simultaneous, home care for two very difficult family members. Protected by his good-old-boy colleagues, her husband, a world renowned scientist mentor to scores of fellow scientists and researchers, went undiagnosed for years. In the meantime, his personality changed disturbingly, and he became physically and emotionally abusive and paranoid. 

Non-demented readers may remember that I started this story alluding to a troubling bit of Alzheimer’s trivia, and now what am I doing telling this whole other story? 

Good point! I can only answer that the various pieces make some sense to me so far, and I’d like to ask your indulgence to listen as I try filling in some blanks.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Dana: Song Lyrics

This is a guest post by Dana Dwinell-Yardley, Jane and Sky's daughter, written for Sky's birthday this past April. To listen to the songs described below, follow the individual links or check out the playlist at the end of the post.

When it comes to traits I share with my father, Sky, many of them are readily distinguishable as products of either nature or nurture. Extraordinarily nearsighted blue eyes, teeth unfairly prone to cavities, light brown hair that, upon reaching one’s ears, prefers to grow straight out from one’s head instead of down? Pretty sure you can chalk those up to nature. Love of hiking, relative fearlessness about driving in bad weather, and the fact that I always carry band-aids in my wallet? Gotta be nurture.

But there’s one trait we have in common that I’m not sure how to categorize. You might say it’s environmental, but sometimes I swear it’s genetic. It’s the singing thing. By which I mean: Sky and I both have brains that absorb song lyrics like a sponge and wring them back out readily in response to the smallest of stimuli.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Sky: All-Purpose Slurs

I remember back in elementary school, in the 1950s, we students had a rich variety of racist and homophobic jokes. (This was in addition to a constant crop of fart and booger jokes.) I’m not remembering the content of the actual jokes right now.…probably a blessing… but I do remember the  structure.

Q. Why did the ____________ [pick random ethnic group] do such-and-such dumb thing________________ ?

The point of the the joke was that it made fun of whatever ethnic group that came to mind, hopefully without getting me beaten up by the huge Italian guy as I try out another “Wop” joke.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Sky: Ready, Set.... Slow

I’ve done what I’m supposed to do…. [at least the steps I can remember ! ] 
  • Visited a lawyer to update my will.
  • Completed an Advance Directive and a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, should my body outcast my brain’s ability to communicate my wishes about medical care.
  • I’ve kept myself busy, volunteering here, there and everywhere.
  • I’ve spent more and deeper time with friends and family.
  • Spent quality time in the woods, on weekly guided nature walks led by faculty at the UVM Field Naturalist Program.
  • Started riding my beloved bike more, now that the weather has started to break.
  • Advocated for a support group for those living with with Dementia, then joined one when it became available.
  • Traveled coast-to-coast and north-to-south by train and only got lost twice.
  • Read and wrote like crazy, learning and sharing about my Alzheimer’s experience.
  • With Jane, created a twenty-minute sermon about dementia presented at thirteen church services across the Northeast with more scheduled into the summer.
Wow, now that I write this list, I remember I’ve been a busy boy!

Friday, March 9, 2018

Sky: Five-and-a-Half Million

Five-and-a-half million.

5,500,000 is a LOT.

It is the estimated number of people living with dementia right now in the the United States, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

The number is a lot, but where is everybody?