Old Familiar Carols

Thanksgiving is over, Black Friday a distant memory. Christmas lights twinkle along the block. Holiday season is here.

You have a week of respite before returning to Alzheimer’s World, the world that needs no advent calendar to mark the season’s frenzied restlessness, the world where family Christmas traditions have long been forgotten.

You’ll be home for the holidays with your mother. You have high hopes. Your mind is a flurry of ideas: decorations and cookies, carols and cards.

You’ll decorate the tree. The spruce once cut from the woods is now artificial; she doesn’t notice. You’ll bake the popovers she made every Christmas morning; she loves this “new” recipe.

You’ll fill stockings. Help wrap gifts because last year, Scotch tape induced panic attacks. You’ll be home for the holidays, on a one-way ticket. You’ll be home because she’s your mother.

Out of the Woods

Our new puppy, Max, was a bundle of joy. For the first day.

Then he stopped eating. Languid and lifeless, he lay on his dog bed. A visit to the vet confirmed our fear: the little guy had parvo.

The parvovirus, for which his vaccination was questionable, attacks a puppy’s immune system; those under ten weeks have little chance of pulling through. Our vet was optimistic. She’d seen far worse, and felt he had a good chance.

Still, for four days he wouldn’t eat, subsisting only on a daily IV of fluids. I resigned myself to his imminent death, making his life as comfortable as possible.

Some days it feels like everyone around me is dying. Our beloved golden retriever. A long-time friend with ALS. My mother.

Miraculously, Max rebounded. And now, he’s unstoppable.

If only Alzheimer’s were that easy.




Half of Maine has been without power for three days now. The outage may last for a week.

My parents, long divorced, both live alone in Maine. And I’m 3,000 miles away.

Should I worry?

Both have backup generators, essential in a state with October snowstorms and powerlines as ancient as Thomas Edison. Dad’s power was restored yesterday. But phonelines and electricity are still down at mom’s and I can’t reach her.

Do I worry?

Of course. After my most recent caregiving tour of duty, it took three weeks to let go of the gnawing guilt over leaving. This week, worry returned in three minutes, even after learning that mom’s okay and our respite caregiver — also largely incommunicado — is with her.

The first step in recovery is admitting powerlessness. Since my own recovery twenty years ago, I’ve found this extends beyond alcohol to people, places and things, a fact I often forget. This jolt from the Universe is the ultimate ironic reminder.