Tuesday, July 17, 2007


My father-in-law is in the middle stages of Alzheimer's disease. He and my mother-in-law left yesterday after an extended stay with us.


Leah knew she was unloved

until she held the boy,

her firstborn,

and she named him Reuben:

“See, a son,” it means;

a love carrier --

“Because God has seen

my misery.”

The Reuben I know is a twin,

next to last in family line

a love carrier, too --

the hardest working man,

his blue eyes smiling

like a sunrise.

His labor, however, is not his legacy,

but the brilliant light I saw
in her eyes

and so I asked to be family.

He has loved me

like a son,

even when he didn’t understand

why I was cooking

or my earrings.

His faith stands as tall

as his shoulders;

love as deep.

He’s fading like an old photograph

left in the sun too long

I can still see him

the spark in his eyes that once

shone indelible now a dim

blip from a beacon

in an ocean of loneliness;

we haven’t enough

line to throw . . .

Whatever happy endings are,

they are not this.

This is wrong.

This is wrong. This is wrong.

Being right about that

changes nothing.

When he sits and stares into air,

looking for everything,

my heart hurts.

Reuben has lived a life of love.

We, the Loved, are a living

altar of humanity,

called and collected to remember

all he has forgotten,

all he has given.

I wish that felt like enough

but it isn’t enough.

It just isn’t.


Tess said...

My brother also has Alzheimers.
"This is wrong. This is wrong. This is wrong. Being right about that changes nothing."
That's so exactly how I feel. The waste, the unfairness, the reality.

Towanda said...

I lost my grandmother this way.

I still cry about it.

Like now.

David said...

Alzheimer's is a cruel disease for both patient and family. It robs people of so much. Beautiful post....as always.

Diane said...

yes, beautiful... I like your phrase, "we the loved are a living altar" thank you.

Presbyterian Gal said...

My father had Parkinsons. While he had his memories and his mind, he was completely aware as his body deteriorated with him inside. "This is wrong" says it all. So wrong.

It's on my list of "What was up with that?" for the big guy when I get there.

P.S. I borrowed some of your links on Darfur and Hunger on a post I did tonight.

lynnette said...

thank you for posting this.

Towanda said...

The Dixie Chicks have a song about this, "Silent House," on their new album, which I find quite poignant. One of them (I forget which) has a grandparent with this awful disease.

SpookyRach said...


Unilove said...

Powerful. Simply powerful.

zorra said...

Yes. This is how I felt as I watched my father fading away.

Cecilia said...

makes my heart ache...

Allie said...

My grandma, too, has Alzheimers... so much of this post resonates exactly with how I feel when I go to visit her. Thank you for sharing. Love, allie

gautami said...

"He’s fading like an old photograph
left in the sun too long"

Alzheimers does that. Very poignant and sad poem.

pepektheassassin said...

Great post!

tumblewords said...

Heartbreaking disease. You described it so well and questioned the process with power. Thank you!

Lisa said...

A heartbreakingly beautiful poem. I'm so sorry this happened to Reuben - he sounds like a great guy. I wish he could comprehend this lovely poem you wrote about him.

Constance said...

A moving portrait. Thank you for sharing.

Holly Mac said...

Oh, this is lovely. There is so much love and desperation in it. My grandmother had an ending that was very much the same. This is the poem I wrote about it. (It's very short, so I'll post it)


My grandma never loved me more
than the day she died.
She was living in a requiem cloud and
I wanted to pull her out.
But she smiled and patted my hand and said
“You remind me of my granddaughter.”

Sally said...

powerful and deeply moving...

Jody said...

Thank you for this poem; I read much of it with my mother in mind. Through her long battle with dementia; I hung on to a smile, or a silent gaze filled with love, trust, wonder, resignation and/or regret. It was heart and gut wrenching. I miss her every day.

Bless you.

Mark said...

I was a teenage boy dating his daughter...Big, Strong, an Example he was...bought Rachel these huge Valentine's cards...Had a most communicative way of saying "RACHEL?!" when confronting a Rachel tantrum...the eye twinkle, voice tone, facial expression...something gave the correct combo of rebuke, admonition and love;
Had a grace, dignity in is stride; humble, but confident in who he was and who his God was....made for a confident humility spiritually speaking...
And you knew if you ever hurt his daughter he could make you know a type of pain you could only imagine; a piercing pain of conscience in hurting a daughter so completely loved by her father...
A dependable worker but not a workaholic...happy where he was...
When I think of Reuben I feel a gentle breeze pass through me....thinking of him with Alzheimer's is not possible for me...I refuse to do it...He would want me to think of him as him; I feel the breeze