Great Words from a Favorite Author on Reading Aloud

Reading is perhaps my greatest joy. It has been my delight since I managed to to crack the rosetta stone of the alphabet.

But long before there was reading, there was being read to. Our parents read aloud to us, often the group of us for years. We gallumphed through Winnie the Pooh and wept through “The Yearling” and “Ol Yeller.”

And they schooled us in reading aloud as well. And we all read. And we all read.

Barbara Kingsolver is a favorite. An old beau and I once read “High Tide in Tucson to one another. Steve and I read to one another (and push poetry at each other). It’s a wonderfully intimate and comforting thing. In fact. Steve and I like it so much we’re working on reading children’s story with voice and drum.

My parents aged and stopped being able to read. Dad couldn’t see it. So i started reading. I chucked the mysteries for other things. We spent many months slowly working our way through “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.” The day he died we were giggling about reading “Jesus for the Non-Religious” in a very religious setting.

Mom doesn’t necessarily comprehend it. But Winne the Pooh is an old friend with whom we visit from time to time.

Tip: So go read Verlyn Klingenborg’s essay in the NYTimes. and then turn off the tv, find a favorite book and read it to some friends.

Mom: Doing what we love to do together

My Mom, Betty Evans, was a painter before macular degeneration and alzheimers’ robbed her of her sight and her ability to translate her visions onto canvas. I miss her painting. Sometimes I find her moving her hand purposefully through the air, imaginary paintbrush in her hand. What, I wonder, is she painting? It would be amazing to know.

Most days what we do is eat together. Today, we’ll do that too. This will be a big day over at the home. It’s one of two or three days a year when everyone floods in to see their moms. Allergans run high as everyone totes in flowers.

My family never did a lot about holidays. Most went by fairly unremarked. There were presents at Christmas, but a fairly modest amount. Cards for birthdays, and that pretty much took care of it. And so today, I’ll be known as the daughter who doesn’t show up with flowers.

But I’ll show up. Twice. Once to feed her lunch and once to feed her dinner. Or is it dinner and supper? I still can’t remember. And she and I will smile and giggle. I’m incredibly lucky. Over at my house, every day is mother’s day. And I’d better take advantage. Because pretty soon in the not-to-distant future, no day will be.

So do something today with your mom(s). Lots of women have mothered you through the years. Remember them and do something fun with them. And don’t rule out doing something fun with them at some other point. That’s all they want. Flowers are nice. Time? It’s priceless and limited.

My Mom:

Well, today, I’m taking my mom to the dentist. She’s had a major piece of asphalt fall out of a tooth. Normally, she’s incredibly compliant with doctors. She’s always liked this dentist, but who knows how things will play out today? She doesn’t always know the difference between ‘open your mouth’ and ‘close your mouth!’ One of the behaviors that dementia has given her, and therefore her worldm, to deal with, is teeth grinding. Such force of will. The nurses are wondering if Betty would deal with a tooth guard. I’m not thinking so. But the squeaking of tooth grinding against tooth is pretty awful, and the drugs don’t seem to lesson the behavior, although they’ve lessened whatever terror was originally associated with it.

It’s quite a saga this living with dementia. And yet, there’s so much pleasure. Sunday at Lunch, Mom was stricken with the giggles. The slightest little misstep would lead to hilarity. We both had tears running down our cheeks by the end of the meal.

If you show up only intermittently, you often only get the teeth-grinding, teeth-ruining worry. And that’s hard to deal with, because, sometimes, you don’t know what to DO. But if you are there more frequently, you get the giggles. You get to take an occasional hot fudge sundae with peanut butter ice cream. You can make up for the fact that you didn’t get in to help her with a meal, and therefore she didn’t eat so much. And you know at the end of life, they figure calories are calories. One of my favorite comments from nurses in the dining room is “well, will you at least eat your ice cream?

Take a friend now and again, because maybe your parent will reconnect to his or her social graces… or just have a good time.

It’s important to remember that your mom or dad wasn’t always this person. Daily visits help that. Because you don’t know when they’ll have complete access to themselves… But keep things around that keep you remembering.

The other day my web guru checked in. He had resurrected something that hadn’t been on my site since we made the changes: mom’s art gallery. It’s still not public, but it’s there and will be public. (let me know if you can’t wait to see the rest of this.) My mom is still a real person, funny and sweet. But here’s her picture of who she was before the Alzheimer’s closed off important pieces of her brain and macular degeneration stole her vision.

Self Portrait<br /> - 1976 -

go have a great day with your aging parent!