Sometimes writers struggle to find the right titles for their books. They highlight important words, search through a dictionary or wait until inspiration knocks at the door of their creative souls. Finally, amidst weeping and gnashing of teeth – they settle on a group of words that seems to tell their story yet also invites intrigue.
For my book, “The Unraveling of Reverend G,” the title floated through my brain just as easily as the first 20,000 words. I was so pleased my publisher, Cross River Media, decided to keep the title, because it seemed to state exactly what happens when Alzheimer’s sets up its brutal residence in a brain.
That is a perfect picture of what happens to Alzheimer’s patients. They gradually begin to disengage – from their passions, their routines and their families. As they lose the ability to remember faces or traditions, they shrink away from reality. They become separate from themselves, from the people they once were and the productivity they once enjoyed. They come apart. They unravel.
I have seen this happen to my father and now to my mother. With Dad, speech unraveled until he had only the most basic of words. Then finally, even those disappeared as he forgot how to make sounds. With Mom, speech patterns still remain lucid and clear, but her eyes hold fear and her routines hide like shadows of the past.
In my book, Reverend G begins to unravel as the most commonplace joys change. She forgets a key word in the Lord’s Prayer, and she begins to wonder when she will lose the names and faces of those she loves. Somehow, she finds joy in the everyday-ness of life although she secretly fears she may forget the Lord she serves. She unravels, yet all around her, people find encouragement through her bold desire to keep on trying.
As the daughter of Alzheimer’s and dementia victims, another definition of “unravel” gives me hope. This definition moves scientists forward “to resolve the intricacy, complexity or obscurity” of a subject, “to clear up or unravel a mystery.”
That is my hope and the desire of every caregiver who puts in a 36-hour day. That someone, somewhere will unravel the mystery of Alzheimer’s and make it go away.