What Jacob Thinks About Alzheimer’s

When I write a novel, I do quite a bit of pre-writing on character sketches. Some writers focus on plots, but I believe that if you really know your characters, they will write the book through you. So lately I’ve wondered, how is Jacob doing these days? How is he dealing with his mom’s Alzheimer’s and the affect it has on him? Below is his answer.

Mom is sleeping now so these quiet moments give me time to write a few thoughts. The facilitator of our Alzheimer’s support group said it was helpful to journal about our feelings.Alz awareness

At first, I had a hard time writing about it. I hate this disease that is taking my mother away from me, piece by piece. In fact, my first journal entry only included the words “I hate Alzheimer’s” – plastered on the page about 50 times.

But gradually, since Chris, Jess and I have been attending the support group, it’s become easier for me to write about it. Jess say I’m becoming more “open,” whatever that means.

I still can’t believe this horrible thing has happened to my mom. She spent her life helping others yet now, she can’t help herself. Today, she’s having trouble even focusing on the chapter in the Bible she tried to read.

As a devoted mom, she never forgot about me in the process of serving her church and community. She cleared her schedule to attend my ballgames and several times, I heard her yelling encouragements to me from the bleachers.

“Atta’ boy, Jacob. Nice catch. Way to go.”

One time, she forgot her title was Reverend, and she yelled at the ump. To be fair, he made a bad call, but he was slightly blinded by the dirt that flew up when my buddy, Tommy, slid into third base.

Mom hollered, “Are you nuts, Ump? He was safe by a mile. Go get your eyes checked – now!”

She did apologize after the game, and the ump tipped his hat toward her. He was either being nice about it or recognized her as Reverend G and gave her some grace.

Even now, I can hear Mom’s voice, although she hasn’t spoken clearly to us for several days.

“Expressive aphasia,” the speech therapist calls it.

“Exasperating,” is how I label it.

I can predict when Mom tries to communicate. Her forehead scrunches up and she fiddles with her long white braid. Sometimes a clear word or two slips out, but usually it’s a nonsense type of sentence. Then when we can’t understand her, Mom gets frustrated. One time last week, she threw a coffee cup across the room. It must be so terrible to want to speak and not be able to connect with anybody else in the room.

Mom just opened one eye and peered at me. She tried to say something, but quit when only a squeak came out.

Instead she reached out her hand to me and I held it in my own. She has tiny hands and now, she’s lost so much weight, I can see almost every vein.

But I’ll sit here as long as I can, until she falls asleep again. I’ll wait and hold her hand, because I know a day will come when she’ll no longer reach for me.

I hate Alzheimer’s.

©2014 RJ Thesman – “The Unraveling of Reverend G” – http://amzn.to/11QATC1

Finding the Light

During Christmas break, I sit in Mom’s house, a mile away from where she now lives in assisted living, an experience away from her new existence within the world of Alzheimer’s.

Shadows play against the wall. Sunset in Oklahoma still wins as my favorite part of the day.

I once climbed my special tree on the family farm, perched alone with my journal in one of my favorite spots, a nest of branches and limbs that held me safely as I watched the turquoise sky that framed the wheat field turn into a frame of orange and red.

Now within Mom’s house, I worship the creator of a new sunset as it changes a taupe wall to a natural painting of shadow on light.shadows of plant

The shadows grow deeper for Mom within her Alzheimer’s world even as they lengthen for my siblings and I. We observe Mom’s confusion and recognize more signs of the coming stages.

Our mother disappears into Alzheimer’s land. Our world changes once again as memory fades and communication alters.

Another 24 hours is spent, and I wonder about my own life, my own calendar of events. How should I live in this new year so that each sunset brings with it a contentment that I lived this day well, that I finished my course with joy and purpose?

How can I live so that when my own shadows lengthen and deepen, the light I have shared will be what is remembered – my legacy to the world for my God?

None of us is certain of our timelines. We can only attempt to do our best, to live and love and work with pride, to complete the tasks before us and honor the One who gives us the energy to work, to live and love.

We can only commit to a stronger and higher calling so that when the sunset comes, we will rejoice in the light that dances at the end of the day.

©2013 RJ Thesman – “The Unraveling of Reverend G” – http://amzn.to/11QATC1

Going Through Trials Alone

Some things we just have to go through by ourselves.

Although we enlist the prayers of other saints and often feel the power of their intercession, we still have to go through it alone. Somehow we must find our own courage to deal with the trials and struggles of life.

Yes…God is with us. He promises to never leave us or forsake us. But when we lie on a sterile table and let the dermatologist shave skin off our mortal bodies, we feel alone in the fear of wondering – is it melanoma? Will he get all the tissue and scrape away that mess of toxic cells?

We go for a mammogram and pray that everything will turn out all right, but basically – we are alone with that brutal machine. Even the radiologist hides behind a safe partition and quietly reads the screen that might change the number of our days while we wait for the verdict – alone.

As parents, we want to change places with our children – but we can’t. We have to wait in surgical emergency rooms, knowing our child is behind that steel door – alone. We can’t help him through the surgery. We can’t will him to live a full life. We can’t take away the nasty tumor that threatens to destroy his very being. He’s alone in that cold room, and we’re alone with the fear.

Like Reverend G when she received her Alzheimer’s diagnosis, we sometimes have to do the hard things alone and hope that God in his mercy will grant us a special measure of his grace to do it courageously.

So how do we deal with those alone times – when we have to make it through the struggle all by ourselves?crying angel

  • Prepare now. When the times are good or at least reasonably half-way good – spend time getting to know God better and stock up on prayer and Bible promises. What we prepare for now, just like exercise, will help us use our spiritual muscles later – when we’re alone.
  • Surround yourself with a community. Whether it’s a group of saints who know how to pray in the Spirit or a special cell group that you trust, surround yourself with a community of people who will be there when you wake up from the surgery, when that steel door slams, when the mammogram comes back positive. Build relationships now that will encourage you later.
  • Live in gratitude. If you’re not going through a struggle today, then enjoy the sunshine and the dew on the roses. Journal your thoughts and take pictures you can relish when you’re faced with the unbelievable. Make each day a Hallmark expression of gratitude so that your hope won’t turn so quickly to despair. When the tough times come, you’ll be practiced at looking for something good.

Even when you’re feeling alone in the trial, hang on to Psalm 43:5, “Hope in God for I will YET praise Him.”

A day will come when the trial lifts and you can return to peaceful joy. Live in the YET and hang on to hope, especially when you’re feeling alone.

©2013 RJ Thesman – “The Unraveling of Reverend G” – http://amzn.to/11QATC1

5 Ways to Stay Creative

In the last post, we investigated five ways to stall creativity. Those included: lack of sleep, stress, wrong direction, fear and guilt. If you’d like to read my ideas about stalled creativity, check out the post at: www.rjthesman.net.

So what do writers do if creativity stalls?writing pencil

  • Don’t Panic. Keep breathing and keep your writing schedule. You have no schedule and no writing plan? Hmm. Perhaps you could use the services of a writing coach. I happen to know one. Check out my coaching services at: www.rjthesman.net

Keep breathing. Keep typing something, even if it makes no sense to you. Free writing is one of the best ways to rev up your creative motor.

Watch the movie “Finding Forrester.” Sean Connery stars as a writer who mentors a young boy and shows him how to do free writing. If you feel stalled, watching Sean Connery is good medicine. Even if you don’t feel stalled, watching Sean Connery is a good plan.

  • Go back to the beginning. Read the first chapter of your book or the previous chapter you just wrote. Sometimes you can get back in the action by just visiting your character’s lives.

Look around your office at all the books you’ve already written and all the articles and stories that you’ve published. You can do this. You’ve done it before. I believe in you.

  • Do something else that involves creativity. Get out of the office and go for a walk. Look for colorful leaves, because when you get back home you’re going to sit down and describe those leaves.

Go to an art gallery and look at the creativity of other artists. Feel the fabric in a clothing store. Buy something in a bakery, unless you’re on a diet. If you are, then go home and write about how horrible it is to be on a diet when all you really want in life is a decadent brownie.

  • Take your journal somewhere quiet and write praises to God. Thank Him for allowing you to be a writer and to transcribe the words he has given you.

Even if your tank feels empty at the moment, fill it up with thanksgiving to the one who gave you the gift in the first place.

  • Take a nap. Really. Just curl up with a warm cat or dog or both and snooze for a while. Your brain cells will rejuvenate and you might even dream about the next chapter you need to write. Naps are highly under-rated.

After trying some or all of these steps, read through your “Encouragements” file.

What? You don’t have an Encouragements file? Start one today by printing off this post and highlighting the following:

I am a writer. God has called me to write, and because He is the Creator and I am made in His image – then I, too, am creative.

Words are my tools. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God.”

The Word is also with me.

©2013 RJ Thesman