On caregivers, faith, family, and writing…

Connections | by Linda Brendle

Published in the Rains County Leader on May 25, 2021:

Writing is all about communication – about sharing thoughts and ideas through the written word – and about the connections that are made through that sharing. A writer often doesn’t know when those connections happen, but one of my favorite parts of writing is when a reader reaches out through a review, a comment on a blog or Facebook post, or an email to let me know about a connection.

An early connection happened when I was just beginning to be active on social media. Facebook groups had not yet popped up, at least not in the numbers that exist now, so I contributed occasional articles to several independent websites. One article was about my anger as a caregiver. I admitted lashing out in frustration and anger at my Mom when I first began caring for her only to realize later that my anger, and the underlying fear, were really about the Alzheimer’s that was taking her away from me in a way I could neither understand nor control.

Shortly after the article went live, I received a comment from a young woman whose mother had suffered a fatal heart attack many years before when she was a teenager. The older daughter had driven them all to the hospital, and the teen was confused by her sister’s apparent anger at her mother. After the mother’s death, the sisters were not completely estranged, but they never talked about the situation, and their relationship had not been the same. After reading my article, the younger woman approached her sister, and they talked. After exploring their feelings and reactions on that night that had changed their lives so many years before, healing began and their relationship was restored. Although we exchanged a few more comments, we didn’t strike up a friendship. Still, those written words established a point of connection based our similar experiences.

There have been many other connections since then. A few months ago a teacher contacted me. She was working with two older teens who were having trouble with reading and didn’t enjoy it at all. Based on the recommendation of a co-worker, she had them read Tatia’s Tattoo, my first novel, and they loved it. She wanted to set up an online chat so the teens could “meet” the author and ask questions. I was thrilled with the idea and, thanks to modern technology, we made it happen. That Zoom call was fun, but my all-time favorite connection to date began two years ago and led to an amazing story that came together last week.

I first met Marianne at the 2019 Rains County Fair when she, her mother and her daughter Rachel stopped at my booth. They probably visited the Tennille’s Cookie Jar booth first and bought some cookies or at least tried some of her samples, but they eventually moved on to the books. Marianne is the main caregiver for an extended family that consists of her daughter, her parents, and her husband, and since both her husband and her mother have Alzheimer’s, she was instantly drawn to my first memoir and took home a copy.

As she settled into her new community, Marianne discovered the Rains County Leader and my City Girl column. She emailed me to say how much she enjoyed a particular column, and after that we became friends and corresponded occasionally. She asked how she could get involved in the community, and I suggested Friends of the Library. We were organizing the October book sale, and she and Rachel became our greeters, making sure that everyone who walked through the door had a bag to carry the many books we wanted them to buy.

After that, she asked if we could meet for coffee so she could introduce me to her sister. The family bought several more books and asked lots of questions about being a writer. However, because of her husband’s condition, Marianne also asked a lot of questions about dementia caregiving. I shared as much as I could, and I referred her to Memory People, a private FB group for people who have or are dealing with dementia in some way. She instantly loved the group and actively read the posts of others, commenting and posting her own questions and stories. Now keep in mind that this is not a small group – almost 24,000 members – so imagine her surprise when her sister-in-law, who had not had any contact with any family members in thirty years, reached out to her. I’m sure there are many details involved in this happening, but the short version is that family relationships are being restored – and Marianne’s husband went to visit with his brother last week.

This reconciliation might have eventually happened some other way, but as it turned out, it began with a connection made through the written word. And that’s one of the reasons why I love writing.

Blessings,

Linda

Kitty’s Story

Fallen Angel Salvage

Tatia’s Tattoo

Mom’s Long Goodbye

A Long and Winding Road

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