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Archive for the ‘Memoir’ Category

Mom’s Long Goodbye – Prologue & Chapter 1

MLG Promo 2 Read the Prologue and Chapter 1 for free. If you want to read further, get the ebook for $.99 at Amazon.

PROLOGUE

You Say Goodbye, but You Don’t Go Away

Genesis 24:56 (KJV) And he said unto them, Hinder me not, seeing the Lord hath prospered my way; send me away that I may go to my master.

Some people have a hard time saying goodbye. There are the false-start types. When it’s time to leave, they say, “I’d better get on home now,” but they stand in the doorway, keys in hand, and talk for another fifteen minutes. Sometimes, it takes them several more attempts before they actually make it out the door.

There are also the revolving-door types. They make it out the door quickly enough, but they pop back in several times to retrieve something they forgot or to tell you one more thing. I tend toward the second type, and I have a friend who finds it amusing. On my second or third round trip back, she smiles knowingly and says, “You say goodbye, but you don’t go away.”

There’s another type of person who takes a long time to say goodbye. It’s not a loveable personality trait that makes them linger in the doorway to tell you just one more thing or a quirky forgetfulness that makes it difficult to leave. Instead, it’s tangled knots of nerves in their brain that become encrusted with plaque and steal them away from their loved ones a piece at a time. Mom was one of those people. She had Alzheimer’s, and it took her fifteen years to say goodbye.

CHAPTER 1

Fear and the Red Photo Album

2 Timothy 1:7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

 Mom was afraid for a long time. I found evidence of her fear in an old, red photo album, the kind with a thick cardboard cover bound with braided cord. It had a rose embossed on the front, and I sat on the floor, wondering what forgotten pictures were inside. Instead of pictures, there were articles. Page after page of neatly clipped and mounted stories about dementia and Alzheimer’s. Stories of symptoms, stories of promising theories, stories with more questions than answers, stories of Mom’s first steps into the darkness.

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Mom was always a fearful person, especially when she was alone. Dad worked nights several times during their seventy-year marriage. She sometimes told the story of being a young bride, left alone in an isolated country house while her groom worked at the ice house every night. One evening, she was awakened from a restless sleep by a terrible noise. She later described it as sounding like someone was trying to get into the house straight through the wall of her bedroom. She had no phone and no close neighbors, so she huddled in the center of the bed, trembling with fear and wondering how long she had left to live.

The noise continued for a while, but when the walls didn’t splinter and the threat didn’t seem to increase, she screwed up her courage and crept outside to investigate. She slipped down the front steps and peeked around the corner, and there, she saw it. An old milk cow was chewing on the grass that grew up beside the pier and beam foundation that supported the house. She laughed about it after the fact, but she and I had a replay of sorts years later when I was in my early teens.

We lived in the city by then, and Dad still worked nights, this time at the post office. My older brother, Jim, was away at college, so Mom and I were on our own. I was sound asleep when I was awakened by an urgent whisper.

“Linda! Come in here. Somebody’s trying to get in the window.”

I jumped up and ran into her room. She was sitting up in bed, her back pressed against the headboard with the covers drawn up to her chin.

“There,” she said, pointing to the window beside her pillow. “Somebody was scratching on the screen.”

I sat on the side of the bed for a minute, staring at the window. The closed window shade was backlit by a full moon and gave off an eerie glow. Suddenly, a shadow passed across the window, and I scooted under the covers and into Mom’s arms. We sat that way for a few minutes, but when there was no further movement or sound, curiosity overcame fear, and I slid out of bed and tiptoed to the window. I pulled the shade away just far enough to peek out.

“I don’t see anything. I’m going to call Dad.”

Without turning on a light, I went to the phone that sat in its recessed nook in the hallway wall. All the modern houses had them. Like a blind person reading Braille, I slid my fingers over the dial, counted the holes, and dialed the number.

“Dad, I think somebody’s trying to get in. Something was scratching on the screen in your bedroom, and I saw a shadow on the shade.”

“Did you look out?”

“Yes, I peeped out and couldn’t see anyone.”

“Okay. Stay away from the window. I’m going to call the police.” “Okay.”

Within minutes, we heard a car pull up in front of the house and saw the beams of flashlights as Mesquite’s finest investigated. Then, we heard a knock on the door.

“We didn’t find anything, Ma’am, but we’ll have a patrol car drive by here frequently for the rest of the night.”

When Dad got home the next morning, he found us still huddled together under the covers. He immediately went out to investigate; he was laughing when he came back inside.

“I didn’t find any footprints or anything, but I did find some evidence. There were rat droppings on the window sill.”

We took a bit of kidding about being afraid of the dark, but Mom wasn’t just afraid of things that go bump in the night. She was afraid in the daylight, too. She was afraid of making a mistake, afraid of looking foolish in front of others, of being embarrassed, of being looked down on.

She had a beautiful voice and helped lead the singing in her tiny, country church when she was a teenager. That was before air conditioning, when church windows actually opened and congregations cooled themselves with cardboard fans provided by the local funeral home. One Sunday morning, a fly flew in an open window  and straight into Mom’s mouth as she sang. She was so embarrassed she became reluctant  to lead the singing. Not long after that, she learned that the former song leader had been diagnosed with throat cancer. Fearful that his singing might have contributed to his illness, she retired from her leadership position and rejoined the congregation.

She had other musical talents, too. She learned to play the guitar by watching her uncles when the kinfolks gathered for a songfest, and she also played the piano by ear. We had an old player piano we inherited from one relative or another. The player mechanics had been removed, Dad had refinished it, and Mom spent many happy hours playing honky-tonk tunes and old gospel favorites. When we moved from a small West Texas town into the suburbs of Dallas, though, she feared that city folks would look down on her country origins, so she did her best to cover them up. Her guitar was relegated to the back of her closet, and the piano was made available for me to practice the Old Masters favored by my piano teacher.

Mom also feared illness and physical infirmities of all kinds. She was born with yellow jaundice, as it was known in the country, and she was sickly as a child. As an adult, she endured a tonsillectomy, an appendectomy, a hysterectomy, three spinal fusions, and the removal of a deformed kidney, so she saved her best nightgowns for her next trip to the hospital. She feared falling victim to any epidemic or new disease that made the rounds of the morning talk shows. In spite of her fear, or maybe because of it, she often developed the symptoms of those diseases. What she feared most, though, was Alzheimer’s. I didn’t realize how much until I found that old photo album. Mom and Dad lived with us for six years before they went into assisted living. By that time, neither of them was capable of making the decisions necessary in downsizing. I went through their personal belongings and made piles: things to pack, things to store, things to donate, things to throw away. I found trash, and I found treasures—and I found the photo album in the bottom of one of Mom’s dresser drawers. I wonder how long she lived alone with her fear before the rest of us suspected.

Blessings,

Linda

Alzheimer’s was… | by Linda Brendle

Alzheimer’s was the evil plaque in Dad’s brain that changed him from a hard-working, easy-going man into a cranky, ill-tempered couch potato.

Alzheimer’s was a thief. It stole Mom away a piece at a time and left me to grieve a loss that went on for years.

Alzheimer’s was a twisted comedian that made me laugh at the ridiculous things Mom did while I cried inside because of the reason behind her antics.

Alzheimer’s was the demon in my head that made me impatient with situations that were no one’s fault and angry at an opponent I couldn’t defeat.

Alzheimer’s was the monster in the closet or under the bed that changed our lives forever once the doctor spoke its name.

But Alzheimer’s was also the loser.

In spite of his difficult final years, Dad left a legacy of peace and love that lives on in the family he left behind.

While Mom’s past disappeared along with her memories, she also forgot the social anxieties and fears that had plagued her all her life and became a real party girl.

The wardrobe mishaps and other silly incidents often led to shared laughter and hugs that made life feel almost normal if only for a moment.

As the good days became fewer, I learned to cherish them when they came.

When Mom’s vocabulary was down to only a few words, one of those words was Jesus; and even to the end, she always responded to music.

Both Mom and Dad passed from this life without a struggle and with peaceful smiles on their faces as they looked into the face of the One who cares for the least of these.

I have found solace in knowing that my task of caregiving was completed not perfectly but well, and I have found comfort in sharing our story with others who are going through the same thing.

Read more about my family’s fight with Alzheimer’s in Mom’s Long Goodbye: A Caregiver’s Tale of Alzheimer’s, Grief, and Comfort released by Anaiah Press on March 12, 2019. Ebook now available at Amazon; print format available soon.

Blessings,

Linda

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Mom’s Long Goodbye: A Caregiver’s Tale of Alzheimer’s, Grief, and Comfort | by Linda Brendle

MLG_Final

Released by Anaiah Press this week, Mom’s Long Goodbye is available as an ebook on Amazon. It will be available in print soon.

Mom’s good-bye began with a red photo album and ended fifteen years later in a hospital bed in the Alzheimer’s wing of Southridge Village. This is her story and mine.

My first memoir told of the chaos that happens when four people, two of whom have Alzheimer’s, spend fifty-three days in a forty-foot motor home. It also told of the years and the life experiences that brought these four people together. After finishing it, many readers asked what happened next. Mom’s Long Good-Bye is the rest of the story.

Based on blog posts written as the events happened, this memoir takes the reader through grieving a continuous loss, some of the initial changes Alzheimer’s causes, the transition from caregiving to assisted living, Dad’s death, Mom’s last year, and the grief and closure of her final good-bye.

This book is for the millions who have experienced the heartache of witnessing the physical and mental deterioration of a loved family member or a dear friend. Mom’s Long Good-Bye strips away the façade of being the perfect caregiver and gives the reader a look at the denial, the anger, and the fear that come as a loved one loses herself a piece at a time to an insidious disease. By sharing her own struggles, the author assures other caregivers that they are not alone, that perfection is not required, and that comfort is real.

Blessings,

Linda

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Cover Reveal! Mom’s Long GoodBye by Linda Brendle

Coming March 12! Mom’s Long GoodBye: A Caregiver’s Tale of Alzheimer’s, Grief, and Comfort. Thank you, Eden Plantz, for the perfect cover – and thank you Anaiah Press for giving me the chance to tell the rest of Mom’s story and mine.
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Blessings,
Linda

What was Alzheimer’s to our family? | by Linda Brendle

new-book-coming-soonI announced a couple of weeks ago that Anaiah Press will release Mom’s Long Good-Bye: A Caregiver’s Tale of Alzheimer’s, Grief, and Comfort, my second memoir, on March 12. Here’s a little bit more about the book:

Alzheimer’s was the evil plaque in Dad’s brain that changed him from a hard-working, easy-going man into a cranky, ill-tempered couch potato.

Alzheimer’s was a thief. It stole Mom away a piece at a time and left me to grieve a loss that went on for years.

Alzheimer’s was a twisted comedian that made me laugh at the ridiculous things Mom did while I cried inside because of the reason behind her antics.

Alzheimer’s was the demon in my head that made me impatient with situations that were no one’s fault and angry at an opponent I couldn’t defeat.

Alzheimer’s was the monster in the closet or under the bed that changed our lives forever once the doctor spoke its name.

But Alzheimer’s was also the loser.

In spite of his difficult final years, Dad left a legacy of peace and love that lives on in the family he left behind.

While Mom’s past disappeared along with her memories, she also forgot the social anxieties and fears that had plagued her all her life and became a real party girl.

The wardrobe mishaps and other silly incidents often led to shared laughter and hugs that made life feel almost normal if only for a moment.

As the good days became fewer, I learned to cherish them when they came.

When Mom’s vocabulary was down to only a few words, one of those words was Jesus; and even to the end, she always responded to music.

Both Mom and Dad passed from this life without a struggle and with peaceful smiles on their faces as they looked into the face of the One who cares for the least of these.

I have found solace in knowing that my task of caregiving was completed not perfectly but well, and I have found comfort in sharing our story with others who are going through the same thing.

A beautiful cover is in the works. I will let you see it as soon as the final version is ready.

Blessings,

Linda

Love Is Stronger than Alzheimer’s | by Linda Brendle

12 days of Christmas GiveawayToday is my day in the 12 Days of Christmas Giveaways. Read to the bottom of this post to find out how to enter for a chance to win a signed copy of the first edition of A Long and Winding Road: A Caregiver’s Tale of Life, Love, and Chaos along with assorted other goodies.

 

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Young Helen and Elmer

Young Lovers

Mom and Dad met when they were 17 years old. They lived on adjoining farms in West Texas, went to the same church, went to the same school, and travelled in the same social circles. I love the story of the day their romance really began.

Even into his late 80s, Dad was a nice looking man, but he was a real cutie as a teenager. All the girls wanted to catch his attention, but he sat quietly on the school bus, wrapped in his own thoughts and shyness. They watched him, giggling and hoping he’d look their way. (more…)

Buying the motor home | by Linda Brendle

Published in the Rains County Leader on July 24, 2018:

IMG_1717Several times lately I’ve written about our motor home, and since this was one of those “I-got-nothin” weeks, I thought I’d share a short excerpt from my memoir about how we came to own it. If you don’t recognize some of the location references, that’s because this happened in 2007, and we were living in Florida at the time.

About two months ago, David and I bought our first RV. We tried not to buy it—we really did! We spent weeks shopping and developing an extensive wish list: diesel pusher, side radiator, light wood interior, double-door refrigerator, computer desk, and then some.

Then, our salesman called.

“I know you’re not ready to buy yet,” he said, “but I have a trade-in that sounds perfect. Another customer has first right of refusal, but I’d like to email you some pictures. Would that be okay?” (more…)

A Long and Winding Road – Rerelease and Blog Tour | by Linda Brendle

Campsite up closeWhile we’re waiting for Tatia’s Tattoo, my first novel, to be edited and readied for publication, I have some exciting news about my memoir, A Long and Winding Road: A Caregiver’s Tale of Life, Love, and Chaos. Winding Road was released by Anaiah Press, first as an e-book on July 1, 2014 and then in print in January 6, 2015. In honor of three successful years, Anaiah is releasing an anniversary edition with a new cover and fresh edits.

In case it’s been a while since you read it, or if you missed it the first time around, Winding Road is the story of the chaos that happens when four people, two of whom have Alzheimer’s, spend fifty-three days in a four-hundred-square-foot box on wheels. The publisher put a more detailed description on the back cover:

Sometimes, reality really bites. Alzheimer’s has wrapped Mom’s brain into knots; vascular dementia has attacked dad, and instead of carefree retirees, we have become caregivers. Regardless, dreams die hard, and we somehow stumbled into the purchase of a forty-foot motor home. That’s when all four of us set out on this seven-week trek across sixteen U.S. states. Now, Dad stopped up the toilet again; Mom wet her last pair of clean jeans, and David just announced he was hungry. My head is beginning to pound, and I know this isn’t going to be the easygoing retirement we imagined for ourselves.

Linda Brendle takes you on a roller-coaster ride of emotional and spiritual challenges that many families are facing right now. Co-dependency, mental breakdowns, and finding love after divorce are just a few of the issues weaved into this journey of caregiving.

The release date has not yet been announced, but details will be posted as soon as they are available. In the meantime, if you would be interested in participating in a blog tour sometime between July 22 and August 4, CLICK HERE to sign up.

Thank you for all your support, encouragement, and friendship.

Blessings,

Linda

Confessions of a Make-Up Junkie – Revisited | by Linda Brendle

Published in the Rains County Leader on July 26, 2016:

makeup-junkieI first wrote this as a blog four years ago, but I edited and updated it for my City Girl column this week and thought I’d share it with you.

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with make-up most of my life. The only time Dad ever spanked me was because of lipstick. I was five, and like most little girls, I was fascinated by all the neat stuff Mom put on her face. One day I asked permission to put on some lipstick, but for some adult reason, she said no. Forbidden fruit is always the most tempting, so when she wasn’t looking, I did the one thing I had been told not to do. I’m not sure how I expected to get away with my crime with the evidence smeared all over my face, and I didn’t. Not an auspicious beginning. (more…)

You can go home but… | by Linda Brendle

Published in the Rains County Leader on May 24, 2016:

MHS SkeeterThomas Wolfe wrote a novel titled “You Can’t Go Home Again” that was published in 1940. I’m not sure I agree with him. Sometimes you can go home, but you may have no idea where you are.

I was born in Merkel, a tiny town in west Texas, and when I was three, we moved to Snyder, a slightly larger small town. When I was seven, we moved to Mesquite, a Dallas suburb which at that time had a population of approximately 1,500 people. I graduated from Mesquite High School (the original one) in 1965 and continued to live there until I was first married in 1967, so when I think of going home, I think of Mesquite.
(more…)

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