Flicker

White plaques on atrophied brains
White handprints on fissured rock walls
I was here – do you remember?
Before those hands obliterated your senses and sense of time
I was here yesterday, and the day before
I am your daughter, not your sister

Your sense of self intact, a collage of other lives
You never made it to Morocco, although your friend did
You talk animatedly of the spices and the souks
Of the brutal men and veiled women
You don’t remember why you went
In fact, you never did

You still have your sense of humour
To every song, you create your own lyrics
Your dizziness a chance to sing of the Seine
Meandering around Paris

It takes its toll, though
The deep fissures are covered in moss
The cracks dusty, the edges brittle

Your flame flickers
It throws shadows on the fissured wall
Illuminating small bumps, concealing flaws and cracks
The candle just a stub now
Where once a proud pillar stood

You have started to shuffle your feet
And suspect foul play.
When someone stares at you,
You hiss and growl back.

You won’t leave me alone in a room –
A stranger with your treasures?
I am no stranger – I am blood of your blood
Flesh of your flesh

And yet your core remains
Under a veneer of crazy talk
And suspicion
I still see you behind those fearful eyes
That once were so fearless
Behind hesitation
That was never yours

You are as beautiful as ever
Full of light
You have never before spoken so freely of love
Of how important your family
Of how beautiful your children

You still lead by example
Humility, resilience, compassion
Never steal away
You still have so much to give

You have shouldered the cloak
Of Alzheimer’s
And the cape has made you
Invisible

You fake enthusiasm
Desperate for acknowledgement
And belonging

We assure you that you belong
In our hearts, in our souls
We smile and you smile back

 

 

Rock Art

I read of the white plaques on the brains of people suffering from Alzheimer’s. I look at mom, picturing the landscape under her skull – splotches of white paint on ancient fissured walls devoid of sense with the passing of time. Were those prints ever meant to convey anything? I was here, here in your olfactory cortex. You used to smell the roses, balk at cigarette smoke, enthuse over wine. I was here, in your visual cortex, see the rugged wall under my print? It speaks of faraway countries, and distant lands of the imagination.

Now you see ghosts, reinterpret the shapes into abstract concepts that confuse me. I strain to grasp the meaning of your words as they mercifully still pour out of you. I tentatively offer my version. You look at me sternly, “Never mind, you don’t understand.” I feel I am failing you. You point to paintings, your own or your son’s. You discuss weight, colour, light and shadows with large gestures. You glow.

I know you are not beyond meaning. You sit contented, try and engage me. Your temporal lobe is still vigorous; it remembers sound. Your body sways to the music, any music; you know the words to every song. To every music, you create your own lyrics, the words conveying your feelings.

I introduce myself, recite the names of your children, point mine out. “See, I am the girl, your daughter,” I say proudly. I smile. You smile back.