“Dementia. Ruth puzzled over the diagnosis: How could such a beautiful-sounding word apply to such a destructive disease? It was a name befitting a goddess: Dementia, who caused her sister Demeter to forget to turn winter into spring.” ― Amy Tan, The Bonesetter’s Daughter
The Weekly Photo Challenge is Blur. As I sorted through photos for the weekly photo challenge, I discovered that I erased all of my blurred photos, except for this one taken by my mother. We were at a dance in her assisted living center and she wanted to take a photo. I lent her my camera and showed her how to push the button. But, her hands were shaking uncontrollably, and her photo showed a blurred image of two people…a caretaker and a patient with dementia enjoying a dance together.
My mother has Vascular Dementia with Lewy Bodies. I imagine her life is blurred like this photo. Her reluctant vocabulary and vanishing memories are held hostage in her head barricaded by plaques and tangles. Studying this photo, I see a blurred life, a mother I love disappearing and melting away like the ice-cube I dropped on the floor. As the disease advances, she becomes blurrier and more translucent, like a wisp of a ghost.
The Weekly Photo Challenge asks us to capture an image of family. I lent my camera to Luvy when her mother returned to Ometepe Island for a short visit. Her mother worked in Costa Rica to support her family for most of Luvy’s young life. “Luvy, take some pictures of your family while your mother is visiting,” I said.
Family through the eyes of a niña…in her wordswith her photos. “The night before my mother left for Costa Rica, we slept on the beach together. It was rico.”
“My mother is beautiful. She brings us many gifts from Costa Rica.” “My brother, my nephew, and I sleep together. They like to wrestle and they wake me up.” “We have one photo of my nephew, Oscar. He is proud of that photo.” “Oscar doesn’t like to take a bath. He cries when I pour water over him. This is his favorite truck. I give it to him after I give him a bath and he is happier.” “My Papa is very old. I cook for him.” “My brother, Julio, wants to be a veterinarian. He takes care of all the sick animals.” “Julio is very silly. He was very tiny when he was born.” ( Luvy explained that Julio was like their smallest puppy in their latest litter…a runt.) “He likes eggs. He is very good at finding the chicken eggs in the tall grass.” “My big brother, Jose, is cool. He likes music, girls, and thinks a lot.” ” Here are my cousins. They live next door. We play together every day.” “Congreja had puppies. She always has new puppies.” “Julio took my picture. We don’t have a mirror in our house. I was showing him how to use your camera.”
“Stories are light. Light is precious in a world so dark. Begin at the beginning. Tell Gregory a story. Make some light.” ― Kate DiCamillo, The Tale of Despereaux
This Thanksgiving we made some light…fishing in the St. John’s River, sharing family stories under the reflecting palms. We made some light… cooking pumpkin pies and Mama Stamberg’s Cranberry Relish, while sharing family recipes bathed in the moonlight of the draw bridge. We made some light…traveling together in my step brother’s plane, while singing Christmas songs over the winding rivers 19,000 ft. below. We made some light…returning to my mother’s home, and sharing our Thanksgiving stories and traditions of many years ago lit by the fountain across the street from her home. We made some light… of our blended families, sharing our gratefulness and thanks for the time we can spend together before we all return to our own homes far away. Our doors are always lit…our stories are our light. Begin at the beginning…share stories gratefully with others…make some light today.
Please hang in there with me while I am in travel mode. I’ll try to post every other day, until we return to Ometepe, next week. In the meantime, enjoy a story I wrote in 2004 about our neighbors.
Our Sandinista neighbor's house in 2004
September 10, 2004
Our neighbors lack what most of us would consider necessities in life. They have no indoor plumbing, no carpeted or tiled floors, and no kitchen appliances. When Luvis and Julio awaken each day, their feet hit the dirt floor and they part a large, black plastic curtain that separates their sleeping quarters from their living area. The smoke escapes through the many holes in the lean-to kitchen signaling Papa’s preparation of fried rice and beans, a staple in their daily diets.
While Papa is preparing breakfast, Julio and Luvis run to the lake’s edge. Ron and I watch them from one of our three front doors as they shed their clothes and dip into their enormous bathtub clad only in their underwear. Julio’s freestyle stroke is improving daily with Ron’s guidance. His long, thin arms slice through the water as he chases his younger sister. They laugh and wave to us from the lake’s edge, a child’s dream. Papa moves his pigs around in the morning. The grand pig, the one he bred with a neighbor’s small female pig, is tethered in the choicest area in the front yard. We save our daily scraps of food for this magnificent creature. He is Papa’s source of pride. When Papa feels that the pig is deliciously plump, he will board the ferry and sell his pig at the market in Rivas. It should give him enough money to live on for the rest of the year.
Sometimes, I feel like I have been embedded in a nursery rhyme, like Papa’s fat pig. (off to market, jiggidy jig) Life on the island has a magical quality that I can recall from the old nursery rhymes my mother read to me as a child. Like Little Bo Peep, Luvis tends to her four dogs and the baby doves that have fallen from their nests. Julio is the Pied Piper enticing all the neighborhood boys with his new wooden top. Papa reminds me of old Mother Hubbard. The kids tell us that Mama is working in a hotel in Costa Rica. She has been gone for four years. Papa relays another version of the story. Of course, both versions could be lost in translation. Without a good grasp of the Spanish language, life remains a mystery. wait, there’s more