Every Wednesday

Every other Wednesday, I will post a reflection on the landscape of grief. This blog isn't just for widowers. It's for everyone who grieves. I want to encourage people to share their stories and compassion with each other, build up a community of support, and help everyone understand the trauma that death brings.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Grief of Dementia

We grieve when someone we love dies. We also grieve when a loved one is disappearing into dementia.

Leaving Tinkertown, written by Tanya Ward Goodman and published by the Univ. of New Mexico Pressis a brutally honest account of how a family fought against the incursions of Alzheimer’s, and their anguish at being unable to stop the disintegration. It’s also heartwarming to read because we see the family’s love for each other bringing them strength to endure when little else did.

Goodman tells the story of her father and his love for carnival shows, the circus, and his talent for making things with his hands to display at his roadside attraction, Tinkertown. We see her struggling over staying in Los Angeles to develop her career or coming home to New Mexico to take care of her dad. 

Her story is funny at times, shares her dad’s unique insights about life, and details the realities that families have to deal with as their loved ones become more confused, require more physical care, and drift further away. 

It’s a moving account. If you read one book that deals with living with dementia, make it this one.

It was a difficult read for me because it brought back my own memories. My mother died a little over two years ago from dementia, and my father-in-law Stan dealt with Mad Cow disease that ate his brain away and left him stumbling and unable to communicate for his last two years. I had to watch them lose their spark and personalities piece by piece.

Throughout her book there are phrases and lyrical lines that I love, like, “the past moving forward in Dad’s mind, devouring his present,” “his words are drifting away, light and fine as dust in the breeze,” and the humorous offer they were given of two-for-one cremations.

After her father’s death, Goodman had a dream. She is on a train when her dad appears and tells her that “death’s just bullshit, you know that.” Not staying dead is something a clown would do. It took courage for Goodman to revisit these events in order to write this book. I’m thankful she did. 

Dementia is a reality that most people never see, yet one that too many people do.

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