Dementia is achingly common. We need writers and artists like Peter Maeck to help us navigate the rough water.
Below the post you will find an opportunity to win a copy of his moving and beautifully crafted book. You’ll see 6 different ways of increasing your chances of winning.
Dementia is a sorry state:
It robs you of your memora.
You never know the present date,
The past becomes ephemera.
The future lies ahead, they say.
Tomorrow is another day.
They lie: Tomorrow’s blush and glow
Remain no longer than the snow
Which melts in spring as day’s grow longer,
Melting as the sunlight’s stronger.
In the ardor of those rays
Tomorrow’s name becomes today’s.
You live from now ’til all time hence
In a constant present tense.
I wrote these lines after my father died of complications from Alzheimer’s Disease. “Don’t worry about me,” he’d said twelve years earlier when he called to announce his diagnosis. “I’m fine right now, just a few minor symptoms so far.” The moments of ensuing silence seemed like an hour. My eyes were moist, my mouth was dry. “Peter?” Dad said. “I’ll be fine, whatever happens from this point will be gradual. No need to worry, I have many years still to live, so don’t worry about me.”
In his youth my father had had a prodigious memory. He’d amazed his hometown by memorizing and reciting Robert Browning’s complete “The Pied Piper of Hamelin” – 303 lines, 2,432 words – at a school assembly. Now, sixty years later, he was on track to forget his own name.
Dad’s decline, although gradual, was terminal. In the time between his diagnosis and his death I experienced the classic Kübler-Ross feelings of denial, anger, bargaining, and depression. What moved me – and him – toward ultimate acceptance of his condition was an embrace of rather than a resistance to the changes in our relationship which his dementia provoked.
Viewed as a biological deterioration of the brain, Alzheimer’s Disease is terrifying, smelling of rot and decomposition. There’s another way to see its biology, though: as fermentation, in which organic matter is not spoiled, but transformed, as are grapes into wine and milk into cheese.
“You remember that poem ‘Jenny Kissed Me?” I asked my father.
“Jenny kissed me when we met,” he said immediately,
Jumping from the chair she sat in.
Time, you thief, who love to get
Sweets into your list,
Put that in!
Dad could never recite that poem without his eyes moistening.
Say I’m weary, say I’m sad,
Say that health and wealth have missed me.
Say I’m growing old, but add,
Jenny kissed me.
Just as I fumbled in my response to my father’s initial diagnosis, I fumbled after his passing with how to express my feelings about this fine man, his fine life, and his not so fine affliction. Finally, as Dad loved poetry, especially the rhyming kind, I turned to rhymes to bring order, light, and even humor to my jumble of reflections. My extended narrative poem Remembrance of Things Present – Making Peace with Dementia is the result.
Remembrance Of Things Present: Making Peace With Dementia by Peter Maeck
Publisher: Shanti Arts LLC (April 18, 2017)
Category: Health, Alzheimer’s Disease, Dementia, Photography, Memoir, Poetry
Tour dates: Aug-Oct, 2017
Available in Print & ebook, 70 pages
Peter Maeck celebrates his father’s brave, good-humored struggle with Alzheimer’s Disease. With lyrical prose, rhyming verse, and his own photographs, Maeck traces his personal journey from resistance to acceptance of a loved one’s dementia, and suggests how the affliction can draw patients and caregivers together instead of driving them apart.
Maeck says, “As if to compensate for my father’s fading memory, my own memory became more acute. As Dad shed future considerations, I projected further ahead. Then I realized that all my forward and backward looking was pushing me away from my father; thus I had to meet him where he was increasingly living: in a constant present tense.”
As the book reveals:
Dad and I then moved from a prose relationship into one of poetry, less literal and more metaphorical, where we engaged more in rhyme than in reason, freezing time initially but then melting it and coming together in that lyrical realm between what had gone before and what was yet to be.
When presenting his story at TEDx events, Alzheimer’s Association gatherings, and mental health conferences in the U.S. and abroad, Maeck hears caregivers, familial and professional, confess their frustration, regret, despair, and even rage when dementia is diagnosed. Clearly, caregivers need and deserve care giving as much as their patients do. “Remembrance of Things Present” aims to comfort, console, and inspire persons with Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia, their loved ones, clinicians, researchers, and all whose lives dementia touches. As Maeck says, “If art can offer no more than symptomatic and palliative relief from the effects of Alzheimer’s Disease, that is no less than modern medicine has done to date. Ideally, art and science can work together to reduce dementia’s effects and ultimately reach a cure.”
View Peter Maeck on TEDx
Praise for Remembrance Of Things Present: Making Peace With Dementia by Peter Maeck
“I absolutely recommend this book. This book has touched me so much since my grandfather in his latter days suffered from dementia. The poems are so beautifully written and touching and I am so happy to see there is more awareness about this disease.”- Elizabeth M. Bokango, Amazon Reviewer
“I’ve had the privilege of attending Peter Maeck’s TEDx Talk about his father and Alzheimers Disease. His book ‘Remembrance of Things Present’ complements and beautifully illustrates his spoken prose and poetry on a difficult subject. He takes us on a lyrical journey from a relationship with his father through the confusing and anger filled diagnosis to a new place of acceptance of a disease that separates, yet bonds the two of them ultimately on a spiritual level. I recommend this book for all who have loved ones who may be facing similar circumstances. 5 stars for sure!”-Kristen Makita, Amazon Reviewer
“What a great little book! Moving, insightful photos integrated with passionate and creative poetry create a unique telling of the experience Peter Maeck had with his father’s journey through dementia. I had the opportunity to experience a live dramatic presentation of ‘Remembrance of Things Present’ by the author at a TEDx event. It was truly moving and entertaining. This book allows revisiting of that experience and creates a similar experience for others. Maeck demonstrates his unique combination of talents weaving photography and poetry into a book that everyone should read and reread.”-Amazon Reviewer
“Beautiful collection of photographs, poetry, and prose from an artist grappling with his changing relationship with his aging father, who has Alzeimer’s disease. From the first page, the author reaches beyond easy narratives we sometimes hear about aging – that life becomes simpler, for example. Instead, the author delves bravely into the grief he feels about his father’s dementia, and how their relationship changes as their memories take divergent paths. Ambivalence, hope, fear, confusion, anger, joy – Maeck approaches his feelings with extraordinary compassion, wisdom, and insight. Taught me to approach my own ambivalence about aging with more gentleness. The book, with its combination of text and images, is a moving and engaging read – highly recommended!! Will deepen your understanding of grief, aging, and dementia. A must read!”-Athena Torri, Amazon Reviewer
“I loved the all the layers in this book — pictures, narratives, confessions and inquiry. The author’s father is pictured, here swathed in a scarf as in a monk’s cowl, there stepping lightly with a walker, there standing and inhaling a harmonica. There are photos of children lost in reverie, and of old people at play. Women and men are on trains and beaches and at amusement parks. The accompanying text is a rich conversational musing, the author’s response to other authors and ideas – on aging, on art and poetry and relationships, and on what it can mean to grow older. The conversation concludes with a long tribute in rhymed tetrameter couplets, remarkable for it’s genuineness and poignancy. I expect to be looking at this book again and again.”- Daniel Chodos, Amazon Reviewer
About Peter Maeck
Peter Maeck is a multi award winning writer, photographer, speaker, and teacher. His plays and dance scenarios, including for Pilobolus and MOMIX Dance Theatres, have been produced in New York City, Europe, and Africa. Peter served as a U.S. State Department Cultural Specialist in Tanzania and Morocco. He has created sales and management training programs for corporations worldwide. His photographs have been exhibited in the United States and internationally.
Peter holds a B.A. in English magna cum laude from Dartmouth College and an M.F.A. in Playwriting from Brandeis University. He has presented “Remembrance of Things Present” as a TEDx Talk in the U.S. and abroad.
Photography website: http://www.petermaeckphotography.com
Facebook- Photography Page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Peter-Maeck-Photography/253144378061964?skip_nax_wizard=true
Facebook- Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/Peter-Maeck-Author-414391928926496/
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