I’m so grateful to you all for following the production of my debut poetry book, “Three-Penny Memories: A Poetic Memoir”. You’re the best!
The cover reveal was yesterday! In this audio reading, I explain the cover and read the first poem, “Excavating the Heart Wall of Grief”, which is a prologue to the the memoir.
One thing I failed to mention about the book cover image relates to the photo of me in the 1:00 position. In the audio I say that I’m in my early 30s. On that day, the English as a Second Language program was celebrating the end of the semester with our students. Those picnics were quite a big deal and took a lot of time. Faculty needed to clean the shelter and help pick up the picnic food at Schnuck’s. The picnics lasted several hours and even included entertainment and awards. The photo of me shows how lost in thought I was about how I was going to get my grades in, and this process included writing up comments on all my students.
I have to admit that as a caregiver to an aging parent with Alzheimer’s, I was often pulled in all directions. I had a husband, and my full-time job with benefits, which we depended on. When Mom moved here, and I realized that she had needs I couldn’t meet as I couldn’t quit my job, and my husband couldn’t stop his music lessons to help her each day, I found her an apartment in a independent-living facility. I devoted a great deal of time helping her on the weekends as well as during the week for appointments. My social contacts were cut off somewhat. I tried to take her to my Tai Chi lessons, but she would wander off. I took her to work a few times, and she loved visiting with the international students, but I was distracted from my job worrying if she would take a walk somewhere.
There were many times I felt the way my younger self felt trying to figure out how to handle this responsibility but to do so with grace and ease. If I learned anything from Mom, it was to be vigilant. She expected us older kids to watch over the four youngest ones, as as I was the oldest girl and second oldest child, I subconsciously agree to caregiving at a young age. Starting at age nine, with the birth of the twins, and a year later, the birth of the youngest, Mom needed my sister and me to help out a lot. Because my sister was two years younger, I was expected to take on more chores. Even at a young age, I was pulled by school, friends, my siblings, and my mother. “It builds character,” she would say.
When Dad’s mother had a stroke, Mom took care of her. We made grandma a bedroom off the kitchen. I think a mom expected me to care for her that way. However, I couldn’t quit my job. I needed to work there until retirement to get a pension to live on. Also, even though she had the money from investments, she felt her kids should be paying her rent and so on. I explained to her that the times were different. Because of the cost of living, her kids were not able to take on her financial responsibilities and still pay their bills. To her, I may have appeared selfish and ungrateful, but I was only being practical. I was grateful she had enough investments to pay her bills. And the monthly rents at Independent and assisted living facilities are exorbitant!
Mom kept saying, “I used to take care of you. now you take care of me.”
All this is to say, I often wore that expression you see in the photo in the 1:00 spot. I’m not ashamed to say that I often felt, “It’s too much.” One of the poems in my book, “The Caregiver’s Craft” explores my self doubts during my care for my mother. Maybe I can read that poem in my audio recording next week.
For now, I hope you enjoy this first audio recording. ♥️