Writing Wings For You

Marie Lukasik Wallace ~ # I LIVE Poetry – I'm passionate about life and writing and all things creative and poetic!


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A Father’s Story in honor of Father’s Day

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What qualifies a person to write another man’s story?  For a life is not a life unless it is fully experienced and lived, and the writer can hardly capture the essence, let alone tell a full story.But the one who has done the living is a tired soul and his hands are feeble and in pain, and his heart has been in pieces and it’s difficult for him to sort out.  And so it is that the writer must be the one to document whatever he/she can. For once a life goes, so do their libraries of stories.Two years ago, I felt the calling to get to know my dad when I walked in a Hallmark store and found a book called, “My Father’s Legacy.”  In the book are “get to know you questions” about family history, not just dates, but celebrations and dreams and memories. There were so many questions I didn’t know the answer to for my family, even basic questions of family tree information. You see, I have always wanted to get to know dad, but his life and his feelings have always been vaulted with at least a hundred locks and a secret code.  As I examined the book, I realized there was so much more I didn’t know, and the questions seemed simple enough.  So I thought to myself, “Let’s give this a try.”I introduced the book to my dad and told him I’d like to document family history and some traditions for posterity. “Hey Dad, maybe I could ask you some questions?” Dad said, “I think that’d be all right.”   When I would visit, I would ask a few questions and then I’d randomly call him and ask him some more.  However, if the question became too personal, dad would quickly close up and withdraw and suddenly had to go “feed the critters” or eat, even if he just called me!The next step on our journey, my dad then began to accept that if the question was in the book, then it was legal, and I could ask it.  It would make me giggle because he would look in the book to check if the question really was there.   What this phase allowed me to do was gain his trust.  He would feed me tidbits to see what I would do with the information.   Because my intentions were honorable and how I handled his information was honorable, he began to trust me.  From there, we could go a little deeper. There were times I would call, and he’d have to get through the roughness of his day, (Alzheimer’s has people living in fear and worry), and then I would get tidbits of information.   Other days after finishing his stories he was just done and hung up.  It was disappointing, but I knew it was part of the journey. Through patience and diligence and ears bleeding getting through the toughness of dealing with someone who is closed and stubborn and sadly going through mind games of his own, we began to forge a new relationship.  He began to look forward to my calls and sometimes called me.  The darkness was revealed less and less and the pep in his spirit was back.This week I got to visit him in Texas.  I came prepared with a list of questions in various areas, because I never know what he will be open to answer.  Needless to say, I didn’t get a lot of the prepared questions answered, but fortunate for me, I was open to the experience and whatever he had to offer me.   Because of this, I was pleasantly surprised more than once.We went on an adventure to visit his hometown of Georgewest.  He got lost, and I didn’t catch it because I had my head down taking notes…But the best part? GETTING LOST WAS A BEAUTIFUL THING. Because we were in the car seven lovely hours without phones or computers or people clamoring for his attention, we just got to laugh and be ourselves. Sometimes we didn’t talk at all.  And we can’t forget the Dairy Queen!  We both enjoyed our most favorite treat, icecream just like little kids!Daddy woke up the next day ready to take on the world.  He even talked about feeling inspired to write.  He said he had a dream that I didn’t just “come to Texas,” that I was “sent to Texas” to inspire him. I got a brilliant idea to create a feast for Father’s day.  I used a sheet as a table cloth, because daddy didn’t one, and I picked flowers from his garden and put them in his favorite mason jars.  It takes very little.  And twenty minutes before people came over, daddy gave me the most real, the most honest that I have ever seen him.  He was unafraid, and gave me the advice of a lifetime in regards to alcoholism…but I will save that for another time because it’s a most wonderful story all by itself.The trip wasn’t all peaches and roses, but it was time I treasured and got to know my daddy better. The focus was on being present and noticing. I will never know how much longer I have with him, so I embrace what I have.  Smile your silly smile dad and enjoy.

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LOVE you!!!


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Calling all Writers: What is Your Burning Question?

I have the privilege to write my dad’s story. For most of my life, he has been vaulted, and is still very guarded and sometimes avoids questions on the phone. But this week,I get to visit him in person, and will be able to be face to face to ask him questions. 

If I only get to ask about five to maybe ten questions, what would be that burning question you would want to know about his life?

He may our may not answer, but sometimes when his curiosity is peaked, he will dig deeper, or mull it over a few days.
Keep in mind he has Alzheimer’s and lucid days come less and less. It may be that I just get to keep him company, but it doesn’t hurt to try.

One of my friends asked this question:

“When you are face to face with Jesus, what will you tell him is your most proud moment?”

I know you have the best questions so shoot!


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Blogging Tour of the Writing Process


I first met my blogging friend Rhonda Blackhurst on the A-Z tour and really enjoyed reading all of her challenges because she writes passionately and from the heart, and I like that.

Rhonda Blackhurst asked if I could join her on a blogging tour of the Writing Process. I enjoy learning how others write so I can get clues and improve on my own writing process. I can’t wait to hear what works for you! 

 

1.) What am I working on at the moment?

I am currently working on writing my dad’s biography.  He has always been a closed man.  I call him a “vaulted” man.  He has Alzheimer’s and is a recovered alcoholic.  Through various techniques, like Poetry Therapy and my education experience, I am learning more about my dad and developing a relationship with him.

 

Off on the side, I am writing poetry and essays and other fun tidbits to keep the writing muse going.  I’ve always loved writing and getting to know people, so the blogging world has been perfect for me.  I used to do a blog about ten years ago and really enjoyed the community.  I also aspire to do a variety of other book projects that are budding for me.

 

2.) How does my work differ from others of its genre? 

 

My current writing shows a developing relationship between a daddy and daughter, putting aside all the years of heartache and hard roads and differences from living with an alcoholic to forge a new relationship, leading from a soberly life.  I’m also hoping to offer ways for others to assist their loved ones in living a more quality life if they have Alzheimer’s.

 

3.) Why do I write what I do?

 

My dad’s biography began as an adventure to gather some family history and seeking to know him better as a person.  Throughout my life, my dad revealed very little of himself unless it had to deal with the weather or fishing or other activities as part of his outside world.  I found some questions in a book that daddy allowed me to ask which opened a door for us.  Through a lot of patience and tender loving care of my daddy’s feelings and life, he began to trust me enough to work on building his biography.  Through the encouragement of a dear friend, I went from a 3 page essay to taking on the writing of a biography. Writing this way is truly a challenge and an adventure, but I’m truly enjoying the journey!

 

4.) How does my writing process work?

Because my dad is a vaulted man and has Alzheimer’s, it’s a delicate thing to gather information and to write about his life, especially linearly.  Life stories don’t come to him that way.  Often times I will get the same stories over again, but with new details, so I have to really be on my toes. And there are some stories, I can’t seem to access yet.  So, I’ve developed a system of interviewing him daily and taking notes and saving them in folders by category so as to access them later.

If you have questions, please fire away!

Here are some fellow bloggers who have agreed to be on the tour with me.  I know you will enjoy their work.  They are truly personable people  with a passion for writing.  Be sure to visit them when they post their answers on June 2nd!  We have a lot to learn from each other.  Enjoy your day my friends.

Writing Can be a Rough Road

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Writing Can be a Rough Road

Don’t you wish there were a warning sign like this to point out a “Rough Road” in life?” Not only is there a sign, but a pink flag waving in the wind!

My daughter pointed this sign out to me on our way to school one day. It made us giggle because we were going through some tough times. Lately, the writing road has been a tough one for me….mostly time because my day job, teaching is really busy now. But honestly, the toughest part is working on my dad’s story. Dad is locked up tight inside again.

Alzheimer’s is a nasty beast to the patient and to the families. It is confusing to know what to say and what not to say because they are so caught up in fear and paranoia that often we don’t know what to say. I can’t even hardly talk about what he’s going through on this post for fear that it will get back to him and somehow hurt him. And I’m not trying to hurt anyone. I’m just working for understanding, and writing it to you gets it out of me.

You see, what Alzheimer patients are going through is very very real to them. As my dad’s story unfolds, I realize more and more where his fears come from. He is afraid of people attacking him because he was jumped daily on his way to and from school. He feared for his life often because he knew the guys who jumped him carried knives, and he didn’t know when they would pull one on him.

Rush forward to the present, dad feels this same fear of people wanting to harm him and fearing for his life. Like I said, it’s REAL to HIM. His reasoning skills are waning, so I can’t reason with him about what is real. The most I can do is find ways to comfort him and refocus his energy on positive things. And sometimes I just listen because he needs a way to get the ugly out of him.

I won’t give you details because it will feel like airing dirty laundry. It’s not like that. It’s just that I want you to know there are others out there who understand what you are going through and maybe we can talk strategies together.

Sometimes poetry works with dad because he had such a love for words. And words can be healing. We’ve even written some poetry. For a little while oils like peppermint and orange worked, until he was afraid that the oils were something that would harm instead of help him. Everyone says to use music, but he doesn’t like it and doesn’t have a player. I know through interviews there was music he liked fondly. I’m hoping this summer to bring a CD player with me to visit him with some of those songs to try this out.

The good news is that these episodes go in cycles with some really bad days and then clear days just pop in. I must always be ready because I never know if “today will be the day.”

But I do know this, I never know how much time I will have with him, so I cherish each moment and every morsel of him that is revealed, the good, the bad and the ugly…because he’s my dad…he’s a part of me, and his history is part of me, and I want his grandchildren and great grandchildren to know this man better than the “vaulted man” I knew most of my life. I want to get as many locks off as I can.

Nemaste dear friends. ~Marie


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We Wrote Another Poem! Paint Me As I Am

In Poetry Therapy, we use poetry as a way to heal.  It’s a back door way to heal.  Actually, in my opinion, all writing is healing.  I took some sample poetry from an amazing compilation of teen poems by Writer’s Corps called “Paint Me Like I Am,” and asked my dad how he would want the world to know him. At first, this was too right brained for him. Usually he operates more left brained. So, I read him some more samples and then I used adjectives he had used previously to describe himself and asked him to delineate more on that.

Below is what Ernest, my dad, wrote, with little assistance from me. (He has arthritis and Alzheimer’s, so I’m his hand and placeholder.) What is amazing to me is that my dad was invested and even got excited to do it. He has started to call me now and has more days he talks about his life than not. He has written something our family can treasure, and I’m so proud!
PLEASE LET US KNOW IF YOU LIKE IT! HE GETS EXCITED ABOUT
PEOPLE READING HIS PAGE :0)

PAINT ME AS I AM by Ernest

Paint me working and doing my best
For I liked to make things better
Taking things that work that didn’t work before
Engines, motors, broken chairs and making them new again.

Paint me determined.
I made up my mind not to have any booze at all…
Or anything that would come near it…
I didn’t want any part of what I did before…

Paint me as keeping my thoughts and good emotions toward others
Requesting forgiveness for my stupidty…

Paint me as always looking for making a difference in life.
As time goes by, I make sure each day of my life that whatever I do and say is better…
Never wanting to give or get trouble…

Paint me independent wanting the peaceful life,
less noise and misery from people or cars and traffic and busses and sirens…
It gripes me a lot…I had enough of all that…
I have to get away from the racket.

Paint me as one whose mind holds onto better days
(don’t really care about money)
Whose richness is in the simple life,
The more simple the better
Let me just work on my cars and trucks and lawn mowers.

Paint me as determined to keep life in balance
And I’m skiing away from life itself
(the house, the dogs and the cats, and even plants.
Leave me with my critters.

Paint me without hateful words
Or holding onto hatefulness
For it puts me out of balance…

Paint me happy and content with my life.

***It might need some editing, but it’s great for a first draft. :0)


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When you get STUCK!!! – a Writer’s Tools

Ever had those days when you get stuck?  I don’t mean a little stuck.  I mean SHUT DOWN everything kind of stuck.  Well it happened to me.  No matter what I tried, a paragraph, an article,  rewriting already written pieces!  Nothing would help.  I decided to take out one of my Poetry tools, and just play.  My work, teaching, sometimes keeps me in left brain so much, I forget to jump to the right brain and just play,                               And who doesn’t love to play?

Since I’ve been writing my dad’s story, I decided to at least try a tool that might assist me toward this goal.  So, I made Alzheimer’s a character.  Weird, right?  It was glorious!   I used a poetry technique called Personification.   What would Alzheimer’s house look like?  What kind of car would it drive?  What would it’s clothes and shoes be like?   That’s only the start and pretty easy to fill out a list type of thing.  Lists become handy when you’re stuck, but this made me a more targeted list.

But where things get really juicy is going deeper.   How do I get to the heart and soul of Alzheimer’s and showcase the role it plays in people’s lives, both bad and good?   I begin to write down Alzheimer’s “friends” and “enemies.”    Once I know who Alzheimer’s friends are, I am naming out loud what parts hurt and what role they play in my life-word thief,  relationship thief, sadness, depression, scatterbrained and scarcity, locked vault.  Then, as I name Alzheimer’s enemies, I get to name what parts I am missing in my life, so I can name my loss and again renew the process of healing-  happiness, peace of mind, abundance, HOPE.

And even deeper – EVERY CHARACTER HAS A REDEEMING QUALITY –

Just like anything in life, there are two sides to every story, even Alzheimer’s.  Though it’s a terribly rotten disease that robs loved ones of many precious events, it still offers gifts.  So what is Alzheimer’s redeeming quality?  CHERISH –  It reminds me that every day is precious and to hold on and linger with every moment I have with my dad.  I MAKE MY CONVERSATIONS WITH MY DAD COUNT!  I record each conversation, even the little ones.  I want to remember my dad saying I love you.  I want to remember the silly sayings and funny voices he uses to greet me each day.  I want to remember that this vaulted man took a chance on ME.  He is trusting me with his precious life books.  He is trusting me to hold on to those stories that in sometimes day to day life are elusive to him.  He, like all of us, wants to be understood before it’s too late.  If I didn’t cherish the time I had with my dad, I might have lost out on learning who he really is.  Without this time, I might not have really honored and treasured that precious laugh and sense of humor.   I am blessed in this moment.


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Good Morning Daddy

It was a beautiful day yesterday.  I found my daddy.  I got to play on the phone with him for a whole hour, and it was breathtakingly beautiful.  I revel in these moments because sometimes they are few and far between.   He played in his childhood and I got to watch in my mind’s eye a glimpse of his happiness after eight days of darkness. He told me of his journey in finding and loving words (another wonderful story for a future post.)   I marvel at how dad’s love of words and learning was passed down to each of us kids.  He wrote poetry and did crosswords and memorized most every word in the dictionary. As he talked of his journey, I heard his voice dance.  His love of words as he spoke so remarkably evident.  Now, I know where my love for words sprouted because the seed was planted.

We did not linger here.  Our journey took us many places.  That’s the beauty and the tragedy of Alzheimer’s.  You never know where it will take you.  Sometimes you wait with baited breath for stories to go deeper and sometimes you wait for fearful stories to end.  But each path is honored and each journey a memory to be treasured.  Because remember, once this was a vaulted man who talked only of the weather.  And now…now in this moment he was telling me what mattered to him in life and he didn’t rush to get off the phone.  Good morning daddy and thanks for beginning the day with me.  It was a most wonder-mous day to begin with you.

 

Many people criticize for showing this journey publicly….but if for one minute I can give hope to others who are on this same difficult journey, then I will take all the criticism given.  Because when things get really really tough, and it seems like there’s no light in the darkness, then sometimes…sometimes…there’s a flood of light that allows you to see more than you ever saw before.  I hope to not only shed some light, but maybe some pathways to find the light.  For there is beauty in Alzheimer’s as there is in every tragic event that shapes our lives.  For all it’s ugliness, it teaches us to appreciate that loved one and hold on fastly to those moments we have with them.

We are human, and in this humanness there is two sides.  Sometimes we only see and feel one side.  It’s nice sometimes to see and feel what it’s like on the other side.  Good morning daddy and thanks for allowing me to share you with the world.


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There are Gems in Them There Hills!

bluebonnetsWe have finished day 8 of the vaulted man being sealed up tight.  The words are locked up fiercely between the Spring clogging up dad’s mind and seizing his senses and the Alzheimer’s playing tricks on him. It’s been a tough week for both of us.  For my dad, the fears are getting more real.  People went from stealing from him to attacking him and trying to kill him.  Once a strong virile man, mentally and physically, now reduced to constant fear of his life.

Last week had been so promising.  We wrote a poem!  We began another. I thought I had found a way to communicate with my dad, a tool to unlock those precious memories and stories we kids so strongly crave to hear.  But today, as I used the anaphora of “I know this…,” a tool that has worked so well in writing with others, did  not work well with him. He was shut pretty tight.  He started with a trite saying, “You get what you pay for,” and as I encouraged him, he continued with strings of sayings.

From past experience, I have learned that it’s okay to start like this; because as the conversation continues, the locks come off, and we can access a distance memory or two. These experiences are delightful to watch as he climbs into his little boy character and he is wild and free, even if only for a little while..  But today, as I said, the locks were on tight.  He didn’t go on an adventure, and he was done before we barely got started.

When dad’s head get’s what he calls “fuzzy,” (full of snot and a lot of fear of releasing emotion), he has to go with a promise to call back….and the call never comes.

But this time, when our call was done, and I read back my notes, I realized some gems. These sayings of my dad can be used throughout my book where I want to make sure the character is coming through. And I also realized something else.  WE were talking about HIM, not the weather, not fishing…HIM…and for my dad, less than a year ago, these things would not have been said. The process has been slow, and it’s hard for me to imagine how I will get the much needed information to write his story, but it’s been a story getting the story.  AND, I am on a journey WITH my dad.  And that is enough.

Things don’t always look or sound the way we would like.  There definitely deserves to be an attitude of gratitude.  And the silver lining is that there is hope for day 8…today could be the day…

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Writing Can tame the Alzheimer’s Beast

Alzheimer’s is a nasty beast. It seizes your loved one’s brain and steals not only their memories, but it steals their reasoning, their dignity, their strength…it makes your loved one tired and hopeless.  You watch as they struggle between reality and their alter world.  The world that they never feel safe.  They worry about someone taking things from them, and they worry about someone trying to kill them.  This sense of safety is so vital to our well being.  It’s painful to watch.  But it’s also painful because it robs us of treasured moments with our loved ones.

But, If you’re patient enough, there are good days too and the jewels come.  Fortunately for us humans that we are emotional beings.  If  events in our lives are laced with an emotional tie, we usually get lucky enough to hold onto that memory.   That is the sweet spot where I can collect my dad’s memories.  That is the sweet spot that I’ve been able to go back to his love of writing and poetry and tap into the man himself.  And my friends, it is beautiful.  Sometimes it’s just a handful of words…but to hear a man who has been emotionally vaulted most of his life, the sound of emotion, any emotion, but especially joy, is like music lilting in the air and carried on the wind.

It’s cliché to say without the rain, you don’t appreciate the sunshine, but it is the analogy that fits this scenario best.   If I hadn’t of gotten frustrated trying to collect dad’s memories, I wouldn’t have found alternate ways to reach him.  And without these alternate ways, I imagine my stories of him would be devoid of any emotion or feeling and might be a little bland.  I’ve been able to feel closer to my dad in this last year than in my entire life.  I’ve been able to get past certain memories  that are recycled and repeated to get to new stories no one has even heard.  And, as I am entrusted with these stories and I manage them with care and respect, my dad, this often closed man, begins to look forward to talking to me.  And for the little girl in me who always yearned to be close to her dad, it is pure joy.

The last time I visited my dad, sadly almost a year ago, he  let me take silly pictures with him.  Just before we went to the airport, I got this notion to take pictures because I wanted to savor the moments I was having with him, and I wanted to be “part” of the experience, not just a witness.  I pretended we were in one of those photo booths and preplanned some pictures to take.  Okay dad, “It’s time for me to go to the airport.  Let’s take a few pictures together!   We will take a serious one of course, but wouldn’t it be fun for the grandkids to see us let go and do some silly faces and fun faces and scary faces and just enjoy?”   My dad replied, “sure!”  (There was even a little enthusiasm there.)  And, we did.   And then this year when my sister, the photographer, visited him, she got dad to do the same thing with her.  And the smile on her face was absolutely beautiful.  

I am healing, and my family is healing…and it’s all through the power of words which were brave enough to hold a story, a living, breathing man’s story…I love you words.  


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Sometimes Writing is Just Hard

I’ve always loved to write.  It’s like reading a delicious book.  It takes your imagination galloping on adventures.  You feel wild and free.

But there are days, like today, that writing is elusive.  The words are chained to an anchor at the bottom of an ocean, and I don’t have the strength to pull that anchor up. 

You see, I am authoring a book about my dad, a simple, courageous man who overcame alcohol and is leading a happy, simple life.  The writing started from interviews and then it became an essay and now I’m writing his story.  I’m hoping this story will heal my family because there has been much pain.  But the story is not an easy one to write.  First, it’s not my story.  I don’t even know all the characters yet.  Second, it’s my dad!  Who wants to screw that up?   Next, I am interviewing a “vaulted” man, a man who never really let us in as kids and didn’t express emotion.  Lastly, there’s that added tricky bonus, he has later stages of Alzheimer’s.   Now that’s a very tricky beast!  Not only does it play with time periods and events, it sometimes keeps me from interviewing him.  I will probably talk about that part in another post because it’s a painful process that deserves it’s own category. 

On good days, my dad lets out a little emotion and snippets of stories.  Sometimes I get to ask more questions, and sometimes, when it’s more real and raw, the locks on the vault reappear and I don’t get to know more.  Then I write stories from bones….It’s hard to write stories from bones.  You need muscles to get it moving…and sometimes I have to build the muscles from snippets.  And that’s like putting together a puzzle that’s all the same color!

For now, what I get to enjoy is this time with my dad.  Because these little morsels of time where he opens up, even if for only a small time, it’s glorious and my soul dances.  I am truly living in gratitude, but oh, how I wish we could have started sooner.