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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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.  


We Wrote a Poem!

My dad has been a closed man all his life.  I call him a “vaulted” man because he’s fiercely closed off.  Most of it is the time period he was born in.  Men didn’t share feelings.  They worked, provided for their families and moved along.  My dad didn’t say, “I love you.”  He didn’t hug or do anything touchy feely.  He showed his love by working and feeding us..   We wanted to be closer to him because he was fun and funny, and he could make us laugh with his play on words. Alcohol robbed him and us of some beautiful memories, but I’m not complaining.  I’m just stating the facts.  However, the real truth is that  If it weren’t for alcohol, I don’t know that I would know the man I know today.  It shaped his character.

Fast forward, a lot of years, my dad is now over 25 years sober.  He says, “I love you” on a pretty regular basis, but he still doesn’t say much.  Most of my adult life our biggest topic was the weather.  I remember times when I would just get mad that all we talked about was the weather.  I just wanted to get to know him!  I could see other people who had closer relationships to their fathers.  Why couldn’t we have that?  Why doesn’t he try?

As of late, my dad has allowed me to interview him so I can write his story.  (more about that adventure soon because it’s cool story too!)

Because I love poetry so very much, and because I remember a time, many many years ago when dad loved poetry too, I I thought I would find a way we could write poems together.  I thought this  would add a nice personal touch to his book. He’s a word sleuth.  He loves all things words like I do.  So, I found a few formulaic poems and went from there.  It would be like a puzzle to figure out just the perfect words to describe things.  Dad has Alzheimer’s so the words don’t come as easily as they used to.  So, I had a handy adjective list while I worked with him just in case he was searching and deserved some assistance.

We started with a Diamonte type poem because  I thought it would be cool to compare the boy to the man.  This process was confusing to him as first because our interviews are all by telephone, and he couldn’t see what I was asking him.  But he trusted me, and because I presented it like a puzzle, his curious mind allowed him to play along.

It was a slow process because I would ask him for an adjective that would describe him as a boy.  He’d give it to me, and then he’d be off running on telling me a story.  Then, we’d come back to center, and I would ask for another adjective, and he’d give it to me and be off on another boyhood adventure.  The words of his boyhood were pouring forth, and I began to realize what was important to my dad as a boy.  I had NEVER heard any of these stories before.

It was beautiful.  I was talking to my dad, and it wasn’t about the weather.  It was about him.  I was learning about him!  It NEVER looks the way you want it to.  It just is the way it is.  The best thing to do is embrace what you have and enjoy the journey.  We wrote a poem!  I will turn it in later because it deserves a little polishing, and because I know dad would like it that way.  He looks forward to my calls now.  He is creating, and he is loving it.  Where there was silence and void before, is full of life, purpose and meaning.  We wrote a poem, and it was beautiful and lovely to me.

I love you daddy!  I’m so glad you trusted me and that we are on this journey together.

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Writing as Healing part 2

Writing and poetry have continued to heal my family.  Since I was a teen, writing has been a powerful healing force in my life.

As my family went through some tragic, tough times, writing was my outlet.  I would get up really early in the mornings to feel that calm quiet of the morning before the crazy chaos and noise of a family of 8 arrived.   At 4:00 a.m. in the morning, I would diligently write by our fish tank, just enough light to see what I was writing, but not too much so as to wake me from my dream state.   I know that this hour when my most clear, heartfelt thoughts come. In this clarity, I have found my truth. My only wish is that I would have remembered it during the toughest times of my life!

Now, as I am writing my dad’s story, the vaulted man, with Alzheimer’s, is opening up through poetry. Dad has always always loved words and was a crossword wizard and the master of the dictionary. I remember when I was a little girl how we could pick a word, any word, from the dictionary and my dad would know it. We tried hard as we may to find the most difficult word we could to stump him. We never could. Impressive. I can’t wait to share how this great love of words got started! But alas, it will have to wait for another place and time.

Recently, I have decided to take formulaic poems and ask my dad to describe himself or his memories through these poetic forms. Because my dad loves words, it’s fun for him to look for the perfect adjective or verb to use in the poem. What’s even more fun is that each adjective comes with a thought or memory. And before I know it, this man who used to only talk of the weather is opening up and sharing beautiful stories of himself. Sometimes they are the same story, but really, it’s okay. And sometimes it’s only one or two adjectives a day, which is hard to be patient when you want to complete a poem. But again, we are communicating, and I’m enjoying the journey. My dad has purpose, and for a moment or several moments, my dad is holding on to something treasured and positive and he’s leaving his legacy in his own words.

Happy creativity to you! May you and your loved ones heal from writing too.

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Writing as a Healer

I’ve been working on writing my dad’s biography for a few months.  What started out as asking him basic questions like lineage and favorite holidays, and birthdays, has turned into a healing journey both for my dad and our relationships with our family and a story of man’s triumph over the darkest evils.  I want to record this journey because it’s been amazing, and because if it can work with a man who has been vaulted for most of his life, then it can work for anyone.

Today, I used poetry.  I took the simplest of forms of poetry and used it as a springboard to have a conversation. I would ask him for adjectives that described him as a boy.  Each adjective led me to a story of his boyhood.  And then I’d ask him some verbs that describe him, and those words would lead me on another journey of my father.  What I loved was that I could hear his giggly, adventurous tone come through his stories

What a great tool it was to have to learn more about my dad. I am looking forward to doing this more with other poetry tools to see where this journey takes me. I’m so excited!

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p.s. There are more great tools to come!