Alzheimer's and my Auntie Ruth

Alzheimer's and my Auntie Ruth

Music is the first to come, and the last to go.

The rhythm of the heartbeat

in the womb;

the delight of familiar songs

in the nursing home.

The disease sneaks up

stealthily robbing the most gifted

of their talents.

Those fingers which flew over the keys,

playing Chopin, Bach, Beethoven,

popular tunes,

now gnarled.

I want her carers to know

who she is, her essence,

her history, the richness of her life.

Her smile in the morning

like the sunshine itself,

long dark hair streaming over

her long flowered robe.

Her fascination with words,

creativity with décor,

a secretary in academia,

student of Judaism,

fine needlepoint artist,


sophisticated conservatory grad,

member of the board.

Her pride in her nieces

and nephews,

her family gatherings

of all generations;

picnics in her elegant

garden, where I

held my wedding.

Her happy marriage

and later widowhood.

Her inability to have children.

Her door always open

in fun and sad times.

The guest room with the old dresser,

antique bed, and side table

with small books.

The view over the garden

The delicate pale greens

and flowers of the wallpaper.

We played duets,

looked at precious

family photos,

chatted in her elegant

dining room with

pheasants decorating

the walls.

Later, I brought her roses,

and she said,” oh these

are delicious.”

Her pain at knowing

her illness, feeling the

enormity of her loss.

The only challenge in

a life full of vicissitudes

which unhinged her,

until at last she was too ill

to remember the loss,

free to enjoy the present,

until there was loss after loss

after loss:

wheelchair and bedridden,

her radio tuned to the classical station.

I was too late for her passing.

After work, we were alone

during her transition.

I screamed at this bitter end,

gently brushed her hair.

About the Author

Elsa Lichman is a retired social worker and writer living in Massachusetts. She has experienced many losses and found comfort in writing about them. This poem was inspired by her learning that the leader of her senior virtual singing group has a mother in an Alzheimer's facility, who still enjoys music.

Jan 13th 2021 Elsa Lichman, January, 2021

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