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YELLOW SILK DREAMS

Sunday, November 13, 2011

WHEN CHARACTERS HIT HOME-DC JURIS


Hi folks! ::waves:: DC Juris here. I'll be your guest blogger for today. J

People always ask me if I identify with any of my characters, what they've been through, etc. While I always have to answer absolutely, sometimes, I identify with characters a little too much. That's exactly what happened with my character Mark, from "Buried Treasure," whose father is in a nursing home.

When I was in junior high, my grandmother became terminally ill with cancer. Unbeknownst to the family, she'd actually had it for quite some time, and just never went to the doctor. That's how my family was–very hush, hush about things, never sharing, never talking. My mother and her sisters went into immediate action after the diagnosis, searching for all sorts of medical options. The bottom line was that my grandmother was in her late eighties with cancer in pretty much every organ. Although one of my aunts demanded chemotherapy, my grandmother's doctor refused, based on my grandmother's wishes.

Since grandmother couldn't take care of herself anymore, the family ended up putting her in a nursing home, completely unlike the one in "Buried Treasure", she was often left unmonitored with no one looking after her. Things went from bad to horrible when she started showing signs of dementia and Alzheimer's. We never knew which grandmother we were going to see–the one who loved us, or the one who thought we were trying to steal her things. The one who remembered us, or the one who demanded to know why we were lying to her, and where her real family was.  The kind, gentle, woman, or the hostile, hateful one who threw things at us.

You see, my grandmother wasn't always the woman I knew her to be. In her youth, when she'd been raising my mother and my aunts, my grandmother was an abusive person, physically and mentally. By the time I came along, she'd drastically changed. She was caring, kind, never raised her voice. Which isn't to say that she didn't give it to you straight –you always knew where you stood in my grandmother's eyes. Sometimes, that wasn't such a good thing. LOL

That was the hardest part of watching her fade away – watching her revert to that person she'd been before. You could see the confusion in her eyes, sometimes. Like she didn't really understand why she was being mean either, just that she was, and you were in front of her. In the end, things progressed as can be imagined, and she passed away.

But, out of that emotional perfect storm, came wisdom and strength. Watching my aunts (not so much my mother) take what my grandmother dished out on a weekly basis, watching them persevere, unbending under the onslaught, watching them treat my grandmother with nothing but respect no matter what she hurled at them – verbal or physical. So when the character of Mark popped into my head, I instantly identified with him and what he'd been through with his father.

Despite the gloomy overtones at some points, I really enjoyed writing "Buried Treasure". Often times, my characters and I have a great deal in common, but usually not on childhood issues. In a way, it was like chatting with an old friend, reminiscing over things we'd seen and heard, laughing at things that most people wouldn't find funny (there is a certain humor to a wizened, eighty-eight year old woman fast balling a TV Guide at your head as though she's a pitcher for the Yankees, trust me).

I hope my readers like "Buried Treasure" as much as I do. I'm certainly happy to bring the story to you.

4 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing such a personal story, DC. Alzheimer's is such a horrid disease. My grandmother had the same disease, and it's distressing for everyone involved. All the best with your story :)

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  2. Hi Shelley! Thanks for stopping by and commenting! Though wrenching, I'm glad I was able to understand what was going on with my grandmother, and glad I was able to be around to watch how my aunts dealt with it.

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  3. Thank you so much for sharing your experience with your grandmother. As a former professional caregiver of 12 years it was the Alzheimer's unit that I became my most favorite place to work. Many ask why and it's very simple. I grew up not having known my grandparents as they died before I could know them. But there something with the eyes of those that have been stricken with Alzheimer's that softens my heart and my patience. So many are left abandoned by family in LTC (Long Term Care) units, and so they have no family that comes to visit them at all. You see the confusion and loneliness and I would spend the time when providing care to establish daily rituals that would hopefully bring comfort an occasional smile or laughter to their lives.
    Kudos to you and your family for the time spent with your grandmother, and that you have good memories to go along with the sad ones. I left the field of caregiving as it just became painful to work within a system that cannot keep up with what patients need during these end of life challenges, and the system frustrated me too much.
    Wishing you well and adding this book to my gotta have list....*S*

    Darcy

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  4. Thanks for commenting, Darcy! And thank you for your time in the health industry. It's true, so many people are just abandoned in the "home." I remember there were several people in my grandmother's wing who never had visits from anyone, not even on the holidays. I often wondered what it must be like...did they realize they'd been left, or were they blissfully (or not so) unaware of what they were missing? It's nice to know that, at least in your case, someone was looking out for them.

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