Author speaks about mother’s battle with Alzheimer’s
Published: Monday, October 21, 2013
Updated: Monday, October 21, 2013 22:10
English professor Jeanne Walker says she grew up immersed in literature and novels, which made her mother concerned that she was becoming too idealistic.
Her mother would be concerned with her reading and would say, “You’re becoming too much of a dreamer,” Walker says.
Growing up in a single-parent family, Walker says, her mother, who worked as a school nurse, would experience struggles to keep her family afloat. During this time Walker found her greatest comfort in books.
“I realized through reading I could slip away from life and go anywhere I wanted,” Walker says.
Walker’s lifetime love of literature led her to eventually write about her journey once her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
On Wednesday, Walker held a presentation on her first memoir “The Geography of a Memory: A pilgrimage through Alzheimer’s,” which depicts Walker’s experience with her mother’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease.
For Walker, the disease brought her family closer and, most importantly, strengthened her bond with her mother, she says.
“The book is not just about Alzheimer’s,” she says. “It’s a mother-daughter story, a story about which the ways a family deals with a crisis. Throughout the whole novel my mother is the hero.”
Although Walker says the entire encounter with her mother’s battle with Alzheimer’s was bleak, that wasn’t her whole experience. Walker says she realized positivity can be found in even the most depressing situations.
“The time was grim, but I didn’t want to just write a story about how grim this situation is,” Walker says. “I wanted to show people who are taking care of elderly that there are hidden gifts that you can gain.”
Sophomore Natalie Houck-Meloni, whose aunt has Alzheimer’s, says Walker is an inspiration.
Holock-Meloni says she was moved by Walker’s ability to look beyond the present and see the light in the future.
“[Walker showed] hidden bits of optimism left in these dark times,” Holock-Meloni says.
Even though her mother didn’t have the same passion for reading stories, her ability to tell stories motivated Walker to write, the author says.
It was with great irony that her mother’s stories ignited her love of books, Walker says. Their disjointed perspectives on reading eventually drew her further away from Walker. Writing this book, Walker says, brought her closer to her mother.
Ultimately it was her mother’s Alzheimer’s that brought up all of the old stories that inspired Walker to write this memoir, she says. The ignited memories of her past were an optimistic point that came through experiencing Alzheimer’s.
“I was able to connect with the earlier versions of my mother through the disease,” Walker says.
Those connections inspired Walker to stray away from her script writing and venture into book writing, Walker says. The book was started as individual essays that eventually formed into a book.
“I felt like writing this book was a lot like knitting,” she says. “I just kept writing rows of stories.”
Walker says one of her favorite parts of writing “The Geography of a Memory” has been receiving emails and reviews about how the book has inspired them or family members to continue battling this disease.
The book is not only about Alzheimer’s. It is also a story of inspiration and hope, with a message that can be applied into everyday life, Walker says.
Senior Rachel Carey says Walker was extremely inspirational.
“The school should sponsor more events like this,” Carey says. “It lets people see their professors in a different way.”
Through her writing, Walker was able to offer awareness to the public about this disease in an optimistic manner. Walker says her pilgrimage was an opportunity to slow down and experience life from a different perspective.
“The journey makes more sense in retrospect than it does going through it,” Walker says.