Wednesday, September 7, 2011


Many years ago, I had a job in a hospital-sponsored Alzheimer's day-program providing care and facilitating activities for patients with varying levels of dementia. It was funny and sad and beautiful and there was more than enough humanity to go around, which was one reason I don't do that kind of work any more. Imagine someone clutching their forehead and, with one fist thrust heavenward, shouting Oh the humanity!, and you will have a picture of my daily emotional response to my job. Nice, right? I left, and it was the right thing to do, but I still remember with much fondness the men and women I cared for, a few in particular.

Sam was a runner--a wanderer. His wife dropped him off in the morning at eight and picked him up each day around three-a schedule that no doubt improved the quality of her life (and in turn, his) tremendously. The problem is, because of Sam's disease, the routine was meaningless--he had no day-to-day memory of it. He'd walk out of the building and down the street in search of her, which was dangerous, as well as a liability. We placed an alarm-sensor on a lanyard around his neck that helped monitor his whereabouts, but ultimately, his anxiety went unchecked--new anxiety, fresh fear, several times a day. Can you even imagine?

This is when his wife came through in a moment of genius: a simple note, tucked in his shirt pocket.  

Dear Sam, it read.
I will pick you up today at 3:00. I promise.
Love, Dottie

The humanity! Of course we had to remind him the note was there, but the relief he felt unfolding the worn slip of paper was palpable. It was something he could hold on to, and it worked.

As for me, here: It is now or never, writing this blog post. How I can explain a nearly-five month absence is the hardest part and what's been waking me up at night with the rattles. You know, when you're awake in bed, your thoughts rattling around making their distracting sounds while you roll over and fret and toss in covers so unruly they had to have been raised by wolves. What can I say? I got busy? My fingers fell off. Someone stole my computer. I fell down a hole inside myself. Hmmm. We're getting close.

On the morning of my last entry, we were days from opening our greenhouse and I was managing a mental to-do list a mile long. The thing about what I do is, once the gun fires and we're off, there's no time for lovely photos or a witty aside. It is intense, sticky, and all-consuming. I worked every single day in May and almost every one in June and July until we closed. I rarely had time for myself and when I say "time" I don't mean an afternoon of shopping or lattes, I mean time in solitude. I am someone who needs this, second to food and sleep and fresh air and maybe more than coffee. I am learning how to guard these moments and it's a struggle when the work I do, when I'm doing it, leaves little time to tend to even basic needs like the big three above. If I don't protect the quiet, or seek it out, it is nearly impossible to write what I feel, or for that matter, feel at all. The upside of all this is I can honestly say I relate to the time-to-make-the-donuts man in a way that I never could before. Somebody give that guy a hug. If I would have only had a note--one like Dottie wrote, but from myself. Don't worry, it would have said. I won't leave you in this place, this hurried, stilted state. I'll pick you up in five months; maybe I'll bring a donut.

These last few weeks have been a flurry of back-to-school festivities and travel...and today it is raining and grey, and yes there is time for glorious quiet.  Introspection and laundry: a winning combination. I'm hoping, yes--intending, to create a rhythm of words and solitude for myself here at my little yellow table, and I'm thankful to any of you out there who might still be reading. Your sweet nudges for a word from me mean so much. I promise I'll be back in a day or two.



Momma Shoe said...

So glad you are back...Looking forward to more of your loveliness:)

Schneider 4.0 said...


kstroess said...

I'm taking a deep breath for you! Glad you've found a moment at the table :)

Muskrat said...

You just changed my mind about farming. Oh wait, I've never had the tenacity or work ethic to be a farmer.

Deborah said...

I had a feeling you'd be in the dirt until after harvest-time. Is there a dash in there, or is it just "harvesttime"? Whichever. Missed you, hoping for some solitude for you. Looking forward to hearing the distilled version of your summer!

Amy G. said...

I am but a stranger to you but I want you to know that I am glad you survived farming bootcamp, that you are writing again (beautifully, I might add), and I am especially happy to hear that you plan to keep writing. I missed you!

Kristine said...

So glad you are back, Ali! And I am especially glad that you've had some time to yourself. Love you!

Megan said...

I am glad you are back too! :)

Jaime Chapman said...

My sentiment is the glad you are back, miss Allison. Xo, jaime

cupcake studio said...

I can totally relate to those moments of solitude. I need them too. Having visited your lovely greenhouse, you can tell that it's filled with your heart and that is all-consuming.

By the way, my tomatoes that I purchased from you...they're beautiful. I've got sauce, sauce, sauce in the freezer :)

Happy Autumn!

Pablo Nagel said...

Yes, there is nothing like the peace and quiet. Wonderful to read your words again! Btw, my father has Alzheimers and now lives in a home. All the best this fall dear A.

jen said...

ah. love reading your words! do what you can :)

Carmen said...

It was about time!!! So glad to be reading your blog again. It makes the miles fade away! HUGS!

Court said...

Tears in my eyes upon discovering a new post! 5 months or 5 years - we are glad you are back!


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