Sunday, August 23, 2009

Lighthouses....Metaphor or cool places to visit?

There are many personal memoirs about the Alzheimer's Journey. The journey is sometimes so painful and protracted and passionately dismal, that we must as caregivers often resort to metaphor to describe it. Simply meaning the experience is so beyond comprehension, sometimes words can not adequately convey the emotional intensity, regardless of how gifted a writer may be

Over the years I haves taken to lighthouses. I grew up on Lake Erie and now live just a few blocks from Lake Superior. I even did my residency training in Rochester, NY which is only a few miles from Lake Ontario. About 85 percent of my life has been spent living near the Great Lakes. If you count the Delaware River, and Puget Sound then 99 percent of my life has been spent domiciled near great water. Maybe that's why lighthouses are agreeable.

The Alzheimer's journey is described in reference to storms, tornadoes, clouds, ships adrift at sea, the darkness, the monster, the beast, the fire, and the burning embers to name just of few of many. I like the lighthouse reference.

My mother passed away from AD over 22 years ago. It seems like forever some days and other days it does not feel so long ago. A lighthouse is a beacon that guides us through the sea of life. Sometimes it is calm and sometimes it is ungodly stormy. My mother strength and energy and spirit, what she instilled in me is like a timeless guiding beacon, a lighthouse.

It runs deeper than that. Lighthouses are now automated and relatively speaking of historical note only. We have all kinds of aids to navigation now that supersede lighthouses function, but some are still functional. The ones that operate these days seem to be respected and revered by mariners, bringing a sense of comfort when visible, despite all the technological advances in maritime navigation.

I love the stories of the old light keepers who kept the gas lamp going, before automation kicked in. Sometime the keeper and often their family would be very isolated for months and have to trudge up flights of winding stairs, sometimes every three hours, 24-7, almost all year. It was profound dedication to maintain the lamp. In some way The dedication is not unlike the endless devotion we see in caregivers taking care of their loved one with AD.

My wife and I have actually visited a few lighthouses, where you can actually stay overnight in the old light keepers quarters. Two Harbors, Lighthouse, in Two Harbors MN, not far from Duluth, and Whitefish Point, in Michigan, which houses the Bell from the famous Edmund Fitzgerald, (this was the safe harbor the Fitz almost made it to in 1975, before it was lost). Most recently we stayed at Sand Hills Light on the upper Peninsula of Michigan. The history and the energy is extremely intense at these lighthouses.

If you ever have the time, and are need of a break then try to visit a light. The storms they have guided mariners through can be deadly, but there is nothing sinister mean or nefarious about old original lighthouses. They are timeless and truly are a beacon of hope.


David Schantz said...

Your site is very interesting I found it while searching for Alzheimer's/Caregiver sites. I was sad to see how few there are, I can't find many anyway. I hate Alzheimer's too. My Wife was recently diagnosed with early on set Alzheimer's. Her Mother has it and is farther advanced. My Wife and I cared for her Grandmother for five years until she had to go to an Alzheimer's care facility. Grandma's younger Sister and their Mother also had Alzheimer's.

Like I said you have an interesting site, I'll stop in from time to time.

You mention living in Duluth. In the 70's I worked for Thomas Show's, a carnival that set up at your Civic Arena.

God Bless America, God Save The Republic.

Joseph J. Sivak MD said...

Hi David,

Thanks for the kind word on the blog.
You are right, there are way to few blogs on the issue. I'm sorry the disease has affected so amny people aeound you. I would be very interested in hearing how your state and elected officials are dealing with the problem.
Keep going.-Joe

David Schantz said...

I just posted a message at both of my sites about going to a town hall meeting to ask my United States Representative about where he stood on H.R. 3286 the Alzheimer's Breakthrough Act of 2009. They ran out of time before I got to speak.

If you haven't read H.R. 3286 and S. 1492 Alzheimer's Breakthrough Act of 2009 you might want to check them out. If passed this legislation will provide research funding for Alzheimer's.

God Bless America, God Save The Republic.

L.S.Fisher said...
This comment has been removed by the author.

Talking about the book with the Lake Superior wind....... a calm day