I Still Do

November 25, 2010

While I was away

When I began writing my blog, I was warned that I shouldn’t start it unless I was committed to writing on a regular basis.  You can see where that went.  I’ve taken a seven month sabbatical—time does go by fast when you’re having fun.

Since my last blog entry, I’ve given speeches about Alzheimer’s and caregiving in Montreal; Greenwich, CT.; Baltimore; San Francisco; Dublin; Berlin; Luxembourg and Paris.   My photographs from I Still Do have  recently been on exhibition in Berlin and Paris and are currently in museum shows in San Diego (MoPA) and Daytona Beach, Florida (SMP.)    It’s clear to me that people around the world want to understand the personal stories behind the Alzheimer’s statistics—and art is a way for them to connect very personally and very viscerally with a disease that is often still hidden.   Seeing how people bond with Ed through my photographs of him, and by extension connect with others with AD, is something I find very rewarding and touching.  For me, photographing Ed has enabled me to give shape to something that’s shapeless and a voice to something that’s been silent.  It’s been a way for me to confront Alzheimer’s using the only weapons I have.

Ed, by being my model, my muse, my husband, my best friend—and, always, my cheerleader—has given me a very great gift.  He’s also touched thousands of people whom he’ll never know.

Since we’re in the season of Thanksgiving, I will add that Ed and I are doing well even though his Alzheimer’s has progressed. Our conversations are less complex and wide-ranging, but we still understand each other.   We go for walks in the facility in which he resides or we sit in the sun holding hands.   Last week, Ed had forgotten who I am and that we’re married—what he told me, though, is that I’m his best friend.  That, and dinner with my family, make this a very good Thanksgiving.

April 10, 2010

Mona Lisa and Alzheimer’s

A few days ago I was at the Louvre, looking at some of the world’s most gorgeous art.  The Museum’s  magnificent collection includes a number of beautiful paintings by Leonardo da Vinci that are hung on a wall close the room where the Mona Lisa is displayed.   It was a pleasure spending time with the other da Vinci’s—I could stand in front of them for as long as I wished and get as close as I wished without disturbing others or being disturbed by them; mostly because the others weren’t there.  They were in the adjacent room where the small Mona Lisa is hung behind bulletproof glass and fifteen or so feet beyond where the closest viewers are allowed to stand.  Eventually I walked into the room where the celebrity painting holds court to millions of viewers each year—roughly half of whom were there when I was. Each of them was pushing, shoving, clawing his way to the front of the crowd—digital cameras held high and flashing their forbidden bulbs.  The crowd looked like paparazzi—I wouldn’t have been surprised to hear people shouting “Look this way, Mona.” 

One of the things Alzheimer’s reinforces is the value of living in the moment, of experiencing what’s in front of us.  Maybe some of the people in front of the famous painting were experiencing the moment they wanted to experience—maybe their pleasure came from taking a snapshot, plugging their readers into their computer, and experiencing Mona Lisa several times removed.  I know that many museums, including MoMA, are now working with Alzheimer’s patients because they believe that looking at art soothes AD sufferers (and their caregivers).  I like to think that people with Alzheimer’s really look at a work of art when it’s in front of them.

March 14, 2010

Global Conversations about AD

What was so exciting about speaking at the ADI conference in Greece (Alzheimer’s Disease International)—in addition to the programs and the vibrant city of Thessaloniki—was the opportunity to talk with other participants and hear about AD programs throughout the world.  I spoke with people from Iran, the Netherlands, Israel, New Zealand, Australia, Puerto Rico, Ireland, the UK and many other countries.   The interactions were inspiring, particularly since there’s attention being paid globally to AD that we in the U.S. can emulate.

And, speaking of inspiring, there is a television commercial from the U.K. that has wowed me.  It’s very simple—just a single dementia patient standing against a white background and talking about having—and living—with AD.  The message is: don’t run away from me, or fear me, when I tell you I have dementia.  I’m a real person, with thoughts and feelings, and here I am.  Why don’t we have similar spots in the U.S.?  I’m going to be asking that question of influential people in the field when I get back to the U.S.

I was thrilled with the response to my photographs and my book I Still Do: Loving and Living with Alzheimer’s.  My presentation centered around my experiences  caring for my husband, Ed, and the power of art to help people understand viscerally, and to relate to, those experiences and to connect with my husband’s story.  By extension, viewers and readers understand better the layers of the AD journey.

In the meantime, I’m enjoying the friendly people of Greece and will share some photographs when I get home.

February 20, 2010

Art Changes us

I was going to write about another suggestion for coping with AD, and then decided against it.  Alzheimer’s is a significant part of my world and my life, but it’s not the only part.  I’ve been thinking a lot about my photography and writing (which, admittedly, have helped me cope with Ed’s Alzheimer’s) and the part art plays in our lives, if we’re open to it.  I’ve been thinking about the ways in which art can change our world and our way of seeing our surroundings.  I’ve been thinking about specific painters and photographers and musicians and the riches they’ve given me—even when their work has disturbed and challenged me.  And I’ve been thinking about how grateful I am to have the ability and desire to express myself through photography and writing.  I’ve been thinking, too, how I hope that each of us has the good fortune to use whatever creative talents we have to nurture ourselves and the people we love—whether we cook, or garden or dance or weave.   And, in indulging our more creative ambitions, we will find new ways to cope with AD—or whatever challenges we’re faced with.

I’m attaching a photograph from my book and photography series I Still Do;  I hope you enjoy it.

copyright 2006. Judith Fox

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