Somebody Stole My Iron
A Family Memoir of Dementia — by Vicki Tapia
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, in 2017, over 15 million caregivers provided an estimated 18.2 billion hours of unpaid care. As a caregiver, have you ever wished you were somewhere —anywhere— else? How do you proceed to love this stranger who barely resembles the parent or spouse you once knew? What do you do when your emotions get the best of you? Do you sometimes feel quite alone in the world? Somebody Stole My Iron can help to validate those feelings and offer insights on coping. You aren’t alone!
2015 High Plains Book Award Finalist!
The Billings Public Library Board has established the High Plains Book Awards to recognize regional authors and/or literary works which examine and reflect life on the High Plains including the states of Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Colorado, and Kansas, and the Canadian provinces of Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan.
Listen, as I share a 2 minute overview of Somebody Stole My Iron. My memoir offers useful information from experts within the field of Alzheimer’s research, personal lessons learned along the way, and ideas/tips for managing the day-to-day ups and downs of dementia.
About the Book
Navigating the waters of dementia can be frightening, unleashing a myriad of emotions for everyone involved, precipitating anxiety and grief, anger and frustration, extreme sadness and feelings of hopelessness. After my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, followed closely by my father with Parkinson’s disease-related dementia, I struggled to find practical, helpful information to light my way. Somebody Stole My Iron began as a diary to help me cope, but emerged as a road map for others. It offers a glimpse into my family’s life as we rode the waves of dementia, sometimes sailing, other times capsizing. My memoir offers useful information from experts within the field of Alzheimer’s research, personal lessons learned along the way, and ideas/tips for managing the day-to-day ups and downs of dementia. It is a story of holding on and ultimately learning to let go, transcending the pain and turmoil to discover love and compassion. Above all, Somebody Stole My Iron chronicles the tenacity of my mother as she fought her way through the tangled and bewildering labyrinth. The goal of my narrative is to offer hope to those whose lives have been intimately affected by dementia, letting them know that they are not alone.
Reviews & Testimonials
“Vicki Tapia’s diary of the decline of her parent’s lives due to Alzheimer’s is a harrowing account of the gradual disintegration and ending of two lives in advanced age. It is also a daughter’s loving memoir, a painstaking tale of the progression of dementia, with its sad, funny, mysterious, baffling, infuriating and frustrating series of incidents. At the end of each chapter Tapia summarizes what she has learned from her experience and how, with hindsight. it could have been improved, providing an excellent practical guide for the reader. This book is both a spellbinding modern tale and an invaluable resource.”
—Valerie Hemingway, author of Running With The Bulls: My Years with the Hemingways
“I read the book over the weekend. I couldn’t put it down! In many ways, it described universal experiences. I work in a memory care cottage plus my parents had dementia. I am anxious for my sister to read this book.”
—Faith Burrowes, RN and caretaker of dementia patients and adult daughter of an Alzheimer’s patient
“Vicki, your book is wonderful. Such an easy read, and very compelling. I especially like your honesty/transparency about your family relations. We all have dysfunctions in our families that we don’t like to talk about… your observations add so much. This book is important for our generation as we care for, parent, and tend to our aging populations.”
—Dr. Douglas McBride, adult child of father with Alzheimer’s
“This is a brave and powerful story. The thing that impresses me most about this is how Tapia doesn’t back down from anything difficult, whether it’s the grisly details of taking care of her parents’ daily needs, or the emotional trauma that comes out of dealing with something this painful. I think Vicki does a terrific job of digging deep into those issues and telling this story with a frankness that makes it an important story.”
—Russell Rowland, Author of IN OPEN SPACES and HIGH AND INSIDE
“My dad had a cerebral hemorrhage yesterday. I told my daughter that I am so thankful that I had read your book (twice!) because from it I gained a lot of insight that will help me navigate through the tough decisions ahead.”
—Diane Powers, Lactation Consultant, whose parents are both affected by dementia/Alzheimer’s disease
“I couldn’t quit reading, it is so well-written, pertinent, informative, honest, and so helpful to know that someone else is going through the same thing. I find myself reading and thinking, “Does Mom do this? … I know how that felt… that sounds just like my Mom…” I went from tears in my eyes to laughter (the plop, plop, plop incident!). What a gift to those of us in the throes of this disease.”
—Laurie Gunville, Physical Therapist and adult daughter of mother with Alzheimer’s
“I found the story riveting and could not stop reading it, even though I knew the outcome.”
—Rod Slater, Architect and son of mother with Alzheimer’s, Auckland, NZ
“It’s double indemnity as Mom and Dad descend into dementia hand-in-hand. The detailed personal story is interspersed with bite-sized bits of calming, reassuring advice, wisdom hard-won by Tapia during her time in the trenches. The author’s gripping, detailed and sometimes funny account of her aged parents’ simultaneous decline, and the repercussions for even far flung family, shows us definitively that ‘Til death do you part’ is not an injunction confined only to husbands and wives…”
—Eleanor Cooney, author of Death in Slow Motion: My Mother’s Descent into Alzheimer’s
Listen to author Vicki Tapia sharing excerpts from Somebody Stole My Iron and other unpublished stories.
Chapter 1-2 “Missed Signs” It’s amazing how our brain can rationalize and normalize the behavior of our loved one when it’s anything but…
Chapter 5 “Diagnosis” No going back: When denial comes face to face with the truth. The diagnosis — Alzheimer’s disease!
Chapter 10 “Reality” A sometime harsh reality shattered my blissful reverie of moving my parents closer to me.
Chapter 15 “Dragon Lady” Stress took its toll on my ability to cope as a caregiver and unfortunate comments sometimes spilled out of my mouth.
Chapter 15 Part 2 “Somebody Stole My Iron” I became a detective one day, in my quest to locate Mom’s missing iron.
Chapter 15 Part 3 “Guilt” When your loved one has Alzheimer’s, some guilt seems inevitable and I was not immune.
Chapter 16 “Acceptance” Acceptance is a difficult journey, sometimes…
Chapter 16 Part 2 “Decline” Learning how to control my reactions to Mom’s paranoia was one of my many challenges as a caregiver.
Chapter 17 “Indian Baby” One day Mom accused Dad of having a baby with his caregiver and punished him with the “silent treatment.”
Chapter 37 “White Thing” Our conversation about the mysterious white thing was undoubtedly one of the strangest conversations I ever had with Mom.
Chapter 44 “Not Recognized” It was on Christmas Day that I experienced the let down of Mom not recognizing me.
Chapter 51 “Lost Identity” The day arrived when Mom ceased to recognize her own name.
Chapter 24 “Comet Cleanser” Sometimes Mom attempted to follow directions, even though her brain often short-circuited with an almost comical result.
The Author Vicki Tapia
I started life in a small town in eastern Montana, known for its cowboy bars and yearly “world-famous” horse sale. Breaking the mold, I did not grow up to marry a cowboy or live on a ranch, but after securing a degree in elementary education from Montana State University, promptly spent more than two months vagabonding about Europe before settling into married life and a job in Michigan.
Three babies, three moves and a new husband (much) later, I am now happily settled back into the unhurried life of a Montanan in the south-central part of our beautiful state. The babies have long since grown and gone, although happily, my son and his wife moved back to Montana, which means I now have three grandsons nearby!
For over 30 years I was a lactation consultant, counseling women on how to succeed with breastfeeding. In January of 2014, I made the decision to leave this career behind in order to pursue my writing and other as-yet undiscovered adventures.
Journaling has been a part of my life since I was 16, a form a therapy that helped me cope over the years with the ups and downs of life. I have also written and had numerous articles published in lactation journals. My typical subject matter of lactation, however, took an abrupt turn from life’s beginning to life’s end when I began keeping a diary documenting our family’s journey, after my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and my dad with Parkinson’s-related dementia. Over time, this diary became my first book-length work, a memoir detailing our rocky road through this devastating disease. I was inspired to publish Somebody Stole My Iron after sharing it with friends and friends of friends traveling the same difficult road and hearing them tell me how much reading it helped them on their journey.