Meet Daniel Kenner, author of “Room For Grace”

Reprinted with permission from AlzAuthors.com

By Daniel Kenner

After many long months of exhaustive family struggles, cognitive and behavior changes and, a lengthy process of medical evaluations and tests, my dad, Buddy, received the devastating diagnosis of Frontotemporal Lobe Dementia (FTD). It was Valentine’s Day 2013. FTD is a rare neurological disease that affects personality and social behavior, speech and language comprehension and, executive functions involved in reasoning, decision-making and planning. Never to be outdone, my mom, Maureen, always the fierce competitor, was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer only four months later.

That year, my best friend’s parents died in a terrible plane crash and that sudden tragedy struck me in such a profound way. “I am going to lose my mother and my father,” I remember thinking, “but I still have time.” I don’t know which is worse: losing parents instantly or watching them slowly deteriorate but, I knew I wouldn’t squander the chance to say goodbye.

Dad was a natural storyteller and through that, he became my favorite story to tell. He was my hero. The highest compliment I can give of my dad was he had a son that idolized him. Everything he loved, I was determined to love just as much or more: Bob Dylan, Lenny Bruce, Marlon Brando, absurdist theater and the San Francisco 49ers. But dementia made him quiet and apathetic, he no longer expressed an interest in the things we used to do together. To the outsider, it looked like he stopped caring. Mom would go for chemo and when she’d come home he wouldn’t ask how her day was or how she was feeling. She constantly worried that neither of them would be strong enough to keep their vows. The life they worked toward was not there; it had changed past the point of recognizing and the reality of what they retired to was obvious. What would happen to Dad when something happened to her? What was going to happen to Mom when something happened to him? But the silver lining was that the doctors had promised aggression and there was none of that. Dad was content and experienced joy. When we’d ask him what he liked about a situation or an event, his response always revolved around describing somebody’s smile. So, for three years Mom continued to be Dad’s main caregiver and, during that time, she completed sixty-three rounds of chemotherapy.

Sixty-three rounds of chemotherapy.

There was an onslaught of doctors and nurses and family and friends and volunteers and neighbors who never said no and extended every possible resource to us. I needed my own way to help, to keep me close, to feel protected. Not wanting to lose my parents’ voices, I planned and organized an oral history project for their thirtieth wedding anniversary. We recorded thirty hours of interviews and conversations. Room for Grace became my way to preserve their stories and their legacy. The project prepared me for a life with them gone but, a life of peace and with no regrets.

Then, a week after Father’s Day, Dad slipped on the steps bringing up the laundry. He fell down six stairs onto hard basement concrete. The man we loved spent the last seven months of his life basically paralyzed with an incomplete spinal disorder. And, because they were soul mates on a timeline so interconnected, on August 10, my thirtieth birthday, the doctors recommended Mom to Hospice. She was out of options.

I spent the last fall and winter by their bedsides. It was so painful but when I was called to act, I did. I jumped in. Full speed ahead. Until the end, Dad was able to be the father that he wanted to be. Tragedy showed me what kind of man I am, or at least, the potential of the man I can be. By participating fully, I left myself open to heartache, but also open to great joy and happiness and deep and meaningful connections. My patience, my humor, my work ethic, my love, all the traits a father would want for his son, brought out the best of my parents. I learned to never miss an opportunity to do something good for someone else. Room for Grace was a gift we shared together and it became my strength and my armor. It saved me countless times from heartache and desperation because I knew I would never lose them. My parents are going to miss out on a lot of my life; I am going to have to find symbolic gestures and signs to fill that emptiness, but I know that they were truly proud of me and that they had countless chances to watch me grow. I am so eager to share their story with you.

About the Author:

Daniel Kenner is an actor, playwright and co-author of  Room for Grace. Through anecdotes and hard-earned lessons, a family tackles challenge after challenge and reframes daily struggles with a positive outlook allowing them to transcend and conquer mortal fears with dignity and room for grace. More information can be found at www.RoomForGrace.org. Room for Grace partners with different organizations and 10% of each book purchased will be donated. The first organization receiving donations is Eye to Eye which began in Maureen Kenner’s Room 4 classroom. Eye to Eye fulfills their mission by supporting and growing a network of youth mentoring programs run by and for those with learning differences.

www.RoomForGrace.org

https://www.facebook.com/Room4Grace

https://www.instagram.com/silverbootimprints

@TheDanielKenner

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Welcome Vanessa K. Williams-Harvey, author of “I Remember”

Reprinted with the permission of AlzAuthors.com

by Vanessa Williams-Harvey

It took years of silence for me to come to terms and let it all out.  Everything came to an abrupt halt in August of 2015.  On that painful and dark day, our mother was ultimately placed in a nursing facility.  We continue to struggle with that painful decision.  My personal guilt, frustrations and regret plagued my soul to the point of endless days and restless nights.  I was able to find relief when I pulled out my tablet and began to jot down everything that had been swirling around in my head.

I started writing about the good times; there were a few. The more I wrote, the more I relaxed and I could finally exhale. I used words to breathe life into the dark reality I suppressed for far too long, finding a voice in writing that I wasn’t quite comfortable with verbalizing. I felt incapable of being accountable to myself, let alone anyone else.

“I Remember” is a candid and brutally honest glimpse of what my family and I experienced on our journey with Alzheimer’s.  My writing is a deep dive with frank details about some tough and challenging times, as we struggled to communicate and collaborate with one another.  It took a lot of time for me to realize that I wasn’t the only one hurting. The very same pain that was ripping at my heart and head was also wreaking havoc on each and every member of our family in a very distinctive way.

As I talked with friends and colleagues about the difficulties we were having as a family, I was amazed by the number of other families being torn apart by a crisis that ultimately led to family conflict. This realization gave me vigor and purpose, while it helped open my eyes to the fact that we are not alone. Although we lacked control over many things that were happening around us, we eventually learned that we did have control on how we would emerge from the ordeal. Our family learned a tough lesson the hard way.

Unfortunately, families in conflict while in the midst of a crisis are a part of everyday life.  When emotions run high, anything can happen. It was deeply troubling to watch everyone I loved slip away. It was almost as difficult as watching Alzheimer’s steal our beloved mother.

Our family wasn’t ready, willing or able to function when Alzheimer’s reared its ugly head. “What would mother do?”  Mother would hold herself accountable and pay her dues to herself–first. By dues, I mean DUES –Do better, Understand better, Expect better, Serve best! It’s what I decided to do and our family is in a much better place today.

I Remember was released in June 2017 and is about a family in conflict, while in the midst of a crisis.  Our family’s crisis was and is Alzheimer’s. Just when we thought all hope was lost, we mustered up the energy to fight for our mother, fight for our integrity and fight for our family. Only then were we able to transition from victims to victory.

About the Author

Vanessa K. Williams-Harvey is a life-long advocate for setting high standards and helping others to achieve their life purpose through self-awareness and proper planning.  She is a registered nurse by profession and currently serves as a Clinical Informatics Manager.  She is also an adjunct faculty with a local college.  In these roles, she has the ability to connect with many diverse people and empowers them to thrive in an ever-changing world.

The book, I Remember is about her family’s journey when its matriarch is stricken with Alzheimer’s disease and how this crisis almost destroyed everything their mother had spent a lifetime building.  Only with time, acceptance, forgiveness and faith were they able to move from victims to victory.  Every family faced with a crisis is challenged and tested in ways that exposes vulnerabilities.

Vanessa is an advocate for Alzheimer’s awareness and serves as a co-chair for the Louisville area Walk to End Alzheimer’s.  She is married to her husband, Mark Harvey, and they are the proud parents of four grown sons and a dog, Maxx.  They both are active members of Burnett Avenue Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky.

The time is now to strive for personal acceptance and satisfaction by paying DUES Do better.  Understand better.  Expect better.  Serve best!

Website            https://www.irememberdues.com/
Email address  irememberdus@att.net

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Meet Linda Brendle, Author of “A Long and Winding Road: A Caregiver’s Tale of Life, Love, and Chaos”

CoverThe Accidental Author

by Linda Brendle

My goal in life was not to become a writer. I enjoyed writing when I was younger, and I toyed with the idea making a career of it until I received my first negative review from an English teacher. I don’t take criticism very well, and I took her comments very personally. Years later, though, after the sting of her rejection had faded, and especially when I became a caregiver, the need to express myself resurfaced. Continue reading

Meet Linda Jenkins, Author of “To Helen With Love: A Memoir of a Daughter’s Caregiving Journey”

Cover To Helen With Love_By Linda Jenkins

After five years in the making, writing this memoir has been one of the most intense endeavors I’ve ever taken on, but well worth it.

While I was writing this memoir I discovered how much pain I still had deep inside of me. Pain from some of the experiences. Pain from not knowing what or how to deal with dementia. Pain of not understanding what caregiving entails. Pain from dealing with the healthcare field. Finally, pain when it’s all over. Continue reading

Meet Suzka Collins, author of “Wonders in Dementialand”

BK-Dementialand-COVERBy Suzka Collins

Ah… the wonders I found living with my mother in Dementialand. It all started almost minutes after she was diagnosed with progressive dementia. The cause was meningitis encephalitis. There seemed to be no choice at the time. I had to leave my bohemian life in the art world in California to return to a Chicago suburb where my mom was living. I am a painter. This had all the markings of a disaster. Continue reading

Meet Karenna Wright, Author of “The Grapes of Dementia”

Wright_Grapes Book Coverby Karenna Wright

It used to be that nine months or so after a traditional wedding, couples would announce they were pregnant. Not with Alan and me.

Nine months after we were married, and before our first honeymoon year was over, we were instead adjusting to the symptoms of Alan’s newly diagnosed dementia.

He passed less than five years after that diagnosis. He was 67 years old, I was 59. Continue reading

Meet Gela-Marie Williams, author of “Green Vanilla Tea”

usa_green-vanilla-tea-cover-2By Gela-Marie Williams

I remember the evening my youngest son came through to me in my bedroom holding a rather dog-eared manuscript of Green Vanilla Tea. I had worked on this family story with my two boys over a few years. I’m not sure how many, exactly. We simply worked on it until we’d tussled with it enough and one day it was done. My son leaned against the doorframe, favouring one leg as his dad would have done. I remember Continue reading