Trip to Florida, Part II, An Amazing Author ConnectionPosted: November 25, 2017 | |
Once I made the decision to go to Florida, I felt a magnetic pull through the next several weeks of preparations. Jean Lee of AlzAuthors stayed in touch and shared details about flying, car rentals, the weather in Naples and what to expect.
I had originally planned to fly in and out of the Fort Lauderdale airport because it was inexpensive. But something niggled at me. A few weeks before the trip, I learned that my daughter had a basketball game the night I was planning to leave. I thought about my flight to Fort Lauderdale, and how I would be arriving at night. I could either stay in a hotel near the airport or drive across Alligator Alley, a desolate stretch of highway late at night.
I looked online and found an inexpensive flight to Fort Myers that would allow me to see my daughter’s game, arrive in Florida during the day and have a much shorter drive to Naples. The change in plans gave me peace. (And I learned later that my original flight was delayed for several hours, which would have had me arriving around midnight. I was so thankful I had made the change.)
My flight to Fort Myers was easy, and the drive to Naples gave me time to process the fact that I was suddenly in Florida. The landscape was much flatter than in North Carolina, and there were palm trees on the side of the road. Some of the architecture of the buildings had a Spanish flare, and many had red tile roofs like the home I’d once lived in.
When I arrived at Jean’s condo, she enfolded me in a hug and welcomed me with more warmth than I could have imagined. Up in the condo, I met Vicki and immediately felt a sisterhood with these women. And why not? They have each dedicated a part of their lives to caring for parents with dementia and, like me, they have written memoirs about those experiences.
We first met online, each of us working to promote our memoirs. I discovered Jean and Vicki through AlzAuthors, a blogsite that was created for those in need of books and resources about Alzheimer’s and dementia (something each of us had wanted but not had access to when our parents were ill). Several months after submitting a piece to AlzAuthors about my memoir, I was invited to join the management team which also includes Marianne Sciucco and Kathryn Harrison. I loved the idea of working together for a common cause.
Jean and Vicki invited me to sit outside with them on the lanai, and in the balmy breezes we began a conversation that would last throughout my visit, each of us sharing stories from our past and present, talking about writing, discussing AlzAuthors (which has grown to represent over 100 authors and books) and our unique caregiving connections. Our exchange felt seamless as we moved from one topic to another.
Before the sunset, we walked the few blocks to the beach. We set up chairs and continued talking as the sky evolved from blue into gold. We took photos of the ocean and asked beach walkers to take photos of the three of us. Each of us commented how it seemed as if we’d known each other forever. And we imagined our mothers looking down on us from above and smiling.
It’s hard to encapsulate what those few days together meant. Some people might question the idea of taking a risk, flying down to Florida to meet people I’d never met in person.
But to me, it never felt like a risk. I had worked with these women, read their stories, talked with them on Google Hangouts. I knew their hearts and admired them deeply before ever setting eyes on them in the flesh.
AlzAuthors is filled with women and men who understand both loss and deep caring. When a loved one develops dementia, it can be a shattering experience. It was to me. I didn’t know it would happen, and I didn’t know what to do once it did. But I didn’t stop loving my mother. And neither did Jean and Vicki.
Jean, Vicki and I felt as if we’d known each other all our lives.We had to rearrange the pieces of our lives, explore how to patch and mend the broken places. We still have jagged edges within us. But somehow it feels as if our hearts have grown, swollen with gratitude beyond what we ever expected. AlzAuthors holds both the pain and the gift of our experiences.
Coming soon….Part III: An Honorary AlzAuthor