My father is slipping into to dementia.  My mother is riddled with arthritis and now zooming into dementia too.  They are terribly vulnerable and I, along with my sisters, am their primary caregiver.  My husband’s mother aging aging too.  We lost his father a few years ago.  It is fair to say that this is turning our lives upside down.

For me, writing is sometimes my salvation. So, I have started this page simply called Dementia – partly because sometimes I feel like I am the one with dementia. I hope it will help others who are in this place. Perhaps, eventually it will become a collection.

Janie Wilson

Love Buzz

Two pieces of sizzly, juicy quiche
Nose to nose on a plate
Waiting to be devoured
Two steaming cups of coffee
So much better than one

Two people cuddled up together for a time
In a warm cozy bed
As dawn breaks on the first
Chilly morning of fall
So much better than one

Two mourners
One sitting at her mother’s graveside
Holding her father’s hand
One standing above her
Gently rubbing her shoulders as she weeps
So much better than one

Two lovers sitting out on the back patio
After the obituary and the service is written
And the sisters are gone
Gazing up at the Harvest Moon
Listening to love songs
So much better than one

(c) Jane Ellen Holliday Wilson
October 2017

The Ladies at the Happy Table

The ladies at the happy table are not themselves tonight. One of them passed on last Saturday.

She went down pretty suddenly—dehydration; a trip to the hospital; back to her room at the retirement center for a day or two, and then she was just gone.

They are somber, quiet, all in pastels tonight. The weight of their own, not too distant, futures hangs heavy on them, dragging their usual gaiety down into their plates of uneaten food.

It’s not just the specter of imminent demise that’s got them. They just plain miss her. They knew she was kooky, but it was in the cutest way. She war her hair jet-black to the very end (but for the unseen white roots along the cowlick in back of her head). And there was not one single pastel item in her wardrobe—no ma’am—that hair always sat atop a veritable July flower garden of fabric winter, spring, summer or fall.

They just can’t believe she is gone. If she could go so easily—so quickly—which one of them will be next? They look around the table silently and conjecture, wondering what’s worse—to go suddenly, with such little pain; or to be sitting here slightly more alone each day, more isolated from the world, more focused on whether or not the dinner is edible.

Because frankly there is not much more to entertain you in this place. Amazing how the relative temperature of the tomato soup can become such high drama in the life of a former emergency room nurse, mother of six, college professor, CPA.

I know these things because Daddy’s dementia has progressed beyond the constant chatter stage into the occasional inappropriate comment stage. And Momma has pretty much stopped talking, or eating, or hearing much at all.

And it generally only takes me about the first 10 minutes of our endless Monday night dinner ritual for me to tell them the only parts of my life that they can comprehend anymore.

So watching the ladies at the happy table has become a major component of my salvation during these affairs.

Only, tonight my thoughts are giving way to which cliff in the Blue Ridge Mountains I am going to throw myself off of at around age 79.

I don’t think I have these ladies’ courage—or my own parents’ for that matter—to stick it out to the ugly end.

© Jane Ellen Holliday Wilson June 2017

Gigantic Feet

A little girl
Once learned to dance
While standing on
His gigantic feet

He whirled her
Around and around the room
As she giggled down to
Her own tiny toes

Numb now
These immense and precious plinths
Are devoid of feeling
Of any kind

No matter this unnerving truth
No dearth of sensation
Resides in his heart
Nor hers

© Jane Ellen Holliday Wilson 2016

Arise, Sing, Tis Easter

She used to make:

• The ham biscuits
• The green beans
• The deviled eggs
• The potato salad
• The fruit salad
• The coconut cake
• The sweet tea

• The Easter Baskets

Now her energy is spent:

• Preparing the pimento cheese sandwiches
(Store bought pimento cheese this time
No longer her own special recipe)

• Dressing her husband and getting
Him into my sister’s shiny black car
(Once her own when she could still drive)

• And finding the courage
To climb the eight steps to my door
(Every one an effort)

She arrives dressed
In lovely lavender and smile

Easter has come, yet one more precious time

© Jane Ellen Holliday Wilson
Easter 2016


Where is my white lace?
I am Aliza

My breath is your breath
My consumptive lungs—your lungs
My broken heart—your heart

My son is dying slowly
One brain cell at a time

You may think him your father
I know him to be your child
I had to leave him alone so long ago
My baby boy of five

Take care of him
My son, your father


Indeed where is your white lace, Aliza?
Never met grandmother of mine.

Breath of my breath
Your lungs—now my lungs, free and clear
My beating heart—your heart

My father is dying slowly
One brain cell at a time

You may think him my child
I know him to be my father
We will not leave him alone this time
Your baby boy, now 85

I—you—we will care for him together as one
My father, your son.

© Jane Ellen Holliday Wilson
March 2016


It is dusk
I drive east from the
Retirement community
And think to myself alone,
“I am floundering.”

Do flounder actually flounder?
Or is it only a human thing,
This floundering?

I have seen a flounder
Fighting for her life
On the end of my fishing line
Wobbling, wiggling fretfully
This, I think, is different

(Or is it) from the
Floundering I am participating
In this evening

Struggling, staggering
To find my way
Wondering if I will ever find
The next place
The right words

The calmer
More settled state of being
Balanced, satisfied

These are the things I am longing for
As the sun sets behind me
It is in fear that the flounder
Wiggles and writhes
Wasting precious energy

Protesting the sudden upheaval
Of her circumstance
From her comfortable watery home

Different from my predicament
(Or is it?) Is this what I am doing too?
Chasing after some tasty morsel I cannot define
I discover myself hanging from an irresistible line
Chafing at the hook

November 2, 2015

It’s So Easy To Dismiss Him

It’s so easy to dismiss him now,
This man whose mind betrays him.
This man once full of vibrant energy

Of hand-holding devotion
Of physical long-tall presence
Of booming lyric voice
Of cross-country travels

Who now sits, most days
Quietly on the sofa
Only rising to tend
His beloved bird feeders
Waiting for a visitor.

He struggles to communicate these days
His brow wrinkled in concentration,
Trying to process the smallest of things.
He forgets to eat, so he has grown
Quite thin.

A phone call home won’t detect
This lonely lost-ness
Now that he lets his wife
Do all the talking.

It’s only when you come for a visit
And you ask him,
“Daddy, would you like to go
For a ride in the car?”

That this gentle, polite man
Lets you know how hard this is.

“Oh please, can I go?
I’d give anything to
Get out of this place.”

May, 2015

Dementia 2 – Love Stories

Love Story 1

His fire is fading
He tires easily
His feet betray him

He can’t remember
Why we will no longer
Allow him to drive

But he can still give
Great big hugs
And sloppy kisses

And he can still
Tell me he loves me
In is chocolaty rich
Deep dark voice

These things he does
Every time

Every time I see him

They are the extravagance
The legacy
The security of my father’s
Gifts to me

It’s no wonder I can’t resist them.

Love Story 2

Why don’t you come?

You have to come!

For the “I love you”s,
For the hugs,
And the kisses.

Do you not understand this?
Do you not grasp their richness?
How will you miss them
When they are gone
If you are not here today?

Am I to suffer this joy alone?

With whom will I share these
Vestiges of our father’s love
When they are no longer
No longer hearable,

But only glimmers
In the heart
To hold on to him by?

Good Morning

I considered staying in this morning,
What with the autumnal chill
And the drizzly, mistiness.

And people all around me staring down the darkness —
A heart gone a flutter,
A cancer revealing its fangs,
A precious mind all a scramble.

It seemed a good day to take a break from the outside world.

But my coat was on, my cup of tea in hand,
And out I went.

I found the forest so quiet now
In its duo-chrome greys and browns —
A penetrating comfort somehow.

There, on the wooden bridge
I merged with the out of doors.

Squirrel was about,
Scampering along the railing.
She is becoming used to me now,
Even touchingly curious.

I rested. I prayed. I emptied my cares,
Drinking in this coming winter.

Then, just as I was turning to leave,
Bald eagle rounded the bend.

Easing into the cove,
She dipped an understanding wing
And flew off on her way.

Leaving me nourished
For the coming day.

December 9,2014

The Phone

He has lost his phone
He is afraid to tell me
He tells my sister though

I meet his eye
“Daddy, have you lost your phone?”
“I have.”

Beautiful blue eyes fill with tears
And so do mine.

“It happens to the best of us,”
I manage to say

And he is the best of us.

November 20, 2014

He is fading away

We meet early to go to the doctor
Me in the drivers seat, he the passenger
So odd for me and the man who
Has driven me everywhere —
Home from the hospital;
Family vacations across the country;
Off to college

We reach the office and he asks
Why are we here?
I hold his hand and explain again
This is about your memory daddy
Sweetly. Bravely he says
Oh, ok I do have a problem with that

Sir I’m afraid your problem is severe
Altzhimers is mentioned
You need supervision
And you really mustn’t drive

His head droops
Finally in this long journey
That is just beginning
He grasps this.
His heart is broken
And we cry

November 2014

Sweet Jasmine and Grassy Toes

Ancient farmhouse
Flanked by hollies
Sweet scented jasmine arbor
At the gate
Thick green grassy summertime

Daddy making deep
Mossy paths with the
Push mower

Me with my round
Four-year-old belly
Dancing along
Behind him

Breathing in the
Deep green aroma,
The bright clear day
The hint of jasmine

Staining my toes
And loving him
He turns to scold me,
“Don’t get too close.”
But I catch the hint of
A tender smile

Perhaps this is why now,
So many years hence

I must start each day
With jasmine tea,

Whenever I can,

Run my toes through
Fresh cut grass.

August 14, 2014

He Will Always Be

Mossy maiden friend.

Makes me smile
When I am sad.

Reminding me that
Daddy will always
Be with me
Here in the
Woodsy woods.

March 21, 2014

His Vision Fails Him – or – Is It Mine?

He wants to clean
Out his garage.

Should I let him?

I keep telling him,
“No – No – No you can’t.”

He’ll bring those old
Knives back in the
House and try to
Keep them.
I just know he will.

And here I can almost
See the light at the
End of this endless tunnel
Of closing up the old place.

But who am I to
Deny him this?

An old man? Yes.
But a young soul too –
Just trying to breathe in
A little more fire before
The flames go dim.

February 26, 2014


crippled hands cutting
ribbon for the wedding brunch
a purpose again
joy seeps back into her soul
bubbling over into mine

July 2013

A New Way

Her age, at last arresting pretense,
She acknowledged
Her daughter’s pain,
And faced her own.

Finally, she could tell the truth,
And let herself
Hear it as well.
Leaving behind

The wretched pain of pretending.
Opening for both
A new way to
To love each other.

July 2013The Ladies at the Happy Table

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