Monday, February 28, 2011

French Fries, Ice Cream, & Cucumber Sandwiches: A Poetic Memoir of a Journey with Alzheimer's


Nell Dale
CreateSpace (2010)
ISBN 9781452880396
Reviewed by Richard R. Blake for Reader Views


In her book "French Fries, Ice Cream, & Cucumber Sandwiches" Nell Dale captures the essence of the roller coaster of emotions faced by the victims and caregivers of those facing the afflictions of Alzheimer's disease.


In brilliant patterns of poetic verse Nell describes her journey through the havoc and confusion brought about by the ominous diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease. Her poems relate the progression of her husband Al's cognitive decline. In vivid word pictures she tells of how she went through the stages of denial, loneliness, and of experiencing grief as she experienced the slow loss of her loved one…living but "gone."


Nell speaks of Al's unyielding need for complete attention. She shares keen observations on the unexpected, unpredictable and emotionally draining demands on the caregiver. Nell's willingness to become vulnerable by expressing her deepest thoughts and emotions add another level of credibility to her writing. Her journal entries and poems reveal an amazing spirit of gratitude and a positive attitude in the midst of the various stages of her journey. Throughout the narrative a mutual love and devotion between Nell and Al demonstrate the strength given and received as new challenges are met head on.

A fellow traveler with Nell, I am a caregiver in process. I am reminded of the need to maintain a healthy perspective, to avoid burnout by asking for help, and to accept the challenge a step at a time.


In a moving tribute to Al, Nell encapsulates highlights of his life by using dozens of photographs. They reflect his academic and career accomplishments, as a scientist, as well as his love for life and family. These color pictures add a significant depth to the reality of the impact of Alzheimer's on his life journey.


In this brilliantly written memoir Nell Dale shares insights into her own life as she faces each new challenge of Al's relapse into "childhood." She tells of her faith, her work, her family, and of caring for Al three years in their home. She relates the story of discovering Barton House and of the loving care Al received while a resident. Their story is heartwarming and compassionate. Though unique, it is representative of the growing number of families who are and will be facing Alzheimer's and other dementia related diseases.


"French Fries, Ice Cream, & Cucumber Sandwiches" is a powerful memoir.  Al's life is a tribute to all victims of this dread disease. Nell's story is an inspiration to every brave caregiver and those supporters who help them along the journey.

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