Interview with Author Elaine C. Pereira
My guest today is Elaine C. Pereira. Hello, Elaine! Welcome to Writing in the Modern Age! It’s such a pleasure to have you.
Can you tell us a little bit about your latest book? When did it come out? Where can we get it?
Sadly her story is not unique as Alzheimer's cases continue to increase and rob us of our loved ones. My mom was a great mom, not unlike all great moms except that she was mine! It was critically important that my mother be remembered for the amazing persona that defined her and not the dementia ravaged victim that ended her.
Can you tell us a little bit about your latest book? When did it come out? Where can we get it?
I Will Never Forget: A Daughter's Story of Her Mother's Arduous and Humorous Journey Through Dementia is the title of the book. I Will Never Forget is my debut book. It came out just last year, in May 2012. It is available through Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, the publisher iUniverse bookstore and through my web site at www.IWillNeverForgetBook.com . My memoir chronicles my mother's tragic but at times also funny journey through dementia.
Is there anything that prompted your latest book? Something that inspired you?
My mother’s is a story that needed to be told. She was a kind, brilliant and talented lady who was transformed into an agitated, paranoid person as dementia moved in consuming bits and pieces of her memory. Rapidly Mom dissolved into a delusional, dependent and nearly incoherent woman no longer capable of self-care tasks as Alzheimer’s insatiable appetite for brain cells pretzel-twisted her gray matter.
When did you know you wanted to write? Or has it always been a pastime of yours?
I have never journaled; I'm more of a talker, especially for stress release. Given mom's rapid decline as she slipped farther into dementia's dark haze, her communication waned as well as her alertness. During my reflective time driving out and back as well sitting quietly in her room, I started writing down the flood of ideas bouncing around in my head about every event I had enjoyed as a child growing up. What probably began as a cathartic expression of both love and grief over her impending death, eventually evolved into a finished memoir.
So, do you write in a specific place? Time of day?
During much of the writing process I camped out in the kitchen near the heat vent and juggled my lap top as my affection-starved kitty negotiated for some coveted lap time too. Some days I wrote furiously all day and sometimes I stared at the blinking arrow and gave up.
Are there any words you'd like to impart to fellow writers? Any advice?
Given that this is my debut book and writing one has never been on my bucket list, the best I can do to advise aspiring writers is to write what you find passionate, what speaks to you. Thriller? Romance? Survivor Story? If you find that something intrigues you, pursue that line and see where it goes.
Good advice, Elaine.
Well, readers, here is the blurb for I Will Never Forget.
I Will Never Forget is the exquisite story of the author’s kind and talented mother Betty’s extraordinary and sometimes humorous journey through Dementia. Through superb stories of Elaine’s childhood, from her controversial name, tales of smokin’ dragons, the feisty teenage years and a near paralyzing accident, her mother’s wonderful character is revealed. As their mother-daughter relationship evolves and a new paradigm is formed, Elaine begins to witness bizarre and irrational behaviors in her mother; paranoia, flashes of hostility, illogical thinking and defiance. Eventually Elaine witnesses an explosion of events over something as innocuous as a drapery rod that affirms Betty’s unquestionable need to be moved into a more secure environment.
Despite a strikingly brisk decline, Elaine relishes in Betty's dazzling visions of her own mother and witnesses her stunning rally to take control of her own destiny. After an unsuccessful but masterful Houdini-like escape, Elaine accompanies her mother down a one-way journey as her brilliant mind is slowly destroyed by Dementia's insatiable appetite for brain cells.
And here are some selections from I Will Never Forget.
- My mom was planning to stay at my house for three nights, December 23—26. The firstclue that things were a little amiss was when I saw her rummaging through her suitcase. She was “looking for something” but couldn’t tell me what. I saw that she had packed six bras and maybe eight pair of underwear but no extra socks.· We finished the rest of the cooking project together. I was becoming very conscious of the fact that she could not read and execute a direction any longer. It was mind numbing! This woman had taught high school calculus and now couldn’t read a simple amount like “a half cup of milk” and know what to get out or how much to pour. Later I also noticed that she could follow only one verbal direction reliably. When it came time to set the table, she was fine if I only asked her to put out the plates or spoons.· Mom had gotten lost going to her dentist’s office, which was only one mile west of her apartment. She had wandered perhaps twenty miles in the opposite direction. She wrote nine checks to her car insurance company because she couldn’t remember writing even one. These were not just quirky, odd behaviors but bells and whistles, signs indicative of my mom's very real, very serious underlying dementia. I was finally starting to really see, hear, and step up to handle the problems.· In October 2009, the monthly lunches ceased when Mom stopped driving. Mom e-mailed me that she and her college friend weren’t getting together for lunch anymore, but she never explained why. It would be a few more years before I would learn the whole truth.· Unfortunately, I was part of the problem. I saw my mom as a glass half full, mostly together except for some episodes of disorientation when, in fact, she was more half empty with fleeting moments of lucidity. I wasn’t seeing the day-to-day blunders, errors in judgment, outbursts, confusion, obsession, and paranoia, just to name a few.· But as the adult, the nebulous abyss of being a parent to your parent is a delicate responsibility. Balancing respect and autonomy and naturally expecting them to be accurate when they tell you, “I’ll be fine” is a daunting challenge. Somewhere deep down, you know it’s not true. They are no longer “fine.”· The Italian side of my husband favored family caring for family. It was admirable but misguided in this situation. My mom talked openly about quality-of-life issues. Although she embraced Catholic values and would not advocate proactive measures to end her life, she was adamant about not prolonging it either. I, on the other hand, would have preferred a shot of heart stopping Digoxin rather than endure the confusion and terror that Mom was yet to experience.· I couldn't help but consider that her dementia-riddled mind was trying to assemble a puzzle, without a clue as to finished picture, from random pieces belonging to a thousand different puzzle boxes.· My thoughts were like ping-pong balls smashing at lightning speed, ricocheting against the inside of my skull with contradictory ideas.· When Mom wanted something from the local store, she wouldn’t wait for a driver. She was so adamant about her independence that she walked the mile-long round trip to Walgreens, maneuvering around the massive road construction equipment. Somehow, she managed to find her way back to Friendship Village but then couldn’t get inside the building. She crawled through the shrubs and banged on the windows until someone let her in.· Mom would never get better. All I could do was be there for every step of her journey through hell and pray that was enough. She deserved better; everyone did. She deserved to go out with her boots on, not have her mind chipped and chiseled away piece by piece.· Dementia is devious, indiscriminate, and ruthless, invading the mind and distorting fiction into one’s reality.· Not long after New Year’s, I was reviewing with Mom the 2011 calendar and the girls’ impending birthdays on January 14. From out of nowhere, she said, “I told God I was ready to go anytime.” Her frank comment had me scrambling for an appropriate comeback. “And what did He say?” I asked. “Oh, you know, He doesn’t really answer you.”· It had been a genuine honor for me to give back to her after she had given so much to me. Just as my mom had said “I have no regrets” about the care she selflessly provided to my dad, I was proud to say that I had no regrets either. “The dead are not buried in the ground but in our hearts. They will be there for you when you need them.” (Paraphrased from The Count of Monte Cristo by Alfred Dumas. Read at the memorial service on November 26, 2011, in Rochester, MI.)Author BioElaine C. Pereira, MA OTR/L CDP CDCAuthor. Speaker. Certified Dementia Practitioner & Caregiver
Within a few years author Elaine C. Pereira was forced to cope with the deaths of her father, sister-in-law, brother and mother. But the most difficult challenge of these live-changing events was the time spent as a caregiver when her mother struggled with and eventually surrendered to dementia.
A native of Kalamazoo, Michigan, Elaine and husband Joe have lived in Southeast Michigan where they worked and raised a family of five. Pereira was an occupational therapist for Taylor Public Schools where she was responsible for the assessment and therapeutic intervention of identified special needs children, working to improve perceptual fine motor skills, self-care abilities, handwriting, and sensory issues. Before working for Taylor Schools, Elaine was an OT for Northville Schools, Oakwood Hospital, some 10 years in Home Health Care, and private practice. After 30 years as an OT, she retired in 2010.When not working and writing, Pereira enjoys travelling, golf, sewing, cross stitch, handcrafts and gardening. She spent six weeks backpacking in Europe and Israel, and has travelled to Australia, Seoul, Korea, Hong Kong, Italy, and Wiesbaden, Germany.Pereira earned a BS in Occupational Therapy in 1974 from Wayne State University and a Master of Arts in Family and Consumer Resources from Wayne State in 1980.
2012 Finalist Best New Non-Fiction USA Book Awards & The Hollywood Book2013 Winner of The National Indie Excellence Award in The Aging Category2013 Finalist LuckyCinda Book Contest
Website: www.IWillNeverForgetBook.comTwitter: @Elaine ColetteOther Links:
Audio Interview: Jerry Kenney interview WYSO Ohio 4/27/13Maria Shriver The Story Behind the PoemSubtle Signs of Mother's Dementia on The Alzheimer's Reading RoomBest of Aging Review: http://www.bestofaging.com/article/the-best-of-the-best.html
What a heartbreaking, but amazing story, Elaine. Thank you so much for your time with us on Writing in the Modern Age.