Tangles: a Story about Alzheimer's, my Mother and Me / Sarah Leavitt
Peterborough, ON: Broadview Press, c2010.
When the author's lively, clever mother starting showing signs of forgetfulness, her family thought it was probably just stress or overwork or something like that; sadly, it was the beginnings of a diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer's.
This fearful situation is honestly and lovingly described in Sarah Leavitt's words and pictures. The art is very basic -- line drawings, sketches -- but it captures the charming silliness and connection of this family. Somehow the very simple drawing allows for the story to emerge more strongly.
Sarah lives far away from her family's home, so is only there part of the time, while her father and sister are more full on caretakers. This means that she sees the changes more startlingly when she does get home. Her mother Midge was an active educator, involved in curriculum design and innovations, and cared deeply about social issues. She changes dramatically, as anyone familiar with the effects of Alzheimer's will recognize -- not only memory but personality changes are she becomes fearful and distrustful. The change is clearly shown, with sorrow and love, and yes, some rage as well.
Sarah's partner Donimo comes home with her as well, and that relationship is examined here too. They both care for Midge, in one particularly difficult scene, Sarah worries that because she is a lesbian people might think that her physical care she provides for her mother is not 'right' somehow. It's sad that this was a valid worry for her amongst all the others they were facing.
The emotional effect of this story is powerful, and makes it well worth reading for the narrative alone. Leavitt gives a sense of the results of a diagnosis like this on a whole family, not only the one suffering from Alzheimer's. It's hard to read, and terrifying, and very sad. But it's also beautiful.