Community//

Excerpts from Like Falling Through a Cloud: A Lyrical Memoir of Coping with Forgetfulness, Confusion, and a Dreaded Diagnosis

CBS Sunday Morning's classical music correspondent and world renowned flutist opens up about her diagnosis with Alzheimer's

A few years ago my daughters told me they were worried about my forgetfulness, my loss of words, my confusion. They suggested, or rather insisted I get tested. A flutist, writer, artistic director, busy playing and performing, I simply refused. But when I finally agreed to trek uptown with my younger daughter I was tested. I was shocked that indeed my cognitive ability was compromised and would only get worse. I was quietly terrified and indignant, and when I got home, I went to sat down at my desk and stared at the wall for what seemed a long time. I did not cry. I did not move. But then, for some reason I took out a pen and paper and started to write. What spilled out is mostly in verse. Putting pen to paper helped me to find my own way through the brambles of loss.

What resulted is my book, a lyrical memoir titled Like Falling Through a Cloud: A Lyrical Memoir of Coping with Forgetfulness, Confusion, and a Dreaded Diagnosis

Here are three poems I’ve chosen from Like Falling Through a Cloud to which I’ve included an intro to each:

BACK  

I think this poem speaks to the confusion and fear I was actually feeling in a hot crowded subway as I realized I had no idea to find my way out of the underground station. I remember having a mix of panic and self anger. “How can you be so stupid,” I remember telling myself. Yet I believe I was oddly poised and when I emerged from the station and I was able to compose myself and walk home, cooling calmly off.

I’ve returned to the city

            where everyone is busy

                 and scurrying

                        and worrying

and it’s late summer

            subways are crowded and hot

   folks are sweating a lot

 and the trains are

       always late

and some man gets up

 to offer me his seat

  which is sweet

      if somehow insulting

here’s my stop

     I’m attempting to exit

I push             my way out

  doors close behind

    but  when I look up at a sign…

            this stop

                        is

                                    not

                                                mine  

                        And worse

I’m totally turned around and can’t figure out

            do I need to go back uptown

or change to the downtown track and how do

                        I do that

            FIGURE IT OUT, BIRDBRAIN

             I wander around the station

            looking for an exit, any exit           

            JUST GET ME OUT OF HERE

there!

      stairs!

            I stagger up

                        until I’m out

                              above ground

Out of breath

            having arrived

                        survived

A walk home will be good

            I need to get my bearings

                but I won’t be sharing

            the story of my panic or pretty soon

                                    I’ll be forced to wear

                                       a lovely bracelet

                                       inscribed:

                              MEMORY IMPAIRED

————————————————————————————–

GETTING IT TOGETHER 

Here I am trying to be responsible, thinking about what I should be doing to get ready to leave my worldly goods to my family by going to my banker. At the same time I was imagining the idea my husband and I concocted, in a kidding mode, that we would put on deer suits, go out on the first day of hunting, and wait to meet our fates… hoping of course that the hunters would know how to shoot straight.

I’ve made a date

with my

banker

because I hanker

to know where things stand

when it comes to what I’ll hand

to my next of kin

so I should begin

to keep track of stuff

to see if there is enough

to pass around

when I’m under the ground

I’m not being dramatic

but I can no longer be static

about what lies ahead

when I’m dead

which oddly I do not dread

              instead

I want to avoid leaving a mess

for the family to assess

I’d like them to say

she left it this way

to keep trouble at bay

and to avoid a fray

I don’t expect to croak

at midnight’s stroke

but I don’t want to be

one hundred and three

which my mother’s achieved

I will stick with the plan

I’ve made with my man –

when the time seems right

we will have the delight

of donning deer suits

on the first day of hunting

and we’ll go out in the fields

and wait

      to meet our fates —

  only I  hope

   the hunters  know how to

shoot

      s

t

      r a   

i

   g

h  

     t

IN ORDER TO PROMOTE TRANQUILITY AND CERTAINTY    

                  WHEREAS

The parties were married to one another in a civil ceremony

                WHEREAS

as a result of their marriage the Parties wish by this agreement to

define their rights and interests in one another’s property; and

                 WHEREAS

each of the Parties has been informed of his/her rights and privileges in and to the property of the other under the laws…and each understands that under law their marriage confers specific rights upon each of them; and

                 WHEREAS

in order to promote tranquility and certainty…the Parties desire to define and limit by the Agreement the interests, rights and claims which accrue to each of them in the property of the other by reason of their marriage to each other; and…

                 WHEREAS

If the parties are wearing  their respective deer suits and each has donned their

respective antlers, then each understands that the rights and claims of the other

will be null and void if  he or she should be the receiver of the first bullet; and

                WHEREAS

 as a result of being the first receiver it will not matter diddly squat

                  who gets what

              but let it be noted

that the certainty of  tranquility will have been perfectly promoted.

————————————————————————————–

A SUPER SUNNY SUNDAY

Here I am on a spring afternoon reveling in the beauty and bounty of nature.

Almost August

       and the tomatoes are bulging

on their vines

          the flowers continue

to burst toward the sky

     in colors that astound

while on the ground

           our once hearty kale

      has been ripped out by rabbits

who attack at dawn

     and are gone

                   in a flash

leaving the crop tattered and torn

           Nothing lasts forever

not kale or tomatoes or cucumbers

   or the glorious flowers that fill our fields

      or the people we adore

        and though I know my days are numbered

       I feel unencumbered

          by thoughts of my demise

             I do not embrace

             my inevitable decline

          but I’m determined

                  to find

       a way to make the rest of my stay

           on this problematic planet

                 filled with light

                    and love

                        and

                    music

As for the deer suit I promised to don

      I don’t think I’ll put it on

not now     not yet

    I’m not ready

               I feel steady

   and I have a strategy to keep on keeping on 

                 which is simple:

      wake up

            fetch the flute

                   summon up Syrinx

          give thanks for another day

                   and then

            play on!

                  play on!   

                     play on!

    The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres. We publish pieces written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Learn more or join us as a community member!
    Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

    You might also like...

    Community//

    Breast Cancer Warriors

    by Diana Raab, PhD
    Community//

    When Loss Changes Everything …

    by Alison Moore
    Community//

    Memoirs & The Pandemic

    by Helene Shalotsky

    Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

    Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

    Thrive Global
    People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

    - MARCUS AURELIUS

    We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.