Last month a few readers encouraged me to pick-up a copy of One Hundred Names for Love by Diane Ackerman. It’s an incredibly touching memoir about Diane and her husband Paul West. The memoir describes Paul’s stroke and it’s also a moving story about love, caregiving, creativity, and how the brain can be rewired. The book opened up my mind and made me realize that it is possible for my dad to recover from his stroke. On Monday, I talked to my editor about a few chapters I’m revising for my book. As we talked, I told him that all I can think about, other than book edits, is my dad’s well-being. He's never far from my mind. Every time I write or talk about him, my voice shakes and tears bubble up in my eyes.
Even though I’m sad about the stroke, I’ll probably look back on this time as one of the happiest periods of my life. As the year moves forward I’ll be spending a week out of every month in Red Bluff, with mom, helping her taking care of my dad. If I had a big fancy job, I wouldn’t be able to help with caregiving. Sure, I might have more money to throw at the problem but I wouldn’t have time. And as Ackerman noted in her book, time is a sweet luxury that you never get back.
To remind me of the wisdom Ackerman shares I wrote down pages of inspiring quotes, from One Hundred Names for Love, in my journal. Below are a few of my favorite quotes in no particular order.
1. “. . . words are the passkeys to our souls. Without them, we can't really share the enormity of our lives.”
2. “Couples are jigsaw puzzles that hang together by touching just enough points. They’re never total fits or misfits.”
3. “Disassociating, mindfulness, transcendence - whatever the label - it’s a sort of loophole in our contract with reality, a form of self-rescue.”
4. “ . . . I went to a windowed alcove just beyond the Rehab Unit doors and wept. Out of shame that I couldn’t fix things, and out of grief. I’d never before had to mourn for someone who was still alive.”
5. “The more complex our words, the more layered our story, the more refined our understanding. Some grains of knowing are only possible when placed through the sieve of carefully arranged words.”
6. “Faith is a liquor that comes in various strengths and is often flavored by chance.”
7. “Stroke changes everyone in a family. I began noticing with surprise how caregiving can reduce one to a role rather than a relationship.”
8. “Laughter is a wonderful elixir, and it can be hard to find in the shadow of misfortune.”
9. “Time, that sweet luxury, and the close ties it inspires, usually happens in college, when days move slowly around similar events.”
10. “ . . . caregiver. That word should weigh more than others on a page, sag it down a bit and wrinkle it, because the simple-sounding job frazzles as it consumes and depletes. Not that it’s only gloomy. Caregiving offers many fringe benefits, including the sheer sensory delight of nourishing and grooming, sharing, and playing . . . But caregiving does button hole you; your stitched in place.”
11. “A caregiver is changed by the culture of illness, just as one is changed by the dynamic era in which one lives.”
If you’re looking for a book to inspire you, I highly recommend One Hundred Names for Love. It’s heartfelt, informative, and engaging.