Alzheimer’s, courage, and rhubarb: link notes

On getting Alzheimer’s… I resonate with Margaret Morganroth Gullette’s hopes in “Our Irrational Fear of Forgetting” that we make “cognition-related fear-mongering shameful and rare” but also with Alan Jacob’s response that perhaps fearing losses associated with Alzheimer’s disease isn’t as irrational as she suggests. (I also liked the comments at Jacob’s post and the further link to “The Human Face of Alzheimer’s.”)

I confess to anxiety around Alzheimer’s/dementia, which rises in me particularly when words and names go missing or I forget to do something obvious. In reading these articles and reflecting on my fear of getting the disease, it occurs to me that a big part of it concerns what my children may go through should it happen to me. And that, in turn, grows out of my experiences around my late father’s Alzheimer’s and the process I’m living now with my mother’s decline — milder than his so far, but significant cognitive decline nevertheless — and the way it changes, well, everything! I’m not navigating these things as smoothly as I wish, so I project that forward to what my children may encounter, IF… Ever the mother, I suppose. (Even though, as they say, the kids will be fine!)

Brave woman… Rachel Held Evans took on Mark Driscoll, and it did some good, at least she’s graciously taking it that way. But wouldn’t it be nice to have fewer flippant comments, fewer explanations, and some “real man” changes in his attitude?

Oh, just take a break and read fiction instead… Short shorts, if you like, four of mine, over at Rhubarb magazine. Or bake a rhubarb pie. Which I certainly would, if my oven hadn’t crashed on me, that is. Repair guy said they don’t make the broken part any more. “Go shopping,” he said, sounding way too gleeful. Links to appliance places next; sigh.

Feeling the fire

Believe me, I’ve been tempted to jump into the internet heat around Rob Bell’s latest book — apparently on hell — but no, this isn’t about those flames. (And if you haven’t already had enough of that topic, let me tip to two pastors of my denomination who have thoughts on it, here and here, or you may want to follow the links and commentary at Brian McLaren’s blog.)

This is about Tongue Screws and Testimonies: Poems, Stories, and Essays Inspired by the Martyrs Mirror (edited by Kristen Eve Beachy), a book I’ve spent a good number of hours reading the past weeks, more hours in fact than I usually spend on a book, because I’m reviewing it for Rhubarb. So I’ve been reading slowly, and taking notes. It’s been, at times, a surreal experience, reading of burnings and drownings and the other torments of the martyrs, and all the while the house so quiet and the weather so cold these days, the snow still thick , the sun bright, yes, but shining with a serene beneficence rather than heat. How far it all seems from the noise of those long ago public spectacles, and the rising flames and the rising songs (except, of course, when the tongue screws prevented them), though I’ve been stirred just the same, as I often am by words, such a diversity of them, some pulling me close to the fire, to feel it, others pushing me away, to consider what to think of it all.

The book offers a whole variety of responses to the Martyrs Mirror and its effects, ranging between adulation and critical resistance. I’ve got to save the details for the review, which  so far, is just an awful draft. But one fact is clear enough: it was very costly back in the time of the Anabaptist martyrs, to speak or act against the grain of accepted ideologies. So great was the trauma, it spawned a kind of silence. Mennonites became “the quiet in the land.” (“we wrapped our silence/ around a kernel of fear. This fear fed us…” from a poem by Sheri Hostetler.)

Well good thing we don’t burn or drown folks for their new or contrary ideas, not here, not now. Then again, there’s more than one way to turn up the heat. So maybe the words of  “the woman with the screw in her mouth,” in the poem quoted above, will encourage anyone who risks speaking and living their convictions, including Rob Bell. Says she, “The dying / was worth it, every pain. We were chosen to bring something new / into the world….”