“… the gap between compassion and surrender is love’s darkest, deepest region.”
–Orhan Pamuk, The Museum of Innocence
Once upon a time in the faraway land of my childhood, my mother held me on her lap in the rocking chair and read me nursery rhymes. When I got a little older she read me fairy tales. She gave me her childhood books, two I still have – Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses and The Arabian Nights. This latter is a big book, imaginatively illustrated in potent colors, bound in deep green, with a paste down illustration on the cover and smooth pages I love to run my hands over. She bought me the My Book House books, the 1937 edition — nursery rhymes, fairy tales and classics edited by Olive Beaupre Miller, a set of 12 books, graded for age and reading level, from Mother Goose to Shakespeare. Mother kept the books in their carton, buried in a closet, and periodically throughout the years she would give me one the next level up. When she wasn’t around, I excavated them and explored them on my own. I opened a book, rubbed my eyes and on the carpet of my imagination, I flew to distant lands and far-gone times, into the vivid pictures in the storytellers’ minds. I plugged dikes, lived in the Village of Cream Puffs, watched with James Watt the steam pressure raise the lid on his pot of boiling water and marveled at Paul Bunyon’s blue ox. I learned the mystery at the Moss-Covered Mansion and found out whom Mr. Rochester was keeping in his back room.
My father and his brother, my uncle, recounted funny anecdotes: When their parents went out for the evening, my father and their friend locked my uncle in the closet because he wouldn’t stop playing his saxophone; when their parents came home, my uncle, so angry, punched a notch in the door frame when they let him out. One year my father and uncle, teenagers, decided to keep the Christmas tree up until Washington’s birthday; then they put it in the fireplace. Flames shot halfway across the living room. “Tell us that story again,” we’d say, “about when … when you, Uncle Bob, took the family out for a Sunday drive in the black Packard, the one the chauffeur, because our grandfather didn’t drive, polished only the side facing the house when it was parked in the driveway, when you pulled up across the street from the drug store, said ‘I’ll be right back,’ went in, came out, and without saying a word, drove off. When later the family learned you had gone in and had an ice cream.”
What great fortune have I to come aground at this lifetime and encounter this treasure chest of stories, each story a precious gem.
Storytelling. Everybody has a story to tell. Storytelling is as old as humankind, handed down through generations. Historian and author Doris Kearns Goodwin said, “I am obsessed with the importance of story. The way we learn from parents and grandparents who pass stories on. Stories have a beginning, middle and an end. Something has meaning when you’re telling stories.”
I love telling stories. That’s why I write. I have been writing stories since I was very young. If I’m not writing, when I meet you I’ll tell you a story, anyway. I started this blog, then called “Salmon Salad and Mozart: A Dementia Caregiver’s Journal,” because I wanted to tell you the story of my mother Emma’s and my journey through her dementia. I wanted you to know you are not alone. I was Emma’s sole, unpaid, caregiver for a decade. Only in the end did we get the help we needed. Emma was finally released from her long suffering on April 11, 2012, at 97. Then, she flew away like one of the many beautiful butterflies she loved and painted in her watercolor images displayed in various forms, all over the house. Even her clothes had butterfly prints. If you are interested, you can read our story in my many blog posts here in the archives and in my two books, Begins the Night Music: A Dementia Caregiver’s Journal, Volume I and To What Green Altar: A Dementia Caregiver’s Journal, Volume II. You can buy my books by clicking on the icons in the sidebars. This will take you through to Amazon. If you do it this way, in addition to Amazon’s paying me a royalty on the sale, they pay me a small commission.
Five months into writing my blog I suspected that someone was visiting my blog, padding around in the alcoves, chambers, catwalks and labyrinths – in the latter, among whom Stephen King calls the boys in the basement – of my blog and I did not know you were here. You were here watching me. I could hear the floor creak, a muffled chuckle, smell nutmeg. You were here learning and knowing all about me while I knew nothing about you, because you did not leave your calling card, your comment. I knew then there was a Phantom of My Blog. Then one day I was up on the catwalk, getting an overview of the action when the Phantom of My Blog came up behind me and nudged me over the edge. I grabbed hold of a rope in the fly system. Not being much for rope climbing, I slid rapidly down to the knot at the end and got rope burn on the palms of my hands. At the end of my rope, I determined I had to let go and fall where I may….
Healthcare personnel for Emma were often unreliable and incommunicative. Often they left me stranded. When I let go of the end of my rope, I seemed to have landed amidst of a heap of backdrops. It was hard to know which scene I was in, what my role was; moreover, when I recited my lines, my audience did not comprehend. I thought I was speaking English to an English-speaking audience. I recognized the futility of becoming the director of my own play; I had made one hundred false starts, to quote F. Scott Fitzgerald, always interrupted by a change in scene.
Since then, the Phantom has appeared in various scenes in my blog; he hangs fresh headers, sweeps up spam, doesn’t dust, plays the banjo and has a black fluffy dog named Dickens. The Phantom’s name is Moriarty.
Over the months since Emma’s passing, I have transitioned this blog into “The Scheherazade Chronicles.” The Scheherazade Chronicles is dedicated to human interest and to the development and support of storytelling and to raising awareness of and promoting access to the humanities for the edification and elevation of the consciousness of humankind.
Please … come in, make yourself at home. Pour yourself a glass of wine, sit with Moriarty and me in the light of the candle at the round table, listen to the music in the right sidebar player, climb up the winding staircase to the cupola and from the windows survey our tall grass meadow down to the stream and the woods beyond. Maybe you’ll catch a glimpse of the blue deer; they have become a small herd now, an uncommon herd.