The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, September 17, 2010

Opinions

Still time to vote your choice for Carlisle’s Community Read

Carlisle residents still have time to pick a book for Cover to Cover 2011, Carlisle’s Community Read, but time is running out. Five books have been nominated for this third annual read, and with only five days left to cast your vote – deadline is end of the day, Tuesday, September 21 – you need to act now. You can register your vote in person at the Gleason Public Library or on the Internet at www.gleasonlibrary.org. The book that is chosen for the Community Read may then be obtained at the library. A list of events taking place in January will be published online and in the Mosquito.

Here are your choices for Cover to Cover 2011, two books of fiction and three of non-fiction:

Tinkers by Paul Harding. An old man who is dying, a repairer of clocks, travels back in time to his impoverished New England childhood where he is reunited with his father, the world of clocks, the beauty of nature in the backwoods of Maine, and generations of his family. This is the first novel by the author, who resides in the Boston area. It was winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction this year.

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. This work of fiction, considered by many to be a masterpiece, depicts the lives of the men in Alpha Company fighting in the Vietnam War. We learn how they battled the enemy and occasionally each other. We view their isolation and loneliness, their rage and fear. They miss their families, their girlfriends and buddies and their lives back home. On this 35th anniversary marking the end of the Vietnam War, might there be similarities with what is going on now in the war we are waging in Afghanistan?

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. Why do some people succeed? According to Gladwell, factors include culture, family, birth month, and just being at the right place at the right time. There is also the 10,000-hour rule for the practice it takes to get really good at a difficult skill. Some examples used in this book are the secrets of software billionaires and junior hockey players, why certain cultures are associated with better academic performance, and what made it possible for the Beatles to earn their fame.

Couldn’t Keep It to Myself by Wally Lamb. Lamb conducted a writer’s workshop for a group of female inmates of Connecticut’s York Correctional Institution. In this book these women describe in their own words how they were imprisoned by abuse, rejection, and their own self-destructive impulses long before finding themselves behind bars. These writers tell their stories of hope and healing and how they left victimhood behind. In his introduction, Lamb movingly describes how these women, through their writing, gained self-awareness and were able to work toward living a better life.

Zeitoun by Dave Eggers. Although the author did not experience Hurricane Katrina himself, he tells it through the eyes of Zeitoun, a Syrian-born painting contractor who lived through this tragedy. Zeitoun decides to remain behind in New Orleans to protect his property, while his wife and four children flee. He uses a small canoe to rescue people and animals and deliver supplies to the needy before being arrested by an army squad, and accused of being a member of Al Qaeda. This book tells the story of post-Katrina law enforcement and the role culture and race play in America.

So vote now for one of these five books. Once the winner for the 2011 Community Read is announced, join in reading that book and talking about it with your neighbors and friends at a variety of events taking place in January. ∆

Chasing the good hours the hard way

I’ve had better Julys. In early July, my mother was hospitalized and all signs pointed to her imminent demise. However, she’s better than a cat: in this case, I think she is on her twelfth life and counting. On the other hand, my mother also suffers from dementia, and she lost a lot of ground with this latest illness. My father finally realized that her condition had taken her beyond the point where he could care for her, so for the rest of July, he and I scrambled to get her through rehabilitation and into long-term care at the retirement community to which my parents moved in 2003.

Those of you who have been through this know how excruciating it is. I hope that those of you who have not experienced it will never have to. In those dark hours of July, I also grappled with my own emotions and with exhaustion. Dad, amazingly resilient, refused to allow himself to sink under this bizarre form of grief in which he is not a widower, but has, nonetheless, lost the woman he married 61 years ago. Her illness is cruel to everyone. Like Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor’s description of her own stroke as a condition in which she lost the ability to discern where she ended and her surroundings began, dementia shatters real boundaries, destroys any sense of order and control and places victims and caregivers alike in a situation of helpless frustration. The sleep deprivation, necessity for quick judgment and action, and mental, emotional and financial strain are far more enervating than those same experiences are when they are applied to raising children. We have had to learn how to ask for the help of skilled nurses, our family and friends. These people have been invaluable, especially those who have been there and understand.

And then, late in July, I was rear-ended by a woman who failed to slow down on the exit ramp connecting Route 128 with Route 3. We pulled to the side of the road, but the woman got out of her car, quaking, and started toward the middle of the highway. I grabbed her and led her to the verge, where she tearfully and shakily told me that she had just that day put her ailing father into rehabilitation and was contemplating having to install him in long-term care. Can you believe it? We bonded right there on the highway, despite our dented cars. Council on Aging Director Debra Siriani is thinking of starting a support group for people like us. I think it would be a tremendous help.

If July was not filled with good hours, August was a little different. I got my car repaired, helped my father with the various tasks associated with the great change in his life, and, finally, took comfort in the idea that, with his onerous caretaking duties lifted from his shoulders, he now has the chance to revive interests of his own that he put aside, to rejoin our family and to enjoy his grandchildren and great-granddaughter.

In his essay, “Experience,” Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “To finish the moment, to find the journey’s end in every step of the road, to live the greatest number of good hours, is wisdom.” Way to go, Waldo: chase those good hours. ∆

 

 

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