The Story Behind River of Dementia: A Memoir

Pauli Pedersen, Washington, USA

Mental health problems today seem to be everywhere. In our aging generations, families are meeting mental issues that used to be kept in the closet. Currently, aching hearts, new resources, research, and medications are changing the scene. No two stories are alike, but a bond exists, and the gathering of Alzheimer’s and dementia narratives has cascaded into an avalanche thundering the mantra, “YOU ARE NOT ALONE.” Connections—the reason for writing my memoir.

When I was a teenager, my dad bought me a Welsh pony named Tony. I rode him bareback in the pasture or trails near our small farm. Tony was usually easy to manage, but, one day we were loping through a field when he took off running. Nothing I did would slow him down. As we flew over the grass, I began to slide off center. I held tightly to Tony’s mane as I slid down his left side and under his neck. Finally, I lost my grip, surrendered to gravity, and fell to the ground beneath him. I lay stunned.

That feeling of having no control, sliding off center, and being run over by a galloping horse hit again, years later, as Dad stunned us with actions that uncovered his secret. 

Many experiences of brain decline are lengthy. That was Mom’s burden as she helped our good-natured Dad hide his decline with the cover of his eccentricities. Our experience was a bucking bronco ride near the end, as Dad’s vascular dementia caused him to act out in abnormal ways.

The Alzheimer’s Association was a terrific resource. What a blessing it would have been if AlzAuthors had been available to us, but the internet was still in its infancy. We moved through his last volatile year, educating ourselves, backing Mom, and sticking with Dad through his wild romp.

Dad’s odyssey was over in 1996. It was an outlandish run. His version of dementia is worth sharing if it will help others dealing with similar behaviors.

With a degree in English, I had always wanted to write. When I was younger, I lamented the fact that I had no good stories. I dabbled, but during college, teaching, and raising five children, time flew by. Then came Dad’s battle with dementia. That was a story I needed to pass on, and I realized I held lots of other family history that required memorializing. Everything would be lost after I was gone. Dad’s life ran through it all. I had a colorful tapestry to weave.

Completion took a long time. I began jotting down things from Dad’s dementia saga. I worked them into passages. Family consumed much of my free time. Realizing that I had to commit to my book and carve a piece out of my life, I signed up for writing classes at our nearby community college, and began forming chapters. A writer’s workshop sprouted from one of the classes, and for the next five years I molded and shaped my Dad’s lifelong journey, adding, subtracting, editing, changing—first draft, second draft, third, fourth…

When Covid 19 sent us all behind closed doors, I was spurred to finish, knowing my time could be limited. I hired an editor and sent my manuscript to Blue Forge Press, a nonprofit publisher recommended by a workshop friend. I was elated to be accepted.

Every day I am grateful for what I have accomplished. Dad’s life journey is accessible; my ancestor’s photos and adventures are honored; and I have left many trails to past history.

Find my book on Amazon:  River of Dementia

Pauli Pedersen Author

About the Author

Pauli Pedersen and her husband live on Fox Island in Washington State. Between the majestic Olympic Mountain range to the west andMount Rainier to the east, they are surrounded by waters of the Puget Sound, and visited occasionally by deer under the apple tree, a racoon on the prowl, or an eagle gliding over nearby Honeymoon Bay.  An active life of teaching, raising five charming children, and performing as a classical singer gave way to the opportunity to indulge her love of words. With a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English and an indefatigable spirit, she finds wonder in her family history.

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