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I am proud to announce the publication of Bee King, my ninth book. Bee King is a historical novel about the first person diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease in the United States. I wrote it as my thesis while I attended the University of Tampa's low residency program in creative writing and where I obtained my MFA. It was a wonderful program taught by talented writers. I met many amazing fellow students. 

Bee King is the culmination of my more than thirty years attempting to gain a stronghold over this mysterious, lovely and daunting task of writing. While we're not supposed to have favorite children, Bee King is one of mine. It is, after all, a love letter to my mother.

My mother had her first transient ischemic attack (TIAin 1998, and her second one the year after. These mini-strokes were certainly alarming but she was still our amiable mother who my siblings and I readily turned to for emotional support. She continued to work as a nurse. Mom had a good run, health-wise, until 2015 when she called my aunt and said, I don’t know where I am. Turns out, mom was in a shopping plaza less than a quarter-mile from her home. How she had the presence to call her sister, and point out the stores in front of her so my aunt could find her, is unknown. What is known is mom had four small strokes that day, which caused transient global amnesia. Four days later, she had another stroke, and the following day too. All mini-strokes, the doctors said, and all ones that affected her memory. Upon her discharge from the hospital, the neurologist said she had vascular dementia, take her home and make her comfortable as there was no knowing when the final stroke might hit. A doomsday report.

Four years later, mom’s still here. Life is different and the same. Although her short term memory is shot, and she is unable to offer emotional support as she once did, she is still our amiable, caring, and funny mother.

I write of this because when my father was dying—a pre-ordained death when he voluntarily ceased dialysis—I blogged about his journey and mine. With mom, I chose not to do the same. Instead, I decided to write a love letter to my mother in the form of this novel, Bee KingBee King is the historical fiction story of the first person diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in the United States. Bee King is a story of overcoming incredible odds as well as the importance of family. Mom is a compilation of all the characters, the locations, the sights, smells and sounds. She is in each page, as she has been in all the pages of my life.

In retirement, mom was an ombudsman and would give talks to caregivers on how to approach people with dementia. I specifically remember one example where she would say, imagine you do not know where you are and who you are. In walks a stranger who tells you to take off your clothes. You are cold. You are afraid you will fall, or be harmed. You do not understand why you are being made to stand under running water that stings your skin, and made to rub a bar over your body. You don’t know why a stranger is watching you during this personal moment. Mom suggested caregivers approach dementia patients from their perspectives, moving slowly, being reassuring and patient, and understanding if they lash out it is due to fear and discomfort. 

While mom is still able to live in independent living, and does not require an aide, I often think of the irony of her work as an ombudsman. Mom, who used to counsel on how dementia patients must feel, now resides in that in-between zone, somewhere between here and there, between knowing and not-knowing, between empathy and indifference. 

During the pages of my life, mom taught me to have compassion, patience and kindness. Now, as our roles reverse and I watch her tackle this phase of her life with courage, humility and humor, I continue to learn from her. 

Joanne Lewis is an attorney and writer residing in Florida where there is never a lack of inspiration for stories.

Bee King is available on Amazon

 

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