Taking down walls: An experience at Elderberry

Reading Alzheimer’s literature it’s hard not to get bogged down in sadness. The illness is one that is takes without remorse, stealing someone’s ability to communicate and remember their loved ones. Yet every time I go to Silver Club and Elderberry, rather than become depressed, I am inspired by the men and women who have this disease. They are people with such colorful personalities, wonderful stories, and positive attitudes.

The member I work with always manages to amaze me with her wisdom and insight. The last time I visited, we talked about the instruments we play. She remarked that although she never had piano lessons, the first time she encountered a piano, she sat down and played it with surprising ease. Her relatives were amazed, but she just tried to play what felt natural. I told her that I’m not very musically talented and am hesitant to try different instruments, but she didn’t accept that answer. “Isn’t that you putting up walls? You should always try and if it sounds horrible, oh well!”

I was amazed by her insight and fearless attitude; she challenged me and made me realize that my hesitancy was an expression of fear.  She, who has every reason to put up walls if she wanted to, was telling me to let go of my fear and try new things. It was an inspiring moment, and one that made me examine how I live my life.

Every time we visit, the member I work with thanks me for coming, but this moment showed me how much I have to gain from this experience. Sharing art and life experiences through this class has affirmed to me that while Alzheimer’s is a condition that takes, the people who have it still have a lot to give.

~ Deena Etter, Student of Cultural Anthropology 

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