Photo Courtesy of Marlene Jaxon
In “Jinxed! Laughing in the Face of Alzheimer’s,” Marlene Jaxon shares the humorously honest story of the challenges that she and her family faced as caregivers to her mother — including the creative techniques she devised to bring daily joy and laughter to her final years.
As I reflected on my mother’s language score, I knew it made perfect sense. Mom rarely expressed more than two words at a time anymore. It was no real surprise her language matched the mental age of a toddler; everything else about her did too. I certainly felt like the mother of a two-year-old. I bathed her, dressed her, toileted her and played with her. Our days were filled with coloring books, blowing bubbles on the porch swing, assembling preschool jigsaw puzzles, and watching cartoons on TV. I had to admit I ached to hear mom’s Jersey-speak once again, but her humorous “My Cousin Vinnie” lingo was long gone. I knew the total loss of her language loomed right around the corner.“Jinxed! Laughing in the Face of Alzheimer’s” by Marlene Jaxon
An official writer-member of AlzAuthors, as well as a contributing writer to Being Patient, an online Alzheimer’s community, Jaxon divides her time between her desert residence in Fountain Hills and her seaside home — a sailboat at San Diego’s Harbor Island. Besides writing, her interests include sailing, world travel, hiking, archery and playing piano and guitar.
Images Arizona recently caught up with Jaxon to ask the author a few questions about “Jinxed! Laughing in the Face of Alzheimer’s” — the final selection in its summer book club.
What motivated you to write this book?
For approximately six years, my husband, daughter and I were the primary caregivers for my mother — whose nickname was Jinx — in our home. After she succumbed to Alzheimer’s in 2014, I toyed with the idea of writing a caregiver’s manual; more or less a “how to” book When I mentioned it to my daughter, Caitlin, she shot it down, “No, Mom. That’s not enough. The journey we had with Grandma was extraordinary. You made her laugh every day with the funny characters you invented. You need to share your creative ideas with others.” I knew she was right!
What themes did you aspire to tackle with this particular work? Did any other themes reveal themselves to you during the writing process?
The book is about Alzheimer’s and strategies for caring for a dementia patient developed into much more than I expected. Before long, a poignant mother/daughter relationship story emerged, which then led to a strength and resiliency theme regarding my family and the indomitable human spirit.
What or how are you hoping your book makes readers feel? What other takeaways do you hope they have?
I’m hoping readers will find my book uplifting, informative and humorous and that it inspires them to “think outside the box” when it comes to the daily challenges of Alzheimer’s disease. The experience doesn’t have to be totally sad. There is much joy to be found. Laughter is a powerful tool. I think caregivers of all types will find my family’s experience relatable.
What are some of your own takeaways? Specifically, did your characters teach you anything?
To say that writing this book became a cathartic experience for me would be a huge understatement. Many tears were shed as long-buried truths gradually revealed themselves and I developed a greater understanding of my mother. I also realized that I’m a tenacious, resourceful, problem-solver.