, , , , , , , , ,

I wrote an essay—the first of many I will write—about my mother’s slide into the quicksand and darkness of dementia. I published it on my blog, and the editors of BlogHer honored it with a Voice of the Year Award for 2012. I’m proud of this, but not solely for the reason you might think. I’m proud of this essay because it exists, because I was able to write it at all. I managed to descend into that frightening pit of despair and start to tell my mother’s story, to return her voice to her, to leave something of her to this world that she left 12 years ago. This was not an easy thing to do, and I will have to do it again and again and again, until her story is fully told, until her voice is finally heard. It will be difficult, and I know there will be times I’ll be afraid to continue.

She was an intensely private person, but in this respect I think she would want me to keep going. She would want people to know, because, sadly, she was one among millions who have disappeared into the maw of Alzheimer’s, and who will continue to disappear until a cure can be found. Maybe if enough stories get told, if enough attention is paid, something that might be enough will be done, and the disease (the irony of my word choice isn’t lost on me) will itself become a memory. It happened with smallpox. It could happen again.

According to Alzheimer’s Disease Research, a program of the American Health Assistance Foundation, more than 5.4 million Americans are believed to have Alzheimer’s disease; by 2050, as the U.S. population ages, this number could increase to 15 million. There are nearly 36 million people living with dementia worldwide, and this number is likely to increase to more than 115 million by 2050.

The essay, “‘Have You Met My Daughter?’ My Mother, Her Alzheimer’s and Me,” is one of 80 essays representing 80 bloggers included in the Voices of the Year anthology, published by BlogHer in conjunction with Open Road Media.

The anthology will be available for download (from Amazon and iTunes) on Oct. 30, but advance orders are available now. Here’s what Amazon says about BlogHer and the book:

BlogHer is a unique media company created by women, for women, and—most importantly—with women, women like those whose voices you’ll read in this collection. Each year, BlogHer—the largest network of women who blog—hosts an initiative to identify the very best work from across the blogosphere. Submitted by the community, selected by a committee, and presented at the world’s largest blogging conference, the pieces presented here have it all because women live it all—online and off. Humor. Inspiration. Food. Family. Style. Sex. Politics. Tech. Career. Dreams. BlogHer’s Voices of the Year reminds us of the transformative power of blogs to connect us all via powerful storytelling.

My thanks to Elisa, Lisa, and Jory—the co-founders of BlogHer—for envisioning this project, and to Donna Schwartz Mills, a member of BlogHer’s conference programming team, for helping to administrate it. I’m humbled by the honor, and honored that my mother’s story will reach a wider audience.