“Alzheimer’s” by Owen Kavanagh


Words from the heart. Written about the author’s 93 year old former College professor, mentor and friend, who unfortunately now lives under the fog of Alzheimer’s disease, and who now needs to be reminded of his past, and how wonderful a man he was and still is.


I know a man who lost his way – his dearest things were gone

He searched the pockets of these clothes, given to put on
he scoured his mind to find a route back from his foreign war
scorched earth was all the proof he had of what he’d been before
he wondered at this place he stood and what he’d come here for
weights hung down where memory should recall
only space where once his pride would hold up every wall

Each face along the road he searched, “are you family?”
some said straight out that they were not, some pretend to care a lot
but one young fellow saw the man he’d known from long before
remembered him as one who’d walked the cliffs by park by shore
a jaunty chap with yapping dog, then arm-an-arm his grey haired wife
and finally in those last few years, hobbled, cane and hunched up life
Youth had yearned to know him then, this teacher from all time
but never had they passed a word, their seasons out of line.

Now chance, the youth reflects to show respect upon this day
so walks beside that bent old gent reminding him his way
oh what great tales lie so near, what happiness may dawn
if eyes be bright to see again, if voice be raised in song
Youth took one wrinkled hand in his as lurched along the street
toward the elder’s home, their passage to retreat

That night was as a prodigal son returned to kith & kin
rounds made, cups raised, the photo passed, stories roused within
that night each youngster crept from bed as first the tales begin
none left to feel alone that night, not when their gramps sat in
his start was slow but soon he spoke the secrets of their birth
stories only he would know, a life full-share of worth

He spent his youth in far south lands where folks drawl out their speech
recalled both the kindness done and cruelty of their reach
remembered child’s thistle wound salved in a black man’s spit
once hid his friend behind the sacks when Ku Klux Klan had hit
and all those tiny black girls in church basement bombed & burned
recalled he’d joined the walks for them, the peace for which he yearned

But stories and the night must fade as all are half asleep
youngsters carried off to bed without a single peep
The rest of us reflect on what our elder had to say
the worth of a man, is strong as the stance, he took along the way
and crystal clear it came to us who hear just why he hurt
why need he be amongst us here, so far from southern dirt

Next morning deformed hands to move, groaning and with sighs
shook out his snowdrift locks and glared from rheumy eyes
“I went to sleep back on the farm … with mule’s rein in my fist
… sister guiding plow’s deep bite … the cracker dirt adrift
and yet I wake in stranger’s house … with no one that I know
I’ll dress and leave you here in peace and trouble you no more”

I know a man who lost his way – his dearest things are gone.


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