Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Final Exam: Book Review

Published 9 Jan 2007 hardback
(paperback 2008 cover pictured)
For the past three years, I have been reading books written by physicians.  Some might predict that this would lead me to reach a point of saturation.

Not true.

I found Chen's account extremely engaging.  In Final Exam: A Surgeon's Reflections on Mortality (2007), Chen explains in rich detail how she responds to the realities of death inherent in medicine -- and in life.

Chen is a very well-respected surgeon, noted for her excellent technical skill.

However, she also has a background in anthropology, which makes her very attentive to the social, emotional, cultural and ethical dimensions of medicine.

Chen reveals great vulnerability by pulling back the curtain of her profession and her own internal processes, showing her constantly evolving stance towards those at risk for dying--which ends up being everybody.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day Poems

Photo by Beverly & Pack.
As a way to better understand the meaning of Memorial Day, I looked into the history and the meaning intended by those who established the holiday.  It's all too easy to slide off the original purpose.

I could just take this as a day off work and make it a Saturday-on-a-Monday.  That's probably the most errant approach.

I could visit a cemetery and honor all dead, no matter their vocation or their manner of death. That's not such a bad way to spend the day. That's a great way to hold people in our memories, but it doesn't speak to the heart of the holiday.

I could honor living soldiers / veterans.  That's a lot closer to the purpose of the holiday, and I will probably call my veteran father today (retired navy, active duty stationed in Japan when I was born states side).

However, if I honored those who died while serving in the armed forces by decorating his or her grave, then I am in complete harmony with the purpose of this holiday. 

As a retired English teacher, I find poetry a great invitation to meditate about a particular topic.  Here are three poems focused on Memorial Day.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Long Hello: Book Review

2nd Edition
Published 6 January 2015
All books are greater than the sum of their parts, but Cathie Borrie's The Long Hello: Memory, My Mother and Me really exceeds its boundaries in the most provoking ways.

I'm including her book in my list of memoirs about giving care to a family member with dementia.

However, the topics she covers and the genre she creates really differs from most books labeled "dementia memoirs."

Yes, Borrie details her relationship with her mother, Jo, over those seven years of caregiving.

Yes, like many other caregivers, she also reaches back to share memories from her mother's past, her own past and their shared experience.

Borrie is one of two children, and she's a child of divorce. Then her brother dies while still a teen. Borrie and her mother have sought for decades to survive these difficulties--even to thrive despite the sorrow, anger and pain inherent in these and other losses.

But Borrie writes a memoir in a way that does much, much more than preserve the past that she and her mother share.  Her mother's dementia sets the stage for Borrie to create a new relationship with her mother in the present. And while doing so, she creates a new person in herself.  

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Films about Aging in Japan and Other Asian Countries

Photo by Robert of Fairfax.
I enjoy watching films that depict the aging experience of people from other cultures.

After watching more than 180 films about aging, I have noticed a significant number of them are set in Japan.

[I anticipate making updates to this list, so check back.]

Here is a list  with mini-reviews in reverse chronology.  Enjoy!

Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011). This documentary details the craft of an octogenarian sushi master.

Cherry Blossoms (2008). This film starts in Germany and focuses on a mature German man trying to address loss and chaos, but the film moves to Japan and shows the emotional power of Butah drama, which a young Japanese girl--also suffering loss and chaos--teaches the German man.

Departures (2008). This film won the Best Foreign Film Oscar for its year. It shows a young man working as an apprentice as a mortician, which serves as a window into many aspects of Japanese life in particular and the circle of life generally.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Films about Older LGBT People

Photo of the Castro Theatre by Benson Kua.
While aging contains a number of opportunities and benefits, it also can present some challenges.

Compounding those challenges are prejudices and lack of civil rights for older adults who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.  

A handful of films are emerging that depict some of the experiences of LGBT people as they age. 

Access to housing, healthcare and legal benefits for partners are just some of the issues these films explore.  Some films are documentaries and others are feature films. 

Here are a few films on the topic, listed in reverse chronology: