Category Archives: Alzheimer’s

It’s What You Do With What You’ve Got That Counts

Sometimes I get a little behind reading my favorite blogs. I was doing a little catch-up yesterday when I discovered this poem on Sandra’s “Add Humor to Faith…mix well”.

Sandra’s mother had written a book of her own memories and at the back of it had recorded songs and poems she’d learned as a girl. This one her father had taught her and it’s a very clever play on words.

One comment on the post mentioned that children don’t seem to commit things to memory as they did in past days. My own public schooling began in 1960 and we seemed to be at the tail-end of that method of learning. We were assigned to memorize the first bit of the Declaration of Independence, the Preamble to the Constitution and the Gettysburg address. To my discredit, I don’t think I ever completely memorized any of these except the Preamble.

In this science fiction age of instant internet information (not all of which is accurate), some think that memorization is passe. I disagree.

My mother has been a good example to me all my life,- in the importance of memorization, as well as many other things. Even at 95, legally blind and suffering from Alzheimer’s, she’s still a good example.

She was always a great reader and I treasure that legacy from her. Sadly, her ability to comprehend started failing about the same time as her eyesight. Her memory has a lot of holes in it, but she has retained the songs and poems she learned as a child. The thieving Alzheimer’s may cloud her recognition of me at times, but she can still recite “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere” and praise God with hymns. It’s amazing and I rejoice at her memory which remains.

A pleasant childhood memory of mine, is hearing her singing hymns in her sweet soprano voice as she went about her housework. (She worked in a faded housedress and an apron because you took care of your better clothes and saved them for visiting or going to town. But the cotton work dresses and aprons were always clean and ironed.)

She was full of old sayings for every occasion. My sister recalls that they were sometimes contradictory. Mama would say “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” as well as “Out of sight, out of mind.”

The one that Mama always lived by was “It’s what you do with what you’ve got that counts.” Make the best of the situation. (I doubt she ever heard the phrase “if life gives you lemons – make lemonade” but it surely fit) Even if you don’t have what you need to do the optimum, do something; do what you can.

That attitude kept her going when her home in Kentucky was under water (up to the roof) for 2 weeks in 1937. She and her parents lost almost everything due to the severe flooding and they became homeless. She had recently married and her husband had gone to Indiana to find work. Shortly after the flood, he wrote her that he didn’t want to be married anymore. She brushed off the river mud and moved to Texas, which required a one year’s residency before filing for divorce.

She stayed with relatives until she found a job at a Mexican restaurant. A uniform was required, so she sewed her own and hand washed and ironed it every night in the room she rented. And even though the salary was only $1.00 a day + tips (and she always said that during the Depression you didn’t get many tips), her rent was $3.00 a week. After a year, she had bought new clothes, saved money and obtained her divorce and moved on to California. About 5 years later, she married my dad who had also been kicked around by life, but he had the same confidant, forward-looking attitude that she had.

So although Stella Sexton had lost all her worldly goods in the flood and was left homeless and rejected by her first husband, she didn’t spend any time feeling sorry for herself. She did what she could with what she had.

And that’s what my mother is still doing.

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Filed under 1930s, 1937, Aging, Alzheimer's, Faith, Family, Heros, Internet links, Kentucky, Making Do, Thrift, Using What You Have, Vicissitudes of Life

Through It All

THROUGH IT ALL
by Andrae Crouch

I’ve had many tears and sorrows,
I’ve had questions for tomorrow.
I’ve had times when I didn’t know right from wrong.
But in every situation
God gave blessed consolation,
That my trials only come to make me strong.

I’ve been a lot of places
And I’ve seen so many faces,
But there’ve been times I’ve felt so all alone.
But in that lonely hour
In that precious, lonely hour,
Jesus let me know I was His own.

Through it all,
Through it all
I’ve learned to trust in Jesus,
I’ve learned to trust in God.
Through it all,
Through it all
I’ve learned to depend upon His Word.

So I thank God for the mountains,
And I thank Him for the valleys.
I thank Him for the storms He’s brought me through.
Cause if I never had a problem,
I wouldn’t know that He could solve them,
I wouldn’t know what faith in His Word could do.

Through it all,
Through it all
I’ve learned to trust in Jesus,
I’ve learned to trust in God.
Through it all,
Through it all
I’ve learned to depend upon His Word.
Yes, I’ve learned to depend upon His Word.
I’ve learned to depend upon His Word.

A really nice version by Selah on youtube. Also on their album Hiding Place.

This morning I read Brenda’s Sunday Afternoon Tea post on Coffee, Tea, Books and Me concerning the trials of this life and that as Christians, we know that this world is not our home and we look toward the time when we will be with Jesus in heaven. She writes about how life doesn’t turn out like we plan or think it will, either with income or health.

Honestly, I don’t think I ever had the expectations she had about comfortable income and life plans. My life didn’t begin with material comfort, and I never expected it to. Of course, there have been times of more prosperity than others. When my dad and brother had their own businesses, we were quite comfortable. And Joe has a good job but as it was with my dad’s factory work, we have had a lot of experience with lay-offs. During the past 27 years, Joe has been laid off 6 times. Going without regular income for a year or two (that has happened twice) depletes resources and takes a good long while to recover from.

God has always provided and I’m thankful for what he’s given us. While Joe was in college and we were expecting our second son, my dad gave us the down payment for the mobile home we still live in. Over the years we would occasionally think about buying a house, but never could decide on one. Almost without fail, Joe would be laid off within a few months and we would be so glad we didn’t take that leap, because we would’ve lost a house when the income dropped.

For many years we wanted to move out onto rural property, but acreage with houses is way beyond our means. Then in 2001, we found our land and moved the trailer out here to our own place. Joe removed not only the wheels but the axles, too. He named it Kizzie (from Alex Haley’s Roots: a woman named her daughter Kizzie because “she was gonna stay put”). No more moving this house on wheels. Bought new in 1980, we have lived in it 6 different places.

I have plans for remodeling, adding a screened-in dining porch on the front, big wide porch on the front for rocking chairs and summer mornings, a deck on the back for sitting in the winter sun. Most of that will have to wait for Joe’s retirement because we just don’t have the time for big projects.

I’d like some improvements, but I’m grateful for what I have. The world doesn’t understand. If it did, it wouldn’t take such pleasure in remarks about trailer trash. It’s the politically acceptable prejudice. Those who wouldn’t dream of discriminating racially, seem almost proud to despise mobile homes. I remember what James Carville said about Paula Jones, something to the effect that you never know what you’ll get if you drag a hundred dollar bill through a trailer park. Or people who don’t want you on the PTA board at your son’s school, because you “wouldn’t fit in”. Or a woman who turns away from talking to you when she asks where you live and you tell her. Because the world judges on the outward appearance.

There was a really wonderful passage in Phillip Gulley’s novel Just Shy of Harmony on page 128:

Outside the trailer, winter was coming on. A skiff of snow blew across the fields. A car drove past on the highway. The driver looked at the sagging, tired trailer, saw the lights go off, and felt the cold push of a northern wind nudge his car toward the shoulder.

“Wouldn’t you hate living there?” the driver said to his wife.

“I can’t imagine anything worse.”

But back in the trailer, on that night of love reborn, there was no other place Wayne and Sally would rather have been than in their little trailer, with all the world at bay.

Beautifully written, I’ve never seen anything else like it in print.

Health and family are where my expectations were not realised. I expected to live as I always had until I died. About 25 years ago, I knew there was something wrong with the way I occasionally felt (especially when tired), but my doctor couldn’t find anything. Six years ago I got the diagnosis of fibromyalgia when going in for problems with plain old arthritis. These are not crippling problems; most days are okay if I don’t forget to take the ibuprofen, but then there are the days when I’m down all day, maybe several days. Makes it very difficult to commit to plans. Volunteering had been a part of my life since I was a child, but now I’m very limited.

But I’m grateful, because it’s not what I call serious. It’s not life threatening, just limiting. I’m still mobile and still travel, although I prefer something other than flying. I have fallen in love with trains.

Family is where I have had the biggest blows to expectations. We’ve really had our share of anguish, which I will not elaborate on. Family is where we have invested our money because our loved ones are more important to us than lovely houses, wonderful houses or material gain.

Family is very valuable to me. Never did I think my mother would get Alzheimer’s and live in a nursing home. I always wanted several children but had three miscarriages.

We have 2 handsome, brilliant sons whom we love very, very much. Our older son has blessed us with 2 wonderful grandsons. But we now have 2 almost ex-daughters-in-law. And even when they weren’t ones that I would’ve chosen for my sons, it has really hurt to lose them. It feels like amputation.

So when I think about the vicissitudes of life, I think about this song, which I love.

The trials only come to make me strong.

O Lord! Have I learned anything? Have they made me strong?

Oh, I hope I haven’t wasted my sorrows.

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Filed under Aging, Alzheimer's, Faith, Family, Vicissitudes of Life

Books Read in October, 2009

Timeless Treasures Previous Review Timeless Treasures by Emilie Barnes

Dancing with Rose Dancing with Rose by Lauren Kessler

After her mother died of Alzheimer’s, Lauren Kessler took her guilt (years of ignoring her mother) and her journalism and went to work in an Alzheimer’s facility as an aide. Her goal was to learn more about the disease and get first hand experience with patients, then write about it. The resulting book is fascinating and easily readable, but troubling. Troubling not simply because it’s a tough subject and was a very tough job (she has my admiration for being willing to tackle the unpleasant physical labor).

Whether intentionally or not, she comes across as a voice of authority on approach to the disease, family vs. caregivers and the personality changes. Kessler stops just short of saying that who these people have become is really who they always were. She seems to catch before herself saying that these are people in their purest form, without all the restrictions that we put on ourselves to live in society. To me this is a ridiculous, silly and empty-headed view of Alzheimer’s. It is obviously a left-over philosophy from her hippie days. In fact, she says that she and her husband joke about nursing homes of the future: hash brownies and Black Sabbath music.

Which brings me to my biggest complaint about this book: the hidden buddhism. She doesn’t openly name her philosophy until nearly the end of the book, which I consider a cheat. Early in the book, and even without knowing her religion, I saw a pattern developing that bothered me. A more honest approach would’ve been to state it up front.

This was the second book on Alzheimer’s that I checked out from the Grapevine Library that took a buddhist approach to the disease and caregiving. The first book I didn’t even bother to read. If she had been more forthcoming , I wouldn’t have wasted my time on this one, either.

Because the other reason I resent her and her book, is that I wrongly took to heart something she said about a family member who was calling on the phone to talk to their parent. She wrote that she believed that they did it more for themselves than for the patient and that the patient would’ve been better off if they hadn’t called. I don’t know if she meant this as a general rule for everyone, but I took it to heart. We live in another state and can only get up to see my mother about every 3 weeks, so I call her on the phone in between times. With only one exception, she seems to enjoy the calls. But there was once when she was agitated and I thought maybe Kessler was right and I shouldn’t call; that it was making Mama unhappier. So, for several days I didn’t. Then I decided to call and talk to the nursing staff and get their opinion because they deal with her afterwards. I asked if she seemed worse after the phone conversations, more unsettled. Each one of them said that she enjoyed them and they considered that it was better for my mother if I did call. Then I felt like a lousy daughter for having taken Kessler’s advice. I don’t even know if she meant it generally, but that’s how I took it. She sure seems to think she’s one of the experts after her experiences.

Mrs. Miniver, Amazon listing Mrs. Miniver by Jan Struther Previous review of book and movie. Related post.

A spoonful of poison

A Spoonful of Poison

A Spoonful of Poison, by M.C. Beaton

Published in 2008, this is the 19th Agatha Raisin mystery by M.C. Beaton. Publisher’s Weekly referred to it as ‘saucy’, which I found perplexing. Surely I’m not more liberal than Publisher’s Weekly! Obviously that’s not so, therefore I really don’t know what they meant. There’s no hard language, descriptive sex or gruesome details.

Cozy mysteries are my favorites and I certainly think that M.C. Beaton is probably the best at this genre, after Agatha Christie. Of course, Christie was the best by far, but both the Agatha Raisin and the Hamish MacBeth stories and light, diverting and easy reads. One of the things I appreciate most about her books is the unexpected humor.

Sooner Cinema, Amazon listing Sooner Cinema – Oklahoma Goes to the Movies, Edited by Larry A. Van Meter

Being a native Oklahoman and a movie buff, I was very interested in reading this book. Van Meter is the editor, rather than the author, because the book is a compilation of 19 chapters by different writers, each focusing on either a film which was set in Oklahoma, or someone who was a native (i.e. Woody Guthrie, Bound for Glory).

To be expected some of the chapters are better than others, but one that I found absolutely outrageous was the one by David Charlson called “Oklahoma Values in One Hour or Less: Gary Rhodes’ Banned in Oklahoma and Bradley Beesley’s Okie Noodling” .

Charlson is an instructor in English and Documentary Film at Oklahoma City Community College, which is really a shame. He is not a native and has nothing but disdain for the conservative atmosphere in the state. He is appalled that John McCain carried every single county in Oklahoma in the 2008 election (the only state in which this was true). He punishes conservative students who won’t watch one of his assigned films by giving them another choice: gruesomeness instead of child pornography.

Other chapters are about Cimmarron, True Grit, Silkwood,The Outsiders, Far and Away, Oklahoma Crude and The Grapes of Wrath, among others. The rest of the book is interesting, but Charlson’s chapter is so snide and irksome, it was a waste of time and money.

Handmade Home Handmade Home – Simple Ways to Repurpose Old Materials into New Family Treasures by Amanda Blake Soule

Speaking of a waste of money brings me to Amanda Soule’s book. I bought this one while traveling home from Oklahoma and we stopped at a book store to stretch our legs. I should’ve known better than to stretch them in a book store because books are my biggest weakness. I usually buy used ones. Rarely do I pay full price and I have kicked myself repeatedly for doing it this time.

It is craft book, a sewing book, which is what I wanted. What I did not want was a new age/green/hippie book. But that’s what I got.

In the store, I briefly looked at the introduction (she talks about the family history of practicality, which I appreciate) and some of the projects like pot holders, wall pockets, and computer mouse pads. What I didn’t see until I got home was the publisher’s leaflet advertising their zen/new age books on family. Had I seen this, it would’ve been the Red Warning Flag: Carla, you will hate this book. And I do. I don’t even like the smell of it. They probably used strange ink.

Sewing books should be just that. I’m not interested in her personal beliefs. I don’t believe that I should have to carefully look through a SEWING book to see if I’m going to be offended. As I was for the “Women’s Cloth”. Gross. Just plain gross. Besides which Soule doesn’t know what she’s talking about. She wrongly opines “Disposable menstrual pads have become the norm only in the past 30 years or so …” (emphasis mine). I am almost 50 years old and disposables have been the norm and around a lot longer than me. How do I know? Because one of the things I collect is old magazines. Frankly I was surprised that these products and some of the ones I considered more modern were available as far back as they were.

So, there were happy experiences with books in October, and some which set my teeth on edge. And I didn’t even list the ones I started and gave up on.

My November reading is off to a good start. Kind of gets some of the bad taste out of my mouth.

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Filed under 1940s, Alzheimer's, Books, Cozy, Faith, Fiction, Movies, Needlecrafts, Oklahoma, Tea

Driving and the Elderly

Stella

Stella

A short history of my mother and the American automobile:

My grandfather bought a Model T Ford in 1920 for $500.   Mama learned to drive in that car at a time when driver’s licenses were not required in Kentucky.    About the only other thing I know about that car, was that it had trouble getting up over the steep hills in the western part of the state, where they lived.  One Sunday night after church, she, her dad and the preacher were on their way back home when the car couldn’t make it up over the hill.  She and the preacher got out and pushed it over (this seemed to have been a common occurrence).  After the preacher jumped back in, her dad kept going and she got left behind.  When she’d tell me this story, I’d always ask if it was dark, or was it cold or did she walk all the way back home.  Her answer was always the same:  “All I remember is how mad I was that he could forget me.”

1930s

1939

This photograph was taken after she went to California in 1938. She had lived in Texas for a year in order to file for divorce from her first husband.  He had left Kentucky to  find work, then wrote back that he didn’t want to be married anymore.  After the divorce, she went by bus to California to work in her favorite uncle’s grocery store in Los Angeles, where she met my father.

1957

1957

They married and moved to his home state of Oklahoma.  The picture to the right was taken in 1957  on a trip back to Kentucky to visit her family.

When I was a little girl, my dad got a pickup truck. (That is an amazing story in itself. Daddy was a gregarious sort, and one day he was stopped at a traffic light when he notice the vehicle next to him was a pickup with 3 or 4 little boys in the back. He called over to the driver: “Want to trade for a car and get those kids out of the back of that truck?” Well, they pulled over and traded. One of those little boys grew up and married one of my best friends. Tulsa was smaller then than it is now, but that’s still a pretty amazing story to me.)

So, he bought another car and my mother had something to drive too. She drove us to church, to the grocery store, the dime store, the big Sears store in town. She picked up neighborhood children and took them to Sunday School or Vacation Bible School. Almost every weekend, she’d take my friend Carol and me to the movies in Tulsa, or to McClure’s Park to go swimming. Once, when I was 8, just she and I drove back to Arkansas to visit her oldest sister in Jonesboro. My dad and brother started their own construction company and were gone a lot. She was pretty independent.

In fact, many times she drove by herself to visit us in Texas, even into her early 80’s.

Then when she was in her late 80’s my sister and I began getting very concerned.  On a hourlong drive to my brother’s (a route she was very familiar with), she got lost.  Also,  I had seen her cross the shopping center parking lot without even looking for oncoming cars, which was very unlike her. Then an old friend called and said that they had been going to lunch one day and my mother ran a red light. Didn’t even look.

So we knew something had to be done. We didn’t want to tell her to quit driving but we knew that it was no longer safe. Even though most of the time she only drove a couple of blocks to the grocery store and several of her favorite restaurants, it was time for her to quit driving.   Her neighborhood was full of small children. We couldn’t live with it if something tragic happened and we knew that she wouldn’t be able to, either.

Always very practical, she had said for years that if a person lived long enough, they would have to quit driving at some point and she said she knew that day would come for her, too. Holding onto that, we had a very painful family meeting and told her as gently as we could. She didn’t really argue, but it was obvious that she wasn’t happy about it. Would anyone be? But she complied.

She didn’t have the Alzheimer’s diagnosis yet, but one clue that there was something wrong with her thinking process was that she fretted over the decision. Life without a car was going to be difficult for an independent person.  There wasn’t an easy solution because her small town didn’t have any public transportation, not even taxis. No bus for senior citizens. But my sister lived nearby and took her to the grocery store, hair salon, doctor’s office and restaurants.

Of course it was absolutely necessary, but it was hard. Probably harder than I thought it would be. Daddy had quit driving at 75 because he had a stroke, and I don’t remember him fussing about it. But he stayed mentally sharp until his death.

An uncle had kept driving until he was around 90. Twice he backed through his garage door. Then a woman followed him home one evening (he had agreed not to drive at night), and told his daughter that he’d been driving on the wrong side of the road. So, my cousin had to take the car.

I’ve been thinking about this lately because I’m in my mid-50’s and not as healthy as my mother was at my age. How long can I drive safely?

Recently, a tragedy occurred to the pastor and his wife at my friend’s church. The pastor’s wife, a very sweet woman, had had a brain tumor a few years ago, and had been having  memory problems. A few weeks ago, after taking someone home from church, she forgot to turn off the ignition after parking her car in the garage. Both she and her husband were asphyxiated. Their bodies were  found when they didn’t show up for church that night. The car was still running.

May the good Lord help Joe and me when the time comes to quit driving. And may our children have the courage and compassion to make the decision, if we can’t make it ourselves.

I hope we can.

Stella

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Filed under Aging, Alzheimer's, Family

Books Read in September

October! How lovely that sounds in north Texas. That means it’s very unlikely that we’ll have any more 100 degree days until next May.

So, I’m thinking about what I’ve been reading and need to get it written down. Every January, I start a list of books I read during that year, but towards the end of summer I get very lax in keeping it up.

Do you think we can tell something about a person by what they read? Whenever we go to someone’s house, I’m always fascinated by what books are on their shelves, or better yet on their end-tables.

Non-Fiction
Farewell by Horton Foote Farewell Memoir of a Texas Childhood- Horton Foote
This is probably my favorite autobiography. The world was a different place in 1916 when Horton Foote was born. He is a master storyteller and reading this book reminded me of listening to my parents and aunts and uncles talk about their early years (they were a bit older than Mr. Foote). He paints a vivid picture of small town life in the early part of the 1900’s.
*Highly recommended.

The Reagan I KnewThe Reagan I Knew – William F. Buckley
One of the last books that Buckley wrote before his death last year, this is a personal look at Ronald Reagan through correspondence and reminiscences.
*Highly recommended.

Losing Mum and PupLosing Mum and Pup – Christopher Buckley
“They were not – with respect to every other set of loving, wonderful parents in the world – your typical mom and dad.” What an understatement. Christopher Buckley is not my cup of tea, but he writes a fascinating book about one of the most fascinating men of the 20th century. William F. Buckley was a singular man; I just didn’t realize before how singular he really was.
*Highly recommended.

Making an exit coverMaking an Exit – Elinor Fuchs
Publisher’s Weekly: “Fuchs celebrates the richness and folly of life and language in this loving and often funny tribute to her nonconformist mother, Lillian Kessler.” After her brilliant mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Elinor began recording their conversations (how I wish I had done the same). Her insight into the disease and how she coped with it was very helpful to me in dealing with my own mother. Nearly all the books I’ve seen on Alzheimer’s are much too clinical and not terribly helpful. This is not a self-help book, but it had that effect.
*Highly recommended.

MrsAstorRegretsMrs. Astor Regrets Meryl Gordon
Let me say right up front that I don’t like Brooke Astor or anyone else in this book, with the possible exception of her grandson, the photographer Alex Marshall. Not even the author. Especially the author and the subject. Snobbery fairly drips from the pages. If Mrs. Astor isn’t referring to Bill Clinton’s objects of desire as “trailer trash”, then Meryl Gordon is describing someone as not coming from a house with a rusted pick-up on blocks in the front yard. And who are these people? Brooke Astor’s second husband didn’t like her only child, Tony, so he was promptly shipped off to boarding school. After her second husband’s death, she was proposed to by Vincent Astor (he was still married) and she absolutely married him for his money. The rest of her life seemed to be a struggle to buy a good name and position for herself and give as little as she could to her family. She hated her daughter-in-law and condemned her as a gold-digger. The DIL had cheated on her husband (the local vicar) with Tony and they married after each getting a divorce. What hypocrites. The author’s sympathies clearly lie with Tony’s oldest son, Phillip who sued his father for guardianship of Mrs. Astor. Pretty mean stuff for someone so proud of being a buddhist. Gordon doesn’t even seem to consider that Phillip’s motives look mercenary.
*Not recommended unless you want an inside look the vanity and debauchery of the upper class.

Fiction

A Proper Pursuit A Proper Pursuit– Lynn Austin
Set in the Chicago area, 1893 this is a tale about a young woman learning that there’s more to the world than what she learned at finishing school. Austin humorously develops the character of Violet Hayes from a silly girl to a maturing woman. Set against the backdrop of The World’s Columbian Exposition (Chicago World’s Fair), as well as the impoverished life of immigrants, the author uses a good amount of history in the story. Her descriptions of the buildings at the fair prompted me to look up the photos on Flickr. It was amazing.
*Highly recommended as a well written, light Christian romance.

Still Reading

Green-Hell-coverGreen Hell: How Environmentalists Plan to Control Your Life and What You Can Do to Stop Them – Steven Milloy
Very interesting. My husband follows his website on junk science. We’re reading this one aloud.

Against the Night Against the Night – Charles Colson
I found this one at the used book sale at the library. And I can’t write anything better about it than Larry Gott, who left this review on Amazon:
“5.0 out of 5 stars Most marked up book (next to the Bible), August 27, 2009
I have read this book twice, once when it came out in 1989, and once about 1998. I would mention that between the two readings, I lost my 1989 edition. However it was so marked up, it was hard to read the material for all the markings interposed. The 1998 copy I read mostly on an airplane (and marked it up again!).

In 1989, I thought it had the most substance of any ‘problem and solution’ book I had ever read. Colson was trying to be a ‘watchman on the wall’, and was warning us on what lay ahead if our nation, and the nation’s people (us), did not change our ways. The first half was diagnostic and prophetic (the problem), the second half was restorative and remedial (the solution).

By 1998, America, its people and its Christians were well down the road of what Colson was fearing. And now in 2009, we have arrived and have found ourselves in the middle of a giant mess. I’m going to reread it again, and see if the solutions might possibly still be valid. Highly recommended!”

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Filed under Aging, Alzheimer's, Books, Fiction, Politics