Through the lens of a young carer, Aaliya Syeda’s heartfelt poem illuminates the impact of dementia in her community, urging empathy, acceptance, and the transformative power of love when facing the journey.
Contributed by Aaliya Syeda
Reborn through Alzheimer’s
Perhaps you think he’s deaf –
that by repeating the words without cease,
and enunciating the letters till his ears bleed,
maybe he will remember your name?
You say, it’s like teaching a baby how to speak,
but no matter how hard you try
to cram the three syllables of your name
in between the closing cracks of his prefrontal cortex,
it’s too late. Far too narrow.
Maybe hmmm is who you are now in his head.
Perhaps you think he’s someone else –
that by raising your voice and hushing him
like a baby making too much noise,
maybe he will remember his wife is dead?
You say, it’s like convincing a baby their mother
will be beside them when they wake up the next morning,
but their tantrums and restlessness
are lulled with patience. Why not his?
Must your forbearance be so delicate
that it shatters everytime he forgets the answer
to the same aching question?
Must your empathy be so virtuous
that it refuses to accept someone else’s reality?
As the cycle of life reforms, he is back to square one;
through Alzheimer’s, he is reborn.
You say, it’s like your father is your son,
but while he waited so long for your first word
and stayed up through nights after nights of ordeal,
You couldn’t even wait
for him to remember his last meal.
Authors Note: ‘Reborn through Alzheimer’s’ is about the mistreatment of people with dementia, which is a common phenomenon that I have witnessed in my home country, where people are not aware of terms like ‘Alzheimer’s’ and thus, dehumanize their own family members when they are afflicted by it. They think their parents have gone crazy or are being intentionally obtuse, and as a result, forget to treat them with the same patience and affection that they would to a child. This poem is about the need to accept the reality of dementia instead of rejecting it, about showing empathy instead of insensitivity, and learning to embrace old age as a second childhood.
Aaliya Syeda is an 18-year-old Bangladeshi poet, who is the author of a poetry collection entitled ‘Random Stars’. She is also a two-time winner of the ‘Catharsis’ poetry open-call at the National Poetry Festival Singapore and is currently pursuing her undergraduate degree at Wesleyan University. Read her story here.