Why did I write The Warrior With Alzheimer’s? The Authors Collection.
February 4, 2015
ONE DAY WHEN I WAS VISITING my mom, Helen Woodfin, at her home in Kilgore, Texas, she looked me in the eye and said, “I know there’s a hard thing coming. I hate it, but I guess I’ll just have to go through it.”
The hard thing was her descent into Alzheimer’s.
We knew it already had a grip on her. She had begun to forget, didn’t trust herself in the car anymore.
My mom fought more battles than she deserved. Her husband, a farm boy from Winnsboro, Texas, marched off to World War Two and returned a shell of the man she married. He carried in his mind the horrors of the Battle of the Bulge, the inhuman stench of German concentration camps where he saw bodies stacked up like cords of wood. He slept the rest of his life with a loaded pistol under his pillow. I sometimes tell people that my dad died in the war, but his flawed heart kept beating for another thirty-three years.
My mom’s only brother, Uncle Pete, came ashore at Omaha Beach. A medic, he ministered to wounded soldiers and learned to self-medicate. Hooked on morphine, he came home and swapped that addiction for alcohol. Next to his lifeless body in a flea bag hotel in Marshall, Texas, the police found an empty fifth of rot gut whiskey. He was forty-nine.
Despite these heartaches and others, Helen Woodfin lived a good life. She worked six days a week and spent all day Sunday at church. She gave more than she had to ensure that her three children had food to eat and clothes to wear.
I never heard her complain.
But Alzheimer’s proved too much for her. Not only did it strip her dignity, it extinguished the fire in her soul. At her funeral, I referred to Alzheimer’s as “the prison house of the soul.” If it is not the worst thing that can happen to a person, it is near the top of a very short list.
With this personal backdrop, I suppose it is no wonder that a book about love, war and Alzheimer’s had to force its way out of my spirit. In a sense I hated to write The Warrior with Alzheimer’s: Battle for Justice because I felt that when I did so I would close a chapter, not just in a book, but in my life. Now the notebook that holds its pages sits on a desk with other papers, a poor reflection of the anguish suffered by so many members of the greatest generation.
Please click the book cover image to read more about Stephen Woodfin and his novels.