by Marcee Corn and Susan McCulloch
Unclaimed Baggage is our personal story about Martha, our mother, and her journey through life and ultimately through Alzheimer’s disease. Our account is told in snippets of anecdotes from our mother’s perspective as well as other family members’ perspectives.
As we begin our narrative, we are driving our mother to the Assisted Living Facility that we collectively agreed was where she needed to be.
Excerpt from Unclaimed Baggage:
Alzheimer’s leaps off the neatly painted sign, as if in neon, beckoning the driver to come on in.
Upon seeing that sign fastened to the front of the building, we feel like traitors, like terrible daughters, and worse, uncaring caregivers. As we enter the lobby Mom is distracted by the colorful parrot in the cage in the corner. She walks the few steps over to him leaving us, and the Assisted Living facility behind, as she is transported back to Bush Gardens, Florida in the year 1963.
She believes this caged parrot is the same one seen all those years ago. In her mind she recalls a memory of when she lined up the five of us to take a family vacation photo. Leslie, the youngest, won’t cooperate and the brightly colored parrot sitting on Bob’s shoulder won’t either. Suddenly the bird bends his head slowly downward and snaps off her husband’s collar button. The whole family laughs as Bob swooshes the squawking bird with his hand. To our dismay, Martha laughs aloud in the quiet lobby.
Unclaimed Baggage is a love story as it spans over generations weaving back and forth over eras. Our tale travels through young Martha’s girlhood, through 2 wars, over changing decades, right up until the present as she faces and ultimately dies from Alzheimer’s.
It is the story of a real life romance between Martha and Bob, our father. Portions of our story take place in the 1940s world of elevator boys and stolen glances between a young officer and a budding artist in NYC during WWII.
It is also a love story of three daughters who become the caregivers of their mother, after the death of their father. One of the most heart-wrenching things we had to do was to stop calling her Mom changing that familiar name to Martha, the only name she knew.
Ultimately, it is a love story of God’s love for us, his children.
We wrote Unclaimed Baggage originally for our children and grandchildren, so they could know their Grandmother. It turned out to be so much more than that. Ours is a timeless American story, but a universal one as well, as most of us know of someone or have had first hand experience with Alzheimer’s.
We have had an unbelievable response to our book. When we speak to groups, sharing our story of hope, we are sure to say that we are not experts on this disease. But we do have a unique story to tell.
We have found that Unclaimed Baggage, with its positive twist on a devastating disease, has brought hope to our readers.
As one reader says, “It is a story of heart, hope and courage and sometimes hopelessness, like life itself. “
Connect with Marcee Corn and Susan McCulloch