Gentle into the Darkness: A Deaf Mother’s Journey into Alzheimer’s
by Patricia Conrad.
Gentle into the Darkness: A Deaf Mother’s Journey into Alzheimer’s, by Canadian author Patricia Conrad, tells the story of a remarkable deaf woman’s life. Whether you’re involved in the Deaf community, caring for an elderly parent, or simply a daughter who loves her mom, this touching memoir will warm your heart and stir your emotions.
Written by a daughter as a tribute to her mother, the book takes us into the life of Hendrika, a strong pioneer woman of humble origins who tackled life’s challenges with unflagging zeal. She came to Canada as a six-year-old Dutch immigrant in 1929, and lost her hearing to meningitis soon after. The story chronicles the hardships of immigrant life on the prairies of western Canada, delves into Deaf education and employment for Deaf individuals in the 1930s and ’40s, and explores the bicultural experience of hearing children with Deaf parents. Indeed, Gentle into the Darkness offers a rare “insider” perspective on life between two cultures, as illustrated below:
The flashlight was another essential tool for deaf parents. “When Verna and you were babies,” Uncle Bertus reminded me once, “your mom always had a flashlight by her pillow, and frequently during the night she would shine the light in the crib to see if you were crying.” Evidently we got used to blinding flashes of light at strange moments.
Even when we were all beyond the crib stage, Dad kept a flashlight under his pillow – the better to check on strange vibrations in the night, I suppose, or to have conversations with Mom in the dark. As a child, I became convinced that everyone had a flashlight under their pillow – as soon as they were old enough, of course. I viewed it as a rite of passage, a much-anticipated milestone. Admittedly, I had a weird sense of “normal,” growing up, most of it tied into my parents’ deafness. I couldn’t yet distinguish between the “hearing way” and the “deaf way.” It was just our life.
In the final decade of Hendrika’s life came her greatest challenge: Alzheimer’s disease. Although she did not survive the disease, she triumphed nonetheless, in the ways that matter most—by leaving us a wealth of life lessons in love, courage and perseverance, and by inspiring us all to reach out and make a difference in small but meaningful ways. Filled with laughter, tears, and tender moments, this is a book you will not soon forget.
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