by Vivienne Ulman
Scribe Publications, 2010
Review by Tijuana L. Canders on Aug 9th 2011
An author, journalist, and book reviewer herself, Vivienne Ulman shares the story of her mother's struggles and battles with Alzheimer's. Unforgettable moments are penned into existence through separate sections of Vivienne's written letters to her mother, diaries of treatments, and informative written outlines of the family's experience. Aspects of her family's hard work, Jewish heritage, community and religion along with their roles in social justice were sound boards and preparation of memories for themselves before, during, and after the silent disease Alzheimer's, introduced itself to her beloved mother Lucy Tugend. Where the Communist Party threatened control and the Menzies Liberal Government wanted to ban such acts, the Tugend family sought peace through receptive meetings between the two parties for common ground.
Lucy Tugend considered to be a balabosta woman of her time, a Yiddish term for, "one who raised housekeeping to the level of an Olympic sport" provided nurture to her children, strength to her husband Saul Tugend and provided a spotless kitchen, gourmet feasts, all while wearing lipstick, French perfume and an apron. Preparing the Jewish Ceder Celebration, Passover Feasts, along with Challahs and Matzah balls were her signatures. Upholding her husband and quieting her children so his soul would be quieted and not overflowed, during his paths of setbacks, to breakthroughs, gave him the sustainable strength he needed in leading his family. Her words of encouragement became the foundation for the growth in their relationship and later the backbone for Vivienne's growth before the onset of her battling Alzheimer's. Vivenne Ulman describes a woman of exquisite contour in dress, with a business mind like her husband, and nurturer of other marriages as a counselor who beset her own family before anything else, through hands on shaping and molding, deteriorate in speech, perception, thought, mind, body, and soul until the end was apparent, near, and unavoidable.
While Vivienne notices changes in her mother's behavior and though Saul Tugend, a gentle man in spirit, refuses to believe such an onset was the case of his wife's absentmindedness, it is only after seeking a neurologist and the diagnosis is met that Saul Tugend absorbs that his wife is suffering from the illness and Ulman finds relief that there is a name to her mother's setbacks. While Ulman absorbs the information she realizes that she will now know another Lucy Tugend and that the woman she once knew was somewhere hidden behind the new Lucy Tugend in thought, words, and actions. Her love for her mother never wavered but the intensity of the disease caused a flow of emotions to face within Ulman including her future worries and perceptions of developing the disease herself. A longing for her mother's love grew within her with each passing stage of the silent disease and only grasping the concept of her own memories through reliving moments mentally and writing relieved the final known outcome and aided Ulman in a more personal growth.
Alzheimer's: A Love Story should be shared with anyone wanting to be aware of this disease. Ulman shows her family's life wrapped in love and endurance to the tribute of her loved mother. A must read.
© 2011 Tijuana L. Canders
Tijuana Canders, Canal Winchester, Ohio