Tapping Power: A Writer Wednesday Post

October 15th, 2014 | Posted by Irene in Essays

TappingTapping Power, photo & all text © Irene O’Garden

To listen to this post, please click here: Tapping Power

Last week this yellow waterlily opened up a world.

I went to California to visit my sister Mary Kay in her excellent Memory Care Unit. Spending time with an Alzheimer’s patient will challenge your habits. The two pillars of ordinary conversation—what has been and what is coming–are essentially meaningless.

Of course it’s our cultural expectations that are limited, not the person. So much capacity remains: to experience, to feel, to laugh, to enjoy the familiar. But side by side in the present you must remain. What can we share?

As we smiled together over lunch, I remembered I had some family pictures on my iPad, so I pulled it out. Kako loved the familiar nameless faces and enjoyed looking at my landscape and flower photos.  

Then I opened my wonderful Poetry Foundation app and read her some funny old rhythm and rhyme pieces—James Whitcomb Riley, Edward Lear. She was especially delighted with “Casey At The Bat. “

As I went from photo to photo and app to app, I swung the iPad away from her, concerned that the zaps and zooms might disturb her.

But when I opened up MonetHD and gently slid from painting to painting, she reached out and double-tapped that yellow waterlily. It of course instantly enlarged, which tickled her. She tapped the blossom in and out and soon discovered that she could change the pictures herself with a slide of her finger.

“Would you like to make some art of your own?” I opened up a sketching app and we made some abstract pictures together. After that, Tengami, a beautiful meditative Japanese game. She loved making the little explorer move back and forth in his peaceful luminous world.

“ I like this,” she said. “It takes me out of myself.”

By the time I left, we had spent three hours together, the longest visit we have had in many years, all because we’d found a way into her almost vanished world of volition. The staff was happy to hear it and will now assist her with an iPad every day, taking her out of herself and into her power.

Technology itself is not the answer. Presence is. But I do offer gratitude for this varied, entertaining means of sharing it.



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  • ceblain

    Dear Irene: The tears are streaming down my face; this was so lovely and so touching. I may be heading into a situation soon with a family member and I will make sure to use this information to help in whatever way I can if that time comes. Thank you once again for such inspiring information. May God bless you and your sister with as many blessings as possible.
    Thank you again for making my day with this information.

    • Judy

      Irene, I can so relate to this. My mother-in-law also has Alzheimers, and it is music that lifts her out of depression. She can sit at the piano, and be in the moment playing beautifully – it is timeless, and wonderful. Thank you for sharing! Judy

      • IreneOGarden

        Thank you, Judy–I am a real believer in the healing power of art at any stage of life–how inspiring to hear of her joy–

    • IreneOGarden

      I hope it can help you, Cynthia–sorry to hear about your upcoming situation–I know you will find blessings of your own, whatever comes–

  • Cathy Gonick

    out of herself and into her power – this could not be better put. and oh, the power of art.

    • IreneOGarden

      Thank you, Wordwoman–and yes, the power of art…

  • Laura

    What a beautiful blend of technology and soul. It reminds me of the facillators who reached speechless children who could ten communicate but only on a keyboard…the brain and the tapping fingers work in mysterious ways

    • IreneOGarden

      It is wonderful to assist in such magic, Laura–many thanks–

  • Sarah

    Wonderful, but heart wrenching story, Irene. I lived with my Mother in Law for the last 4 months of her life as AD took her away. Looking at holiday photos of family and total strangers occupied her for hours even after she’d lost her ability to speak or identify anyone. I wish she’d lived in the IPad age as I know it would have enriched both her experience and ours

    • IreneOGarden

      Thank you, Sarah–my heart goes out to you. I know you were a gift in her life–

  • Jayne

    Irene, this is a stunning discovery. I would love for you to write up something and submit for publication in the NYT Modern Times column. Jayne

    • IreneOGarden

      Jayne, thanks so much– I did forward the post to the NYTimes New Old Age Blog–we’ll see if it suits their fancy. So happy you found it meaningful–

  • Debra Griner

    What a beautiful story, Irene! How lucky Kako is to have a sister like you. What a gift!

  • Mark Rettman


  • giom

    …it all about touching….bless her…and you for sharing these moments

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