Tag Archive | Katherine Anne Porter

Profiles in Dementia: Katherine Anne Porter’s Granny Weatherall

The Jilting of Granny Weatherall Katherine Anne PorterIn 1930, Katherine Anne Porter wrote a short story entitled “The Jilting of Granny Weatherall” (click on the link to read the short story in a new window).  When I first read this short story in high school, I had never heard the term dementia (my mom’s grandma was senile in her old age, but she was the only person I ever heard of being senile based on firsthand knowledge).

I found Granny Weatherall, an elderly woman whose reverie drifted simultaneously between the past and present as if they had become merged, interesting, but heart-breaking. And as she relived her past like it was the present, her story gave full meaning to her surname of Weatherall.

However, it wasn’t until my own mom started intersplicing her past into the present during her journey with vascular dementia, Lewy Body dementia, and Alzheimer’s Disease that Granny Weatherall came back to the front of my mind. Upon rereading the story, I realized Granny Weatherall had some type of dementia. 

In my book detailing acknowledging, recognizing, and responding to the steps of the journey we take with our loved ones through dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease, I again had Granny Weatherall on my mind as I wrote Chapter 10.

It’s a story I highly recommend for all caregivers with loved ones who have dementias and/or Alzheimer’s Disease.

Katherine Anne Porter 1930How Porter had this kind of insight into the inner workings of how these neurological diseases manifested themselves internally – with Granny Weatherall – and externally – with her caregiving daughter – is a mystery, but Porter captures it perfectly and poignantly.

I think one of the things Granny Weatherall does for us as caregivers is that she reminds us that our loved ones were once vibrant, full of life, and they’ve seen a world of ups and downs that not only may we not be privy to, but that we can’t fully imagine or understand. 

I believe another thing that Granny Weatherall does is to remind us of the fragility, the humanity, and the dignity of our loved ones. Her internal indignation at her daughter’s well-meaning, but clueless caregiving makes us take stock of our own caregiving in relationship to our loved ones.

And the last thing that Granny Weatherall does is to remind us that death is part of the circle of life and it’s often harder on those it leaves behind than those it takes.

There a lot of good lessons here. I hope you take some time to read “The Jilting of Granny Weatherall.” Porter’s a good writer, so the story moves well, but it gives us as caregivers an inside look at our loved ones that we may not have considered or even been aware of before.

“You Oughta Know: Acknowledging, Recognizing, and Responding to the Steps in the Journey Through Dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease” – Chapter 10 Excerpt

You Oughta Know: Recognizing, Acknowledging, and Responding to the Steps in the Journey Through Dementias and Alzheimer's DiseaseIn this eleventh installment of chapter excerpts from the book You Oughta Know: Acknowledging, Recognizing, and Responding to the Steps in the Journey Through Dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease, we look at the tenth step in the journey through dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease.

This post includes an excerpt from chapter 10, which gives comprehensive information on how to acknowledge, recognize, and respond to the tenth step in the journey through dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease: more frequently going back in time (long-term memories) and losing connection with the present (short-term memories and recognition of loved ones).

This chapter discusses why this step occurs and offers practical, real-time, and loving ways we as caregivers should respond and help our loved ones as we negotiate this step in the journey.

This series begins with the forward to the book and an explanation of why I wrote this book and why you should read it.

The series continues with the inclusion of excerpts from Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 6, Chapter 7, Chapter 8, Chapter 9, and, with this post, Chapter 10.

The steps in the journey through dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease are presented sequentially in the order in which they actually appear in the course of these neurological diseases.

There are no other books that literally walk through each step in sequential order as they emerge in the journey through dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease.

Additionally, there is no other book that discusses:

  1. The process we as caregivers acknowledge each new step – there is an acceptance period that we have to go through
  2. The process we use to guide ourselves and our loved ones with dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease through the recognition phase of each step
  3. The concrete, loving, and practical information on how we should respond and how we can help guide our loved ones’ responses

These are the things that make You Oughta Know: Acknowledging, Recognizing, and Responding to the Steps in the Journey Through Dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease unique and stand alone in the plethora of books about dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease.

going gentle into that good night divider

Excerpt “Chapter 10: ‘Time Reverse and Rewind”

“The next step in the journey with our loved ones with dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease can be difficult to comprehend and adjust to, since it usually appears randomly and unexpectedly. This step is where our loved ones seem to frequently go back in time in memories, in conversations, and in thinking and they often don’t recognize us or know who we are.

I first read Katherine Anne Porter’s The Jilting of Granny Weatherall in high school. It is the story of an 80-year-old woman who has dementia and/or Alzheimer’s Disease. Neither of these names for neurological impairment existed, however, when Porter wrote this short story in 1930. Instead, elderly people were just ‘senile.’

The story made a strong impression on me even as a teenager, even though I never had steady and intimate contact with elderly people (both my parents lost their parents when they were very young and, as only children who were much younger than their cousins, had no aunts and uncles except one on my mom’s side left by the times we kids came along) and had never seen anything that looked like dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease.

I found Granny Weatherall fascinating and I found the juxtaposition of where she was in her own mind versus what was actually going on around her intriguing.

If you have not read the story, you should.”