Alzheimer’s Solitaire

Rafters languish, deteriorate
day by day, year by year;
each becomes an empty shell.
Still the house stands,
its contents removed, distributed
to forgotten places.

Within its quiet, empty spaces
remain shadows of recognition,
subtle traces of memory
too faint and blurred to distinguish.

Solitaire cards tell the story
of a life once present here,
but the details are lost.
Red on black, black on red-
all that remains.

She doesn’t know if I cheat.
It keeps the game going.
With skipped cards here and there
we make it through again.

Until one day the house collapses.
Dust to dust, the deck packed away
and both of us are freed
from that desolate place.


My grandmother, Miney, had severe Alzheimer’s disease. I would visit her at her nursing home and play solitaire because it was the only activity I could do with her. She was no longer able to play herself, or to even spot the right cards, but I would act like we were working together and she would enjoy the game. Before she developed Alzheimer’s we used to play Skip-Bo, another card game, until the late hours of the night. It was one of our favorite family pastimes with her. Maybe she had a shadow of memory from our Skip-Bo games and experienced a sense of remembrance when we played solitaire. 

Miney passed away last week. She is now free from that prison and I pray that she is in a world of joy and freedom in the life beyond.


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