Bainbridge Island’s Steph Jagger on making recollections after mom’s Alzheimer’s prognosis

What is it prefer to make recollections with somebody who received’t bear in mind them? That’s a query that Bainbridge creator Steph Jagger has firsthand expertise answering. In 2016, she set out on a multistate nationwide park street journey along with her mom, who had been newly recognized with Alzheimer’s illness. 

Her e-book, “Everything Left to Remember: My Mother, Our Memories, and a Journey Through the Rocky Mountains,” chronicles Jagger’s try and uncover unrevealed items of her mom’s story. Together, the pair horseback trip by means of the backcountry of Yellowstone, river raft Clark Fork in Montana, and gaze upon peaks at Glacier and Grand Teton nationwide parks. In doing so, she explores grief, acceptance, reminiscence and what it means to be a daughter. 

She not too long ago caught up with The Seattle Times earlier than the e-book’s launch on April 26. This dialog has been edited for size and readability.

“Everything Left to Remember”

Steph Jagger, Flatiron Books, 272 pp., $28.99

How did you give you the concept of tenting along with your mom?

Some of it was an intuitive thought. And I believe the extra I sat with the concept of touring with my mother that the extra I believed this may actually knock her socks off, even when she doesn’t bear in mind this. [And my dad] would by no means say sure to a visit like this. Like, he’s an athletic man who likes to journey they usually’ve carried out bicycling excursions, however to arrange a tent and never have a spot to bathe and shave — this was not my father. This is absolutely quintessentially her type of journey. Part of that’s value, too — there’s an accessibility to renting a automotive and throwing a tent at the back of it. I believed, “OK, this will be a relatively inexpensive journey and something I think she’ll enjoy.”

What have been a number of the challenges you didn’t anticipate?

One of them was the actions that I chosen for us. We have been going to go horseback driving and whitewater rafting. They take you thru, like, “this is what happens if you fall out of the boat” and I used to be like, “oh, my gosh, she’s not going to remember any of this. Is this a bit more dangerous than I thought?” And then I believed, “no, it just is going to require me to have more frank conversations with the guides.”

Related to that have been societal [expectations]. I believe I didn’t anticipate how uncomfortable some individuals have been when she requested a wierd query or wasn’t making sense about one thing or that kind of factor. And I believe that’s one thing that I’ve realized lots about over time and I believe is so essential within our society is to work to create house, whether or not it’s for a cognitive decline like Alzheimer’s or simply neurodiversity usually. 

One of the core items of this journey is that you simply’re making recollections your mom received’t bear in mind. Why did it really feel essential to expertise it anyway?

Certainly for me, it felt essential to expertise it to make recollections as I transfer ahead. And simply because an individual with Alzheimer’s received’t bear in mind the precise occasions doesn’t imply they aren’t feeling them within the second. When we’re experiencing pleasure and awe and marvel, even when our thoughts doesn’t bear in mind it, having our physique be allowed to nonetheless really feel these emotions … It feels actually essential to create experiences collectively. 

Were there moments of awe that stood out to you on the journey?

I believe the largest was on the journey in Yellowstone. Old Faithful geyser had erupted, everyone left. I went to the women’ room, and I got here again she was simply sitting on a bench and nobody was there. And there simply gave the impression to be one thing a lot bigger at play. You know, all of us thought the attractive factor was the eruption. But truly, there was one thing extra to be witnessed. I simply stood there for fairly a while. She simply appeared so content material and in awe, type of peaceable. And that was actually lovely. 

Your mom’s sister — your aunt — joins you for a part of the journey, and also you write that you simply invited her since you “wanted her memories.” What was essential to you about studying about your mom’s previous?

I felt intuitively there have been dots to attach and I felt I used to be lacking a handful of them. And maybe my aunt had witnessed or seen one in all them. It felt like if I used to be going to observe my mom constellate, it might be like I used to be lacking one of many stars. 

The relationship between mom and daughter is a serious theme within the e-book. How did your mom’s prognosis change your function as a daughter?

That’s the quintessential query of the e-book. Who am I if I’m not a daughter to this mom? There is an actual dance with, “what is mother-daughter and what is caregiver-care receiver and how do you parse those out?” I don’t know if I understand how. I believe there additionally was the query for me that’s ongoing, which is, “what am I still a daughter of?”

Was there part of the e-book that was tougher to put in writing than others?

Most individuals who have siblings type of perceive that even in case you all dwell within the identical household, you have got totally different experiences. My quintessential worry is that I’m going to get in bother. Those have been the toughest to put in writing, the place somebody may have a look at this and get mad, have feelings, say that’s not the reality, deny that. To have a type of truths placed on paper and known as “the Truth,” capital T, I can’t think about. So I’ve a variety of gratitude for [my family.]

This journey occurred a number of years in the past now, and your relationship along with your mom continues to be evolving as her illness progresses. How do you grapple with having the whole story of this e-book, and the continued story along with your mom?

There are issues I’m tentative of. Like, I’m very cognizant of the pictures I share. The most fascinating factor within what we’re speaking about is maybe the query of, how can we take what seems as a binary, as a result of it’s packaged in a e-book, and perceive that life continues to be a fluid expertise? I believe that’s one thing I’m deeply interested by and actually deeply cognizant of — to grasp that the snapshot within the e-book or the collection of snapshots within the e-book shouldn’t be the totality. 

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