In working with his 86-year-old mother, who was in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s
disease, author Eliezer Sobel discovered something astounding. Although she could not
speak full sentences or follow a story line, his mother could read, and would sit in rapt
attention as she paged through magazines and coffee-table books. That is why he wrote
Blue Sky, White Clouds. A simple picture book with large, easy-to-read type, this is a
perfect fit for any loved one who has Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Eliezer Sobel is the author of Minyan: Ten Jewish Men in a World That Is Heartbroken, which won the prestigious Peter Taylor Prize for the Novel. He also wrote the memoir The 99th Monkey: A Spiritual Journalist’s Misadventures.
For my beloved Mom
Fairly early on in the progression of my mother's Alzheimer's Disease, she could no longer follow stories or read books. Within a short time, she lost the ability to retain the meaning of even two consecutive sentences. Eventually she was robbed of nearly all ordinary language and speaking skills, though she continues even now to be quite engaging and talkative, using nonsense words that she makes up as she goes along.
"The mingleman is falteered nosty?" she will ask me, and I'll reply, "Yes, he is," and we will converse like this for quite a long time. Periodically, out of the blue, some real English will suddenly inspire all of us: "I'm glad I had you," she said to me one day, and I was stunned, for ordinarily she is unaware that she has been married 66 years and has two grown children. Yet she always seems to know and love my brother and me, whoever we are!
One day a few years ago I had an astounding revelation: Mom was thumbing through a magazine, looking at the pictures, and I heard her reciting the big print aloud. My mother can still read, I realized. Maybe not a book; maybe not a paragraph, or even a full sentence; but she could still read individual words and short phrases.
I tried in vain to find an "adult picture book" for someone like her. Something simple, with high quality photos of familiar objects, people and nature, with short, easy-to-read captions. A book in which each page would be complete unto itself, requiring no power of recall.
What you're holding in your hands is the result. I hope and pray that it will provide Alzheimer's patients and other mentally-challenged adults, along with their loved ones and caregivers, the opportunity to spend much quality, quiet time together, looking through Blue Sky, White Clouds and reading it aloud.
As I write this, my mother, Manya Sobel, has had Alzheimer's disease for nearly ten years, and remains at home under the loving and devoted, contest care of my father, Max Sobel. May they and the millions of people in a similar position be blessed to live peacefully with this very difficult and challenging illness.