Popular Articles

A vivid and in-depth perspective into the experience of coping with Alzheimer’s Disease

Click an icon above to share, email, or save this article

The story about the siblings in Watkins Glen is meaningful, because of the gift of time where they can be together again as when they were children.

Click an icon above to share, email, or save this article

Eleanor Lerman is a lifelong New Yorker and acclaimed writer of numerous works of poetry, short stories and novels. Among the awards she has received are the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets in 2006 for the year’s most outstanding book of poetry, Our Post-Soviet History Unfolds, the John W. Campbell Prize for Best Book of Science Fiction Novel in 2016, for her book, Radiomen, and the American Fiction Award in 2018 for her novel The Stargazer’s Embassy.

Her latest work, Watkins Glen, is a complex but satisfying read that delves deeply into the relationship between a brother and sister, Mark and Susan Kleinzinger. Close to each other as children they were separated due to tragic circumstances and different lifestyle choices. The novel describes how they are able to find their way together again in their later years and  form a meaningful connection that changes both of their lives.

Susan is a 65 year old divorcee who lives an isolated existence in Glen Downey, a tiny hamlet near Watkins Glen, a community that is “spread around the southern tip of Seneca Lake” in Upstate New York. With a population of under 2000, it attracts people who come to visit the Watkins Glen International Race Track, the mecca of road racing history in North America.

Her 70 year old brother Mark lives in Brooklyn, off Ocean Parkway, in a section of the borough which is “a mixture of secular and orthodox Jews living with black, white and Hispanic neighbours in old brick apartment buildings.” A former math teacher, he has been living alone since his wife’s death and has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, as well as Acquired Savant Syndrome, a brain disorder that has led him to develop an uncontrollable compulsion to paint unusual portraits and landscapes.

After a call from Mark’s son in California, Susan visits and notices how his personality has changed as a result of his debilitating disease. Totally withdrawn at times, there are also occasions when he is lucid and alert permitting him and Susan to engage in a meaningful dialogue. Susan describes her brother’s “strange new world as some kind of dark fairy tale that I had stumbled into by walking through his front door.”

She accompanies him to an appointment with his neurologist in a “decaying building in Brooklyn in the bowels of a grim tenement” where it appears to her that the patients are also decaying. As Mark is being examined by his doctor, she recalls a memory of him “as a child, jumping into the water” energetically but now perceives him as “a pale, gray haired man with a bony rib cage moving up and down.” This reminds her how quickly time is passing for both of them.  

After Mark moves to Susan’s cabin in Glen Downey, they begin to share memories of their summers with their parents in Watkins Glen when they were children. Those summers were the happiest time of their lives but abruptly came to an end when their mother died and not long after that, their father. They went to live with orthodox relatives in Lakewood, New Jersey whom Susan believed to be so unkind that she could not tolerate being with them.

Mark tells her “There came a point where you wouldn’t let anyone be kind to you. You shut everyone out-even me”. He adds “Nobody knew how to help you, or help me. We had to figure things out for ourselves and I guess we came up with different answers.” After her divorce, Susan became a loner and retreated to Watkins Glen which was the only place she had ever truly felt happy and safe.

Get thej.ca a Pro Israel Voice by Email. Never miss a top story that effects you, your family & your community

Susan and Mark have special moments where they discover common interests. They enjoy a visit to the site of the house where they lived during summers when they would visit Watkins Glen with their parents as well as an unplanned excursion to the East Village in New York City after a neurologist appointment, where they enjoy wandering down memory lane together.

Mark develops a passion for painting scenes of Seneca Lake and begins to draw a large creature that he can see living in the water. It is never entirely clear whether Sennie, as he is nicknamed by Susan and her friend Maureen, serves a purpose by his presence in his imagination but we can see that Mark cares about him and worries when he disappears. As Mark’s symptoms worsen, he becomes increasingly withdrawn, occasionally goes into rages and can become aggressive. Susan imagines “waves of fear” and “Darkness overtaking the endless struggle to remain himself.”

The special closeness that has grown between the siblings is in stark contrast to the fears they both carry. He is terrified of losing himself to a deathlike darkness that he cannot prevent and she is afraid of continuing to spend her life alone in the world rather than embracing the possibility of a better life ahead.

Susan is able to expand her social circle and is offered a managerial job at the store in town where she has been a part time worker. She realizes that she must begin to search for a care facility for when she can no longer meet Mark’s care needs and is preparing herself for when that time comes.

Eleanor Lerman’s first book of poetry, Armed Love (Wesleyan University Press), published when she was twenty-one, was nominated for a National Book Award. She has received a 2007 Literature Fellowship in Poetry from the National Endowment for the Arts.

The story about the siblings is meaningful because of the gift of time that they receive where they can be together again as they were a long time ago as children. They have always cared about each other and their bond helps them grow stronger and more resilient to face the losses ahead – both his loss of functioning and her loss of having him alongside her.

The writing is clear and evocative. It shows us how Mark and Susan feel and allows us to see their struggles against the forces of nature clearly and with great empathy.

In addition, the book provides the reader with a vivid and in depth perspective into the experience of coping with Alzheimer’s Disease, for both the patient and the caregiver. The disease is cruel as it robs the affected person of his or her sense of self and creates highly challenging obstacles for those who both care for them and about them. I commend Susan for taking on a very demanding role as caregiver to Mark and to Mark for helping and supporting Susan through a lonely and difficult time in her life, when he is able.

Judy Weinryb is a published author who facilitates a Creative Writing class on zoom at the Bernard Betel Centre for Creative Living. She has been a freelance writer for the Canadian Jewish News, the Jewish Tribune and the Markham Review. A social worker for many years, she has an interest in Jewish Community from both a professional and personal perspective.

Click an icon above to share, email, or save this article

Click an icon above to share, email, or save this article

Read More

Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

cOMING SOON…….

Breaking News

Recent

Features

News

Current Events

Opinions

Politics

Religion

Culture

Memoriam and Obituaries

PodcastS

Terms and Conditions

Privacy Policy

About Us

Advertise with us

contact 

Subscribe Now

Receive the latest in community & international Jewish news direct to your inbox

© 2020 THEJ.CA, All Rights Reserved

Terms and Conditions

Privacy Policy

About Us

Advertise with us

contact 

Subscribe Now

Receive the latest in community & international Jewish news direct to your inbox

© 2020 THEJ.CA, All Rights Reserved

Subscribe Now

Receive the latest in community & international Jewish news direct to your inbox

Terms and Conditions

Privacy Policy

About Us

Advertise with us

contact 

© 2020 THEJ.CA, All Rights Reserved