Two Journeys, One Deep Within and One to the Far Corners of the World
By Carole Schor
San Miguel Literary Sala Presents
Agnes Olive, Letters from Pakistan and Don Cramer, Where is Whitney Now?
Thu, Oct 13, 5–7pm
Hotel Posada de Aldea
Ancha de San Antonio 15
100 pesos (50 pesos for Literary Sala members)
Complimentary wine reception
The Literary Sala is pleased to present Don Cramer, author of Where is Whitney Now? and Agnes Olive, author of Letters from Pakistan—stories about two different kinds of journeys. The event will take place on October 13 at 5pm at the Aldea Hotel.
Don Cramer found his true love, Whitney, and expected to spend a wonderful, wonder-filled long life with the love of his life. But his life didn’t happen as he’d expected or hoped. At the young age of 57, Whitney was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s, perhaps the scariest and least understood of all diseases, one that takes down both the patient and the caregiver. While the patient slips slowly out of life and deeper into unconsciousness and the unknown, the caregiver tries to hold on to a sense of normalcy and a way to keep a grip on his own existence and life. What Don didn’t anticipate was that Whitney would hang on, not for the five years given to most Alzheimer’s patients, but for years and years and years—now 12 years since her diagnosis.
Don’s book details his life as Whitney slipped away, the day-to-day challenges that faced him as the caregiver, the constant vigilance, the need to take on ever-increasing responsibilities, the social and financial pressures, the heartbreaking estrangement, the desperate need for help, plus his understanding of how to cope with the massive changes he faced as his loved one’s brain became more and more compromised.
Don tells of the support he found from some friends and from a caregivers’ support group. He describes his desperation to find help, the stress of his lonely journey, and the hopelessness he felt in his attempts to keep his thoughts and anxiety under control while he searched for answers and help. He found his hope and his answers here in San Miguel at Cielito Lindo, a remarkable Alzheimer’s facility that has been providing loving care at a reasonable cost for his beloved Whitney. Don’s book is not only the heartrending story of his personal love and loss, but also a hopeful and helpful guide for caregivers who find themselves taking care of a loved one plummeting down a steep path to oblivion while they themselves are tumbling down their own rabbit hole of confusion and lonely despair.
Agnes Olive (Letters from Pakistan) took another kind of journey, halfway around the world to Pakistan, where she found herself a woman in a backward, repressed society with a strange, foreign culture and a new and very different set of standards.
Agnes moved with her then husband to Lahore, where she could not walk alone, had to cover herself up, to deal with servants who had their own set of values and conduct, and to find some way to express her innate artistic soul and talent. Always an artist by nature, Agnes found inspiration everywhere she looked, in the garbage, in the streets, in the fruits and vegetables growing all around her. And from these found objects, Agnes created art in the form of handmade paper, introducing new concepts and techniques that amazed and befuddled the local Pakistanis who had never seen such a creative project, especially done by a woman!
Her book, Letters from Pakistan, One Woman’s Odyssey, is a compilation of letters to family and friends written from Lahore where she lived from 1984 to 1987. Her friends and family saved these letters and, upon Agnes’ return to Canada, presented them to her with the suggestion that she someday incorporate them into a book. That someday arrived and the tales of her travels have taken the form of this book, from which she’ll be reading at the Sala, about her exploits, art, adventures, and misadventures―from studying the Koran with her female, veiled neighbors to riding a camel; and trying hard to supervise the often absent, always surprising staff of Pakistani workers she hired to “help” her in exotic Pakistan.
Agnes is currently documenting 35 years of her artwork, from 1980 in Canada to here in San Miguel in 2016, in a book that will contain photographs accompanied by text retelling the inspirations that led to the pieces.
Join us for what is certain to be an interesting evening of tales of life, tearful and hopeful, adventurous and artistic, on Oct 13 at 5pm at the Hotel La Aldea on the Ancha. Admission is 50 pesos for members and 100 pesos for nonmembers, including a wine and snack reception. Membership in the Literary Sala supports not only the literary life of San Miguel, including scholarships for teens and reading projects for children in the campo; it also offers attractive benefits, like reading groups and discounts at the monthly author readings, as well as discounts and priority seating at the Annual Writers’ Conference. A membership table will be available at the Sala event. It is also possible to obtain information and join online at sanmiguelliterarysala.org.