By Tina Snell, Staff Writer
Lynda Olander Converse has written a book about her father, Merle Olander. It’s not about his life, or his accomplishments or what a great father he was. It’s about his journey with Alzheimer’s disease.
“My father once said to me, ‘A person is a culmination of their life experiences. Who are you if you don’t have memories?’” said Converse. That was before he was diagnosed.
The book is called, “His Name Was Merle – Our Journey Through Alzheimer’s Disease.” It’s a book about hope and survival. The story documents the family’s decisions, trials and love during the seven years Merle had the disease.
“My memories of those years are different than my mother’s and my siblings’ memories. I have added my perspective of their relationships,” she said.
Converse said she began journaling Merle’s years with Alzheimers in 2008, which sparked memories of her childhood.
“I didn’t want to forget some of the funnier or more touching episodes that happened,” said Converse, who wrote the book for herself and for others who are going through the same journey.
Her mother, Audrey, kept from Converse and her siblings the fact that her husband was losing his memory. She was afraid people would forget him.
“My dad realized his memory wasn’t right when he was still trucking,” Converse said. “He came home and told Audrey he didn’t think he would be driving any longer. He knew where he was supposed to go, but couldn’t find it.”
Converse said, in the beginning, her mother would not let the disease take her husband. One story she relates has Merle going to change oil in one of his vehicles. He returned to the house to tell Audrey he couldn’t do it, he didn’t know how. She disagreed and told him to get back out there and change the oil, which he did.
Merle passed away January 2010, after having a stroke.
“Alzheimer’s disease is a devastating illness which strikes many families, leaving them searching for answers and clinging to memories,” Converse said in her book. She shares her father’s story and the impact the disease had on the family.
Converse lives in rural Browerville with her husband Clint. She grew up in both the Crosby and Duluth areas. This is her first book and it can be found at the Bethany Book Store in Brainerd, ordered directly by calling (320) 594-2456 or ordered from her Web site at www.lyndaconverse.com.