The Last of His Mind: A Year in the Shadow of Alzheimer's

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9780804011365: The Last of His Mind: A Year in the Shadow of Alzheimer's
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ForeWord Book of the Year Award winner
A Publishers Weekly “Indie Top 20”
The Washington Post: A Best Book of 2009
2010 Ohioana Book Award Finalist


Joe Thorndike was managing editor of Life at the height of its popularity immediately following World War II. He was the founder of American Heritage and Horizon magazines, the author of three books, and the editor of a dozen more. But at age 92, in the space of six months he stopped reading or writing or carrying on detailed conversations. could no longer tell time or make a phone call. was convinced that the governor of Massachusetts had come to visit and was in the refrigerator.

Five million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s, and like many of them, Joe Thorndike’s one great desire was to remain in his own house. To honor this wish, his son John left his own home and moved into his father’s upstairs bedroom on Cape Cod. For a year, in a house filled with file cabinets, photos, and letters, John explored his father’s mind, his parents’ divorce, and his mother’s secrets. The Last of His Mind is the bittersweet account of a son’s final year with his father, and a candid portrait of an implacable disease.

It is the ordeal of Alzheimer’s that draws father and son close, closer than they have been since John was a boy. At the end, when Joe’s heart stops beating, John’s hand is on his chest, and a story of painful decline has become a portrait of deep family ties, caregiving, and love.

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About the Author:

John Thorndike is the author of two novels, Anna Delaney's Child and The Potato Baron, and a previous memoir, Another Way Home. He lives in Athens, Ohio.

From The Washington Post:

The first few pages of "The Last of His Mind" are dynamite, in their quiet way. They open up a world that, if you've known it and lived in it, conks you on the head, bashes your memory, brings it all back in a rush. John Thorndike, a writer and farmer in his 60s, describes spending a quiet Vermont Christmas with his brother, Al. Their father, Joseph, 91, naps through the long afternoon. "Resting in bed, he wears the old pair of slippers Al has given him, wide and brown and flattened at the heels. His feet are too swollen to fit into his shoes." That's the Gypsy's warning -- those swollen feet. Later that day, the author and his brother try to persuade their father to sign papers that would give Al power of attorney. The old man can no longer take care of his bills, but he refuses. "I won't be the one in charge anymore," he worries.

The author writes, "I become aware of my patience, as if it's a commodity I'm spending. I don't know how much I have." And after this unsatisfactory exchange, his father says, piteously, "I want to go home."

Joseph soon has Alzheimer's diagnosed, but he is not an ordinary patient. First, although he forgets some things, he never forgets his prodigious good manners and he also retains vast chunks of a fine education. He had a long career working for Henry Luce at Life magazine and later was co-founder of two hardcover magazines, Horizon and American Heritage, which were very successful in the mid-20th century. In other words, he was at the center of American cultural life, and he carries these attributes into his illness. He may be reduced to wearing adult diapers, but he invariably says thank you when someone has to change them.

John, because he's a writer, thank God, has decided to record the life he and his father are spending together. His other project may be something deeper. John has always been a great admirer of his mother, who went to med school after she married, became a successful doctor, but also had a series of affairs and eventually left his dad, only to be jilted by her lover as they were finally moving in together.

At length, Joseph dies at home, with his son as witness. This memoir is far too elegantly written to ever state it directly, but the reader is made aware of the high honor involved: The author honors his father in the most profound way and is blessed, in turn, by participating in the most taxing event in his father's life.
Copyright 2009, The Washington Post. All Rights Reserved.

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9780804011228: The Last of His Mind: A Year in the Shadow of Alzheimer's

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ISBN 10:  0804011222 ISBN 13:  9780804011228
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Book Description Ohio University Press, United States, 2011. Paperback. Condition: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. ForeWord Book of the Year Award winner A Publishers Weekly Indie Top 20 The Washington Post: A Best Book of 2009 2010 Ohioana Book Award Finalist Joe Thorndike was managing editor of Life at the height of its popularity immediately following World War II. He was the founder of American Heritage and Horizon magazines, the author of three books, and the editor of a dozen more. But at age 92, in the space of six months he stopped reading or writing or carrying on detailed conversations. could no longer tell time or make a phone call. was convinced that the governor of Massachusetts had come to visit and was in the refrigerator. Five million Americans suffer from Alzheimer s, and like many of them, Joe Thorndike s one great desire was to remain in his own house. To honor this wish, his son John left his own home and moved into his father s upstairs bedroom on Cape Cod. For a year, in a house filled with file cabinets, photos, and letters, John explored his father s mind, his parents divorce, and his mother s secrets. The Last of His Mind is the bittersweet account of a son s final year with his father, and a candid portrait of an implacable disease. It is the ordeal of Alzheimer s that draws father and son close, closer than they have been since John was a boy. At the end, when Joe s heart stops beating, John s hand is on his chest, and a story of painful decline has become a portrait of deep family ties, caregiving, and love. Seller Inventory # CBL9780804011365

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