Lon Cole writes poems abut a life that is slowly fading away, and the worst part is, it’s his own.
The subject of today’s column, Lon is 64 and three years into what was early diagnosed Alzheimer’s disease. A Vietnam vet who was seriously wounded as a combat medic, Lon and wife Cris have been together for 43 years. They’re facing his disease together.
“Poetry was a pretty casual thing, something I’d do once in a while. After I was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2010, it clicked – I don’t know how long I’ll be able to write. I started writing and wrote as many as five poems in a day,” Lon said.
“Now I’m writing one every couple of days.”
Sometimes, he’ll lose a stanza between inspiration and being able to write it down. He has written poems about Vietnam, about Alzheimer’s and post-traumatic stress syndrome – and about more mundane things like standing in line.
He said his wife sees the changes before he does.
“He functions well, so it hasn’t gotten scary yet,” Cris said. “He’s more reclusive at home, and that’s hard. We used to talk all the time, about everything, like married couples do. Now he’ll go back into his office and in his own world.”
Today, Lon became a published poet for the first time. His book, “You’re Not Alone – Poems of Hope and Faith,” a collection of 52 poems, will be available today on Createspace.com, and on Amazon.com by the end of the week.
The Puyallup man no longer drives, except an occasional short excursion to his church. He spends hours most nights on his computer, researching his disease, and knows what lies ahead.
“I’m in the first stage, and I’m more worried about the second stage – not knowing my family,” he said. “That’s typical three to six years after diagnosis. It can kill you within six to 15 years.”
Lon’s two children and eight grandchildren are with him in his struggle. Cris said the older grand kids now know to watch after grandpa on all outings. He will, Lon said, write poems as long as he is able.
Meanwhile, he serves on the Pierce County Regional Advisory Council of the Alzheimer’s Association (ALZWA.org) and endorses its hotline (1.-800-272-3900).