Wednesday, May 9, 2012

My Beloved Porch Swing

The idea of a porch swing always enchanted me. I imagined that all sorts of everyday magic could occur while rocking in one. I can't recall any porch swings in my childhood, though I have a faint memory of one on my maternal grandmother's porch, or maybe it's just wishful thinking. I do know that my great-grandma told me that gentleman callers courted her on her parent's porch swing, so maybe that romantic story is what sparked my desire for a porch swing. I can't say for sure, but I have wanted a porch swing to swing on since I was a child. Nine years ago this Mother's Day my wish came true.

On that Mother's Day, we still lived all together on our mountain paradise, and on special days, like mothers everywhere, I would embrace all that was good and true in our family, and do my best to fill our celebrations with love and joy. On Mother's Day 2003, however, it was my sons who gave me a gift of love and joy--they gave me a porch swing. They did not buy me one; they did something much better--they made me one. Gavin designed the swing, and he and his brothers, Hugh and Grant, built it together. They did this in secret. On Mother's Day, all three boys carried the swing out to the point, our special place on our mountain that overlooked another mountain, where we could watch glorious sunsets, fierce storms, or magical, waterfall-like fog, and where we walked to each evening. 

In the late afternoon of that lovely Mother's Day, we took our family walk to the point. Imagine my delighted surprise when I saw the swing. I laughed and cried and jumped for joy. My heart felt like it would burst with love and happiness. My loving sons had given me one of the best gifts ever--hours and hours of peaceful swinging, while looking out over an idyllic pastoral view.

When we had to move off our mountain nine months later, I was determined to take my porch swing to our new home. This did not prove easy to do, but, in the end, I prevailed. Now, my porch swing sits in my backyard on the patio. I can sit there and talk with Gavin and Grant when they barbecue, but mostly I sit there by myself, swinging back and forth, thinking back on my happy family memories, or trying to figure out solutions to problems, or just basking in the warmth of a fine day,  comforted by my swing that was made for me with love by my boys.

My porch swing is even better than I imagined it would be, proving that sometimes reality can be much better than my imagination.

Take care,


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  1. Hi Kate,

    I read "Dueling with Dementia" straight through in one sitting last night. Very well done. You have an excellent talent for symbolism, building tension and organizing the text in a way that revealed a slow and brave mastery of an impossible situation. The spider image is really very vivid for what a caregiver sees happening to the dementia victim. The "black beast" description will stay with me forever.
    My heart goes out to you and all your kids for struggles and terrors you went through. That you can indulge in the pleasures of a porch swing today is such a strong sign of how much you've conquered.

    Here is the review I just put on Amazon:

    "I really, really, really wish I had read Ms. Leonard's "Dueling with Dementia" five years ago. As a former sole caregiver for my dad (an Alzheimer's victim), "Dueling with Dementia" would have given me a center to grasp as I wandered cluelessly through 4 years of struggling vainly to understand and cope.

    "Dueling with Dementia" is a page-turner, as they say,...a 16-year emotional roller coaster ride through a specific type of dementia that ravages the personality, yet leaves the victim functional for decades. This behavioral variant of Frontotemporal Dementia turns the victim you used to love and trust implicitly into an unrecognizable, unpredictable social monster.

    While reading this book, I was on the edge of my seat (no exaggeration) wondering what frightening jolt Ms. Leonard and her 4 children would face next. Her experience hits all the shocks of dementia with very vivid and candid incidents about cruel anti-social rages, contemplation of divorce, dangers to children, sexual abuse, cruel "echos", denial, insensitive family friends, financial struggles, cold healthcare professionals, "taking away the car keys", even suicide (don't kid yourself, caregivers think about it). The horror stories of a rampage with a tractor, abusive threats, and struggles over use of gun are hair-raising.

    Yet, for me, the best part of reading "Dueling with Dementia" was the inspiring climb Ms. Leonard painfully made out of "The Abyss" of chaos toward survival and acceptance. It is the mastery of her own life, and the circle of strength her children provide, that give the reader encouragement.

    We Baby Boomers are living in an age where, as Ms. Leonard aptly puts it, our heads are in the sand about dementia just when we need to know and prepare ourselves. "Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans" may be an overused quote, but is extremely relevant here. As inevitable caregivers to our stricken relatives, we need to know what to expect when nobody prepares you for the unthinkable.

    "Dueling with Dementia" is cautionary tale, reality check, and reason for hope all in one. I highly recommend it."

    Cheers, Kerry

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