Thursday, 30 October 2008

Jack Giles: Dealing With Memory Loss part 2

It is interesting just how much concentration that the brain has to handle. The obvious things that we concentrate on are driving, reading, writing, watching TV or a movie and listening to other people.
We have to concentrate on where we are going so that we can remember how to do that journey again.
Then, again, we also have to concentrate on what we say. This was something that I don't think that I realised until the stroke. I could only hold a conversation for a few minutes and the words that I uttered came out slow and slurred to the point that I would sound drunk.
At first, I could not watch TV or read a book - the slightest distraction would throw me.
The one thing that I always feared was losing my sight and never be able to read a book or watch a movie again. The loss of concentration never occurred to me - not until it happened.
Concentration and memory are linked. What was the point of reading something if I could not remember what I had read?
Rehab taught me to write things down as I read - just brief notes so that I could pick up a book and continue reading from where I left off. It was a long process but reading proved to be the best therapy. That and a Playstation.
I was a bit stunned when the therapist suggested that I tried a Playstation game to improve my concentration. Also, it proved a good aid for hand and eye co-ordination.
I spent a lot of time crashing, getting beaten and killed - because I had to do two things. One I had to remember which button did what and had to do that while concentrating on what was happening on the screen. By Christmas time I had just about got the hang of it and Jack gave me a game called 'Resident Evil' as a Christmas present.
'Resident Evil' is not just about shooting zombies and monsters. There is a storyline and problems that need to be solved - and it did play a part in the improvement in both concentration and memory.
Around the same time I was able to read a full chapter of a book and recall some of the salient points. Still had to make notes - but they were growing less and less.
Another thing the therapist did was to put me in front of a keyboard and a computer screen. It was like being at school and learning to write all over again. Hand, eye and concentration co-ordination.
At first I hated it for I was all over the place and half a simple sentence would turn out as a load of gobblygook. Despite all this there was a rebelious kid inside of me that was not going to be defeated.
As the last sessions came up the therapist just left me with a keyboard and a blank screen and nothing to copy. I wondered what she wanted me to do and she said that I could write whatever I wanted to write.
Like what?
She shrugged and said that I talk about my past so why not do a short piece about a favourite memory. And then she left me alone in the office.
I stared at the blank screen. I did this for several minutes.
Then I wrote - ROCK 'N' ROLL REQUIEM

'We lived for the moment then
We lived our rock'n'roll dreams
Black leather and denim
White silk banners in the wind
Jukebox tunes through expresso steam
Talking love and death of those unseen
Fighter pilots on 650cc steeds
The dream ton and those who died
No thoughts of twisted wreckage
Nor blood streaked scorchmarks.
Their names never adorned a memorial
Nor any roll of honour
Lives no less tragic than those of heroes
Of Buddy, Eddie and James Dean.
We were children of the war back then
Our spirits just as high
Our patriotism was to ourselves
And just as young - we died.'

I do not know where that came from but the title did not come until I wrote it. I had never written poetry - read poetry but never attempted it myself.
The therapist liked what I had written and I told her about the book that I had written when I was younger. She asked the obvious question to which I gave a negative response.
A couple of months into the new year and I ventured, as mentioned into the last post, into the library. I picked up a couple of westerns both Black Horse Westerns and I can even remember the titles: Elliot Long 'Marshall Of Gunsight' and Chap O'Keefe: 'Shootout At Hellyer's Creek' and David Whitehead: 'Law Of The Gun'. I had no idea who these writers were but they were all good reads - and since then have read all three books again in different circumstances. Of the three I had to renew one as it taken almost a month just to read the first two.
Now, nine years on from that stroke my concentration levels are higher and the average book will take two or three days to read. Writing takes a while and comes in short shifts - anything from one to three shifts a day though sometimes I will miss a day. It is all a matter of mind and whether I can concentrate.
What I do know is that I have regained control of my life - it has taken time and could not be acheived without the support of my wife and family, the people at the Rehab centre and countless writers and others who don't know how that they helped me over the years.
Along the way I discovered that I had become a writer but took the view that as I had acheived that goal - it was job done. That was until I came across a review of one of my books by Steve M on the Black Horse Express site which set a ball rolling to the point where I wrote my first Jack Giles short story 'A Time To Live' that was included in the anthology 'Where Legends Ride'. A story that led to the novel 'Lawmen'.
If someone told me, at the beginning of 2007, that I would have started writing again for real I would have dismissed it.
Thanks Steve.


Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

A great post - I'll have to link this to my interview as it covers themes touched on in much more detail.

Steve M said...

Another excellent post Ray, and the fact that my little review helped in some way is very moving, and will keep me writing them as something like this means it is a worthwhile task. Not only that it's been great getting to know you since you got in touch about that review of Coalmine.

Cheers mate, Steve

Ray said...

Steve - I have a lot of regard for your reviews. There is a lot of enthusiasm and knowledge there. Through your reviews I've picked up two Sharper novels and read the fourth book in that series. Also, a Rory Black 'Iron Eyes Cody' book - and now, Desert Pearls' can be added.
Add to that 'The Gunsmith' series and the list could go on.
Keep them coming.