Michael Milne’s story “The Yarnball Woman” was published in Metaphorosis on Friday, 14 September 2018.
“The Yarnball Woman” came to me after lots of discussions about dementia with a close friend. Her own mother was going through early onset dementia, and I had just finished a university course on the psychology of aging. My friend talked about the pieces of her mother which were long gone, and how much more she seemed to lose than her memory. At the same time, I was reviewing course videos of patients with Alzheimer’s, and watching how they confronted the strange losses in their lives.
The story first formed as a middle-aged woman who began to fall apart, quite literally. I imagined her fraying over the span of a few scenes, with fingers and toes disappearing, and then with more fabulist and strange losses as the story goes on. I had considered leaning harder into the parallel with dementia and memory loss, but as Patricia started to fall to pieces I realized there was already plenty to play with. She has to confront her loss of mobility, her increasingly challenged relationships with her family, her ability to engage with her hobbies and her profession.
As it becomes clear that her condition is irreversible, she and her family try to find ways to preserve her, either physically or in memory. Her daughters and her husband have to fend off their own grief for a person who, while changed, is still alive. Meanwhile Patricia herself has to mourn the pieces of her that go missing, while not always knowing what she has lost.
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