Posted 2/14/23 (Yes, Valentine’s Day…)
Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.Isaiah 41:10
POV: Ride through
If you are even a casual partaker of Cornbread, digital-style, you are most certainly aware that the sub-title of this blog could mention Silver Dollar City. While I fully realize that an 1880’s amusement park and a syndrome of diseases that kills millions every year may not seem to have any lines of cross-section, but a deeper look will either prove this paradox wrong or will expose my inner psychoses (or both). However, today we are going to talk about both again. Silver Dollar City, frankly, is the quintessential memory factory in the industrial revolution pantheon of my childhood and adult memory production. I love the place! I try to get season tickets when I can and, if I fail, I scrounge up at least one bundle of tix nearly every year. I expect the first time I went to SDC was in the mid-1970s. Memories and dementia, to me, are the Luke Duke and the Roscoe P. Coltrane of our conscious existence. They are the Pac Man and Blinky. They are the Baldknobbers and Red Flanders’ Pants (see video below). They are mutually exclusively fighting a battle of the mind for these memories and I refuse to let them go.
So, in light of the recent emotional ups and downs of this fine amusement park, I offer you:
Five Ways Silver Dollar City and Dementia Live Rent-Free on a Battlefield in my Mind
- One early memory: I remember being invited by another Mark there in the late 70s. Despite the fact that I probably spoiled the entire van-load’s time by regurgitating my entire Shotgun Sam’s pizza in the captain’s chair of their passenger van, I still remember much of the day. Even in the bad, there was good! PLEASE…PLEASE hear me now. There is good to be found in dementia. I realize there is yak on the captain’s chair right now. Heck, the van probably doesn’t have AC… But there is good to be found. First, be anchored at the hip with both your medical team and your support people. I acknowledge that there are only so many items that can be hip-anchored, but try. We all need help, whether we admit it or not! Address symptoms as fast as members of the cast of Rube Dugan’s crew plugged holes in the Diving Bell at SDC in the 1980s. Then, as symptoms get more manageable, spend more time thinking on what is left than what is gone. Just do. Oh, and if you find yourself getting down, and you will, and are running out of things to be thankful for, here are two gems: 1. They are also forgetting every BAD memory. My mom loved her parents, her grandparents, her brothers, and her friends that proceeded her in passing. It crushed mom to lose them. Those memories are not as gone as her trying to remember her MySpace password. 2. Every day is a gift…and, to a believer, better times are yet to come. 🙂
- I love sameness and hate change. I think I vicariously grew up in the 1880s. Not only do I deeply identify with the time period despite working in IT for a living, I study it a lot. My great, great grandpa, a former Union soldier, was a Baldknobber, the group named repeatedly in Fire in the Hole. (More on that shortly). I love the smell of SDC. It smells like cedar, blacksmithery, soggy clothing, cave, and joy. I love the sounds. It sounds like laughing, hammer dulcimer, craftsmanship, and…joy. I love the other senses’ experience at the park too. I just do. Folks with dementia also love sameness. Routine. Lack of surprise. That likely has to do with the inability to process fast (or at all). When we feel threatened by a surmised disadvantage in a scenario, we either come out fighting or cower…and both happen a lot in dementia circles. Want to try to “generate” memories with your struggling loved one? DON’T quiz them. No questions. No rapid fire decision-making requirements. Just vibe with them. Break out things that could tickle the senses and introduce them to them in a similar way as showing a biographer the story of your life. “Look here…this is when we went to Silver Dollar City!…we had sooooo much fun!” (Avoid the “Didn’t we” that is tempting to add to the end. ) “Matter of fact”-ness is king. 🙂 Break out a wax melt of apple pie, if he loved apple pie. Pop some popcorn if she dug the fluffy snack! Oh, and music of course! Period music that he/she found groovy. Set the stage… and you might, as Teepa Snow might say, just get to see some of the pearl come out of the challenge of the situation.
- Change is inevitable, and is hard. In the last year, my beloved SDC has had some significant challenges. In August 2022 tragically a maintenance worker lost his/her life at Thunderation, a popular roller coaster that sped through the park’s forest. A couple months later, one of my favorite rides, the Frisco Silver Dollar Line Steam Train, derailed, hurting several riders and one employee. Fortunately there were no life-threatening injuries although a handful spent time in the hospital. The ride was shut down the rest of the season and I worry it may be slow to reopen. On my 9th birthday, July 9th, 1980, my favorite ride, Fire in the Hole, had a tragedy as well when a train car was accidentally misdirected into a maintenance area where a patron struck his head and died from the resulting trauma. Hundreds of millions have visited the park over the 63 years the park has been open. People have been injured. Statistically it was certain to happen. I know a high ranking member of their safety team and they are VERY careful….but here we are. Thunderation, reopened after a thorough investigation. I am uncertain, but hopeful that the train will reopen although this slow moving vehicle will have to change a few of its jokes that it has ALWAYS used over the 40+ years I have ridden….or at least the derailing jokes. The train travels under 10 miles per hour. Probably quite a bit slower. I HATE the idea of this gem closing down, so I hope all works out and we can enjoy it again next season. 🙂 Then, yesterday the park announced they are closing the beloved Fire in the Hole. That made me queasy. I love this ride. It and the train are sure thing rides nearly every time we go. Losing those rides, to me, starts the clock of forgetting and I like this clock remaining stopped. Do you think like this? Maybe it is a “me thing”? I worry if I can no longer experience an experience, it is a danger to lose it. Maybe I have some form of detachment/attachment disorder, I am not sure, or maybe I have just watched too many folks lose all of their memories, but it is a fear. I suspect, given the stories many of you have shared with me, that you might feel the same way.
- You don’t know until you know– If you have never been to this amazing amusement park, you do not understand what you miss. I am a huge amusement park lover. I guess I have been to 5 or 6 now. I realize that is nothing compared to many, but I care every time I go. One thing SDC has that the others really struggle with is theme. I love Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio. The rides were amazing! They are called “The Roller Coaster Capital of the World” with just cause. They have the best and the fastest, and the highest, and the scariest. However, to me the rides are all of the experience. Therefore, spending 30minutes to an hour to ride a 3 minute, if uber-fun coaster, leaves me hungry for purpose. SDC is just the opposite. It is purpose everywhere…and ride some rides when you have time. 🙂 Are the rides as good as Cedar Point? Dang close…but the experience is, to me, a 50-somethin’ dad-bod toting guy, something you must experience to appreciate. Same with dementia. The Good Lord is quite aware that I have describe this disease, in the nearly 900 articles here, in a variety of ways. Perhaps the best attempt I have offered at sharing the indescribable nature of this disease is in this poem: POEM But, until you experience it, you may not get the bad…. and the good that remains. Visit folks with this disease. Love on them. They are really cool. I realize bad things happen. I get it. But don’t give up. You don’t know until you know…
- All good things will end, but one– I miss the Diving Bell. I miss Huck Finn’s Hideaway (aka the Tree House). I miss Berries and Cream in the summer (they replaced that booth with something else). I miss Jim Owens Float Trip, which was a liesurly boatride that the American Plunge replaced. (BTW…for a while I held the record for most times riding the Plunge in a day with over 100.) I miss Geyser Gulch. I miss the original version of Buzz Saw Falls, henceforth replaced by a newer one and the Powder Keg. I miss a more robust petting zoo. I miss the small side shows and method actors. I miss the meandering, if fake, creeks that ran everywhere that me and my best friend of those days Stuart used to float boats down. I miss the old format of The Flooded Mine although the song lives rent-free in my mind. (Lyrics: Welcome to the mine boys, Welcome to the toil. Welcome to the trouble beneath the earth and soil. You’ll sweat a little water… You’ll sweat a little blood… And you might get out if the mine don’t flood…) While I miss each of these and will certainly gut-miss Fire in the Hole and the Train if they meet the same fate, I feel confident that this family-owned attaction will replace them with something that is both better and still in theme! If THAT ever changes, all I will have left is the fleeting-feeling memories… With dementia, we are where we are. No cure. The first and second treatments we have ever received FDA approval for that are proven to extend life, Aduhelm and Leqembi , are NOT being covered by Medicare in a meaningful fashion. The only way to get them is to travel to an ADRC and try to get on another clinical study…and return every two weeks for infusions. Not practical for pretty much anyone. In order for these drugs to take hold and be utilized enough to bring down the cost and to learn more from their efforts is to treat them like every other FDA-approved drug. Sigh… This is part of why I am heading to Washington DC in March. I will be working with as many legislators I can meet to push to get this class of drugs unshackled. I will share more about that as time goes on. Here is my Longest Day fundraiser link should you want to help fight for a cure. Here is my SeniorAge link for helping seniors in many ways, many of whom have dementia. My trip to Washington is partially self-funded and partially from AIM. We will do everything we can do to share and help spread the word that these drugs need funding. If we are to ever #EndALZ , this needs to stay open…
Update: Had a nice visit with mom yesterday. She is still sleepy a lot, but seems pain-free. I know she would rather be at SDC…or anywhere else like the good ole days, but we are where we are. I am a fixer and I can’t fix this…but I will not stop trying. 🙂 She is worth it, and your loved ones are too. 🙂
https://volunteer.alz.org/summit This is a great recap of the Summit I attended. Look at the videos at the bottom …excellent!