LAWRENCE — Ted Daldorph was a World War II veteran of Britain’s Royal Air Force. An engineer and draftsman, he made a career designing and supervising the construction and installation of storage tanks for asphalt used to build roadways.
But when he began suffering from Alzheimer’s disease a decade ago, there was nothing his son, Senior Lecturer in English Brian Daldorph, could do about it. Except to write, expressing his feelings.
The result is Brian Daldorph’s latest book of poetry, “Ice Age / Edad de Hielo,” a bilingual tome published by Irrupciones Groupo Editor Press in Uruguay. The poems, originally composed in English, were translated into Spanish by Brian Daldorph’s collaborator, Uruguayan poet Laura Chalar.
“The poems about my dad and my relationship with him were written over 30 years,” Brian Daldorph said. “But the poems about his illness were written over the last five years of his life.
“Instead of writing only about the illness, I wanted to show who he was. I write in the introduction that he had many good years before the cold winds started to blow in. Until he was in his 80s, he was a remarkably healthy man.
“You could definitely call him a loner. He could work a whole day on his own, and that was a good day for him. But if given the opportunity, he could be gregarious. He loved telling stories. We heard his range of stories. When the illness developed, he couldn’t tell them anymore. After a while, we had to fill in the blanks of the stories. And at the end, he only remembered fragments. It was a striking example of the way Alzheimer’s breaks things down; it fragments them.”
Brian Daldorph said he settled on the image of ice as the key metaphor for Alzheimer’s disease. Water images in the book imply life.
“In England, we were always close to the sea,” Brian Daldorph said. “We had vacations at the sea, and it meant a lot for all of us to go there … Dad would swim in the sea — even in his 80s. With it being an island nation, it’s just very much a part of who you are.”
Alzheimer’s, he said, “is like a freezing of the brain; it slowly loses its abilities.” He compares it to a season of winter, with no hope of spring renewal.
“It’s an Ice Age that grips you until there is no life at all,” he said.
He states it in just four lines, 13 words, 71 characters in the poem titled “Alzheimer’s.”
“in his face, brain, hands.
“winter has come
“and winter close behind.”
Brian Daldorph, founder and editor of Coal City Review and Coal City Press, said that he had worked in the past with Chalar.
“I’ve published in Coal City Review quite a number of her poems in English — and her translations of her father’s stories,” he said. “We have worked together for the past 10 years or so. I’m a big admirer of her work.
“She knew the editor of the press, Gabriel Sosa, and arranged for me to send my book to him. He wanted to publish something bilingual, and I thought it would add another dimension to the book that way.”
Moreover, Brian Daldorph said, “Her father died about the same time as my dad, so it was a good thing for both of us to work on together.”
Photo: Ted (left, above) and Brian Daldorph on a trip to the British seashore.