The second, expanded edition of this acclaimed memoir by an Alzheimer’s caregiver living with his father during his final year includes a new introduction that illustrates the immense toll of the disease, important lessons from the author’s experience, and a readers' guide.
Joe Thorndike was managing editor of Life at the height of its popularity immediately following World War II. He was the founder of American Heritage and Horizon magazines, the author of three books, and the editor of a dozen more. But at age ninety-two, in the space of six months he stopped reading or writing or carrying on detailed conversations. He could no longer tell time or make a phone call. He was convinced that the governor of Massachusetts had come to visit and was in the refrigerator.
Over six million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s, and like many of them, Joe Thorndike’s one great desire was to remain in his own house. To honor his wish, his son John left his own home and moved into his father’s upstairs bedroom on Cape Cod. For a year, in a house filled with file cabinets, photos, and letters, John explored his father’s mind, his parents’ divorce, and his mother’s secrets. The Last of His Mind is the bittersweet account of a son’s final year with his father and a candid portrait of an implacable disease.
It’s the ordeal of Alzheimer’s that draws father and son close, closer than they have been since John was a boy. At the end, when Joe’s heart stops beating, John’s hand is on his chest, and a story of painful decline has become a portrait of deep family ties, caregiving, and love.
NEW EDITIONS AVAILABLE: Paperback ISBN 978–0804012362 / Electronic ISBN 978–0804041201
Joe Thorndike was managing editor of Life at the height of its popularity immediately following World War II. He was the founder of American Heritage and Horizon magazines, the author of three books, and the editor of a dozen more. But at age 92, in the space of six months he stopped reading or writing or carrying on detailed conversations. He could no longer tell time or make a phone call. He was convinced that the governor of Massachusetts had come to visit and was in the refrigerator.
Five million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s, and like many of them, Joe Thorndike’s one great desire was to remain in his own house. To honor his wish, his son John left his own home and moved into his father’s upstairs bedroom on Cape Cod. For a year, in a house filled with file cabinets, photos, and letters, John explored his father’s mind, his parents’ divorce, and his mother’s secrets. The Last of His Mind is the bittersweet account of a son’s final year with his father, and a candid portrait of an implacable disease.
“Nan turned to see Ben’s face turn as hard and white as a sauerkraut crock. When he did not respond, Nan figured that he was just going to back off as he usually did, the shy and retiring husbandman. She did not know her history. She did not know that shy and retiring husbandmen have been known to revolt against oppression with pitchforks drawn.”
—The Last of the Husbandmen
In The Last of the Husbandmen, Gene Logsdon looks to his own roots in Ohio farming life to depict the personal triumphs and tragedies, clashes and compromises, and abiding human character of American farming families and communities. From the Great Depression, when farmers tilled the fields with plow horses, to the corporate farms and government subsidy programs of the present, this novel presents the complex transformation of a livelihood and of a way of life.
Two friends, one rich by local standards, and the other of more modest means, grow to manhood in a lifelong contest of will and character. In response to many of the same circumstances—war, love, moonshining, the Klan, weather, the economy—their different approaches and solutions to dealing with their situations put them at odds with each other, but we are left with a deeper understanding of the world that they have inherited and have chosen.
Part morality play and part personal recollection, The Last of the Husbandmen is both a lighthearted look at the past and a profound statement about the present state of farming life. It is also a novel that captures the spirit of those who have chosen to work the land they love.
Duck hunting has changed greatly since the days of unlimited duck kills, as the limit of fifty ducks a day established in 1902 has fallen to the present three. A legitimate hunter now, Dale Hamm learned the art of market hunting—taking waterfowl out of season and selling them to restaurants—from his father during the l920s. During the l930s and l940s, he kept his family alive by market hunting. At the peak of his career, Hamm poached every private hunting club along the Illinois River from Havana to Beardstown.
After market hunting died out, Hamm became a legendary and almost respected—albeit controversial—character on the Illinois backwaters. He was eventually invited to hunt on the same clubs from which he had once been chased at the point of a shotgun. He hunted with judges, sheriffs, and the head of undercover operations for the Illinois Department of Conservation, all of whom knew of his reputation. He passed on to these hunting partners a lifetime of outdoor knowledge gained from slogging through mud, falling through ice, hunting ducks at three o’clock in the morning, dodging game wardens, and running the world’s only floating tavern.
"I always said if anyone ever cut open one of us Hamms, all they’d find was duck or fish," Hamm once said of his family. Now in his eighties, Hamm still carries a pellet from a shotgun in his chin to remind him of a shotgun blast that ricocheted off the water and into his face. Bakke notes that it is appropriate that a man who spent his life with a shotgun in his hands should carry a bit of buckshot wherever he goes.
Everyone who ever met Dale Hamm has a story about him. His own story is that of a one-of-a-kind character who, in his later years, used his considerable outdoor savvy to conserve the natural resources he once savaged. "His time and kind are gone," Bakke notes, "and there will never be another like him."
This book will be of interest to anyone who has ever been hunting—or who enjoys reading about colorful people and times that exist no more.
Revealing the mind-set of a soldier seared by the horrors of combat even as he kept faith in his cause, Last to Leave the Field showcases the private letters of Ambrose Henry Hayward, a Massachusetts native who served in the 28th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry.
Hayward’s service, which began with his enlistment in the summer of 1861 and ended three years later following his mortal wounding at the Battle of Pine Knob in Georgia, took him through a variety of campaigns in both the Eastern and Western theaters of the war. He saw action in five states, participating in the battles of Antietam, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg as well as in the Chattanooga and Atlanta campaigns. Through his letters to his parents and siblings, we observe the early idealism of the young recruit, and then, as one friend after another died beside him, we witness how the war gradually hardened him. Yet, despite the increasing brutality of what would become America’s costliest conflict, Hayward continually reaffirmed his faith in the Union cause, reenlisting for service late in 1863.
Hayward’s correspondence takes us through many of the war’s most significant developments,
including the collapse of slavery and the enforcement of Union policy toward Southern civilians. Also revealed are Hayward’s feelings about Confederates, his assessments of Union political and military leadership, and his attitudes toward desertion, conscription, forced marches, drilling, fighting, bravery, cowardice, and comradeship.
Ultimately, Hayward’s letters reveal the emotions—occasionally guarded but more often expressed with striking candor—of a soldier who at every battle resolved to be, as one comrade described him, “the first to spring forward and the last to leave the field.”
Timothy J. Orr is an assistant professor of military history at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia.
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