Once or twice a month, I have the pleasure of interviewing authors and artists on WMUK's Arts and More program. WMUK 102.1 FM is the Kalamazoo, Michigan, NPR affiliate station, and the Arts and More program is produced by Rebecca Thiele. Tune in on your radio dial if you live in the area ... or listen online to the complete interview.
Kalamazoo, Michigan, resident Marie Bahlke started writing poetry in her 70s and she just celebrated her 94th birthday. Her book One Oar follows her husband's life from the time he was first diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease until Bahlke is left a widow.
Bahlke says her husband didn’t like the fact that she was writing because he felt it took her even further from him. But Bahlke was encouraged to take time for herself by her husband’s doctor. She says she’s never regretted it, writing was like therapy for her in that difficult time.
Bahlke says, since writing the book, relatives and friends of people with Alzheimer’s disease have reached out to her. Though she wrote the poems for herself, she says she’s glad that they touch others too.
Bahlke says she and her husband were married right after World War II ended and had a baby almost immediately—though not earlier than they were supposed to. While Bahlke was pregnant they moved into student housing at the University of Minnesota, where her husband worked to finish up his graduate degree.
Bahlke says they had no running water. Her husband had to carry cream cans full of water across the road every day. Bahlke says they had their daughter, Susie, nine months and three days after they were married. It was a tough time.
“How our marriage lasted, I don’t know,” says Bahlke.