There were a lot of twists and turns in those last few months, what with the global pandemic and usual grad school rigmarole, but my thesis was completed, defended, revised, and finally submitted this month. Before I go over some of those later experiences, this:
“The Social Lives of Dementia Caregivers” is complete and available! I thought I’d be Internet-clever and post video of myself reading my acknowledgements, but the results were more like awk-nowledgements, so I’m just going to share the text instead. It was 3 pages long, but I could probably go double that. Also, copy-editors will be glad to know that this passage received the LEAST attention, and is not representative of the syntax of the main text.
First and foremost, this entire undertaking would not exist if it were not for Black (Feminist/Womanist) Twitter, where I finally learned about intersectionality, womanism, and not being just another mediocre white kid. I can’t document every single person whose tweets nudged me to stop eavesdropping and take charge of my social justice education, but the stand-outs include @Karnythia, @FeministaJones, and @Bad_Dominicana (Mikki Kendall, Michelle Taylor, and Zahira Kelly, respectively); getting blocked by @thetrudz was one of the best worst things that has ever happened to me. I humbly thank them, and I will be sending gratuities as I can (#payblackwomen).
A college degree was rare where I came from, a master’s almost fictional. Thank you to everyone who did not talk down to me or others, but instead cultivated our learning. As for what I learned once I got there, my instincts told me that this multidisciplinary approach would structure my interests best, and it has been more than I dreamed it could be. I had the fortune to earn a Graduate Certificate in Multicultural Women’s and Gender Studies alongside the master’s process, and those were the theories that rang true for my experiences. Speaking of multidisciplinarity, I want to recognize the following TWU faculty for guiding me toward key components that made this project viable: Profs. Sara Ishii, Danielle Phillips-Cunningham, Agatha Beins, and Claire Sahlin from MWGS; Prof. Linda Marshall from Social Work (ret.); and Prof. Sharla Snider in the Department of Professional Education. Within Sociology, thank you to Prof. Cynthia Cready at University of North Texas and Prof. Philip Q. Yang at TWU for getting me started in statistics. Special thank you to the Federation of North Texas Area Universities for facilitating richer and more diverse learning spaces.
Key logistical steps were rescued my both departments’ administrative staffpersons: Jillian Morales (MWGS) and Ivy Naude (Sociology); I thank yall for saving me from erroneous paperwork! Many thanks also to the staff at the Blagg-Huey Library, especially Shelia Bickle in the archives and Jimmie Lyn Harris, who, sadly, passed away last month after forty years of showing students around.
Earlier drafts of this thesis received vital theoretical feedback from Michelle Vaughan, PhD, of Wright State University, important readability notes from Dana Sayre, MA, and incalculable editing and formatting support from Criss Forshay.
I received an immeasurable amount of professional solidarity and encouragement from current and recent students, including Elizabeth Gabhart, PhD, of Tarrant County College, Cassie Withey-Rila of the University of Otago, Natalie Frodin, MS, of University of North Texas, Beth Fawcett, PhD, Avery Labelson, MA, Petina Powers, Danielle Barber, and Kay Jae Johns of TWU, and Arielle Webb, MS, of Palo Alto University – I thank each of you for sharing your journeys with me and letting me share in yours.
Thanks to the judge and to J. Selah Richards for helping me find myself again after caregiving. Thanks to Julia Martin, for remaining a dear friend long after our commonalities ended. Other folks cheering this work on include Kathleen Yacharn, Jelly Locklin Rains (THE!), Heidi Hickman, Gabriel Uhuru, Este Bagato (and Pocket House!), Terri Lynne Hudson, Abigail Grieg, Chelsea Elliot (and Baby Zab), Beverly Cruël-Garcia, and Jess Wagstrom. You are each amazing and I am proud to know you. Grad school is, regrettably, a bit antisocial, so I must quietly recognize some folks whose paths diverged along the way: KAK, KEK, NEK, SWS, CE, HD, TMJ, LW, RC, AYB, EM, MG, CM in Denton, and CM in Lubbock. May your paths ahead be clear and calm. I’d also like to thank Melissa Smith-Wilkerson and the staff of Alzheimer’s Association of North Texas for helping me stay connected to caregivers. What is a calling? This is a calling, and yall help me feel seen.
Thank you to the committee who made this happen. To Profs. Jim Williams and Jessica Gullion of TWU and to Prof. Dale Yeatts of UNT: none of you ever told me I couldn’t do something, yet you each helped my expectations become more reasonable in unreasonable times. I hope there are more moments of shared recognition in our futures.
To Joni and Kiddo (and Pixie and Snowy): thank you for being the family I come home to. I knew there was no one else I’d want alongside me when I wrote a thesis and I knew there was no one else I’d want to be alongside in an apocalypse, but I had no idea we’d all do both at the same time! Yall have kept me fed when I should’ve starved, raised my spirits when bleakness leered, and never let me lose my humanity to the process, no matter how hard it got. Let us build and realize your dreams next, whatever shape the world takes on.
Caregiving can decimate your spirit, but afterward there is more room for compassion and understanding to grow than you ever knew possible. This thesis and all endeavors to follow are dedicated to the memory of my adopted grandparents, E.E. and M.T. Hodson – Ed and E – who were my cheatcode into the middle class and later set the examples by which I continue to live: unconditional love, chosen family, and mutual care at every opportunity. I hope I can continue to honor and share your gifts for as long as it takes, until every person can feel as loved and secure as I felt when you were both still here.