Alzheimer's... reality from the heart.
Last night I sat and watched what I think is one of the most beautiful lover stories of all time. Nicholas Sparks brought to life a reality that faces so many families today. The movie tells a story of two people, now in their golden years, still very much in love... when She can remember who they are. He reads her a story from "The Notebook" she had written many years before, knowing she was losing her memories one by one. She left the promise that if he would read it to her, she would come "back" to him. Alzheimer's has taken from her the very most precious things in her world, mainly, her memory.
I will openly say to you that I try Not to watch this movie too often as I know what the end result for me will be. I am not shy to say nor feel less of a man to tell you I cry every time I watch this movie. But today's write is deeper for me than even this wonderfully sad movie is. I sat and watched the movie with my father, who is also my very best friend. A good man, who has shown me love for 52 years and taught me more things than I could tell you here. One of the most wonderful things he taught me was to never be afraid to show you have a heart. The story-line hits home for me as I look over at my father, sitting only 20 feet away. He watches the show intently and I wonder what his thoughts are.
My father is in the second stages of Alzheimer's, a degenerative brain disease of unknown cause that is the most common form of dementia, that usually starts in late middle age or in old age, resulting in progressive memory loss, impaired thinking, disorientation, and changes in personality and mood, that leads in advanced cases to a profound decline in cognitive and physical functioning. Although he is very alert and does things to help slow the progress of the disease, the symptoms are evident to those nearest to him. I believe the worst part of this disease is the fact that loving him so much, I find myself unable to help him when the effects come through strong. Mostly unaware of his flare-ups with anger or confusion, we try to live life each day and simply "understand" that he can do little about his actions.
As we sat and watched ore of the movie, I could see him move around in his chair, perhaps a bit more than usual. Asking if he would like to see what else was on T.V., he shook his head and said that this was a great movie and he wanted to finish it. As the story goes on, Allie, the wife with Alzheimer's, sits and listens to her husband read from her Notebook. She hears it only as a touching love story and does not relate it to herself nor their life together. I sit and think about my father and all of the wisdom and knowledge that he has carried with him for so many years. We talk of the years he and I spent together, working side by side and of the memories we made that still make us laugh. We talk about things to come and he smiles and laughs with me. Still, I wonder, for how long will we be able to share these memories.
I believe in my heart, not taking away from the person inflicted with this illness, that those that love them and watch the disease progress, feel it's stealing effects in ways that the Alzhiemer patient has no knowledge of. The very thing that is possibly the most cherished, our memories, slowly disappearing in to some unknown place, is heart wrenching and brings tears to my eyes when thinking about it. This man, who has been there for me and held my hand in more way than he even knows, his sudden outbursts of anger and re-watching or re-stating things that were only seen or said yesterday or moments ago, is loved by so many. He is my father, my mentor, my best friend and I feel blessed to have him sitting only a few feet away from me as we watch this beautiful, sad, heart-felt and reality checking movie.
A Notebook... kept precious memories, can be something physical you hold in your hand. It can also be a place in ones heart and mind and soul that can be shared and re-shared and lived and re-lived. A wonderful gift that I can talk about and repeat to this man I love, in hopes that he doesn't see or feel what those that love him see every day. If you know someone or love someone with this disease, hold on to your memories for them. They will walk with you time and time again through your shared life and you may help to keep their own memories alive. What a gift, that goes two ways, and is a blessing that you can cherish yourself every single day you are blessed with their presense. Actions and out-bursts and confusion is part of their every day life. You have the ability to lessen the effects by simply loving them and remembering.