So I broke down and watched Still Alice …alone…. probably not a wise decision. As some of you know, it’s about a 51 year old woman diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer Disease, her family, her quick deterioration, her children being tested for the disease. I sobbed the entire movie, the ugly kind of sob. The odd thing was I was confused as to what all I was sobbing for; I was trying to figure it all out when the answer should be obvious – wasn’t it the whole “Alzheimer Disease Sucks” theme? Yes, but it was more.
For the first time perhaps, I really started to think about Mama and the way she was, and what in the world she must have been going through when the disease first started overtaking her at 68 we believe. Mama was never one to talk about it and I will never forget the first time we told her as a family that we were worried about her and just wanted her to go to a doctor for tests. She got angry, which was extremely uncharacteristic for her, and stormed out of the room. We were all shocked and confused and it was never discussed again with her. Some time later, when she’d reached a point that we went to the doctor with her without too much resistance, her doctor told us that his notes indicated she’d first told him in 2006 that she was worried about her memory. That was a whole two years prior to our seeing the first signs! For two years, she’d worried about it alone. For two years, she, like Alice, had wondered what was wrong, had to have known it was escalating, but masked it from us somehow. What was she feeling as she’d do the things that told her she was sick, why couldn’t she tell anyone? This woman who still had so many years to love on her family, to live her life, to travel during retirement, to just live…. it was all slipping away and she had to be so sad and so frightened.
I sobbed during the movie watching Alice’s husband. The man with dreams, a career still, lots of life left to live, just like my Daddy… the man who never questioned his support of his wife, it was his duty, it was part of his life for the rest of his life or hers. Alice depended on him just like Mama depends on Daddy, the similarities eerily similar. But I watched the man in the movie and cried for Daddy… while we all know that Mama would never, ever have had this happen, the reality and ugly truth is he’s given up on what was left of his life to live, the travels, the new ventures (always my Daddy), the things we seeing him now let slide that would have been motivating for him years ago, the disease took or is taking his life as well. He’s always been so in control of everything and for once, he’s met his match, something over which he has no control.
And embarrassingly, selfishly maybe, I sobbed for me, for Mitch. I almost panicked watching some of the movie thinking about things that I do, that we do, that worry us. As anyone knows who has a parent with the disease, you become so paranoid at everything you do involving memory, everything. I admit to desperately fighting the fear at times, crying in my car or after I go to bed, worrying about something I’ve done that day, praying for God to not let me do this to my children, to allow me to grow old with my future grandbabies, my own babies, and yes, even with the Bald Eagle:) I know, I know, we all lose memory as we age, but you constantly ask, “is this normal?” I just have to pull up my bootstraps and determine not to let the fear suck out my life.
So, I say all that to say, that the movie was excellent although I can’t imagine finding out at 51… I will be 51 this week. The movie was also heartwrenching and frighteningly realistic. Watch it at your own risk… with a box of tissues.