When it comes to family, we have a stubborn love – a love that will give anything and defend tirelessly. You can say anything you want about me, but when you go messing with my family, watch out! Know what I’m saying?
Where does this protective (sometimes overly protective) instinct come from? I’m fast to say it comes from God. God is love, so it stands to reason that the love we experience with family comes from God. This tenacity, this willingness to love no matter what – it’s a gift from God. And when you think about it – isn’t it the same way God loves us?
On a wicker chair in a corner of my Cape Cod office is a profile I wrote about a former Phoenix Superior Court judge, who mentored me in the late ’70s in the art of court reporting. As she rose through the judicial ranks, the judge instructed me to keep asking questions. Persevere, she counseled me. “Keep at it until you get the answers!” Little did I know how this training would sustain me in times of great challenge. Today, as I fight the demons of early onset Alzheimer’s disease, I still follow the sage advice of my mentor, Sandra Day O’Connor, who became the first woman justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Justice O’Connor, whose husband, John, died from Alzheimer’s after battling the disease for nearly two decades, has left me an indelible memory. – Greg O’Brien
Greg O’Brien wrote a book entitled, “On Pluto: Inside the Mind of Alzheimer’s”. It’s an excellent resource for family directly affected by the disease.
There are about 35 million people worldwide diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or a related dementia. Five million in the United States afflicted with Alzheimer’s and it’s predicted that 13.8 million Americans could be diagnosed with the disease by 2050. It is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States.
After reading the statistics it is likely that you will either be diagnosed or be a caretaker for one diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
A few days ago I listened to a sweet conversation between a mother and daughter in my favorite restaurant. They were sitting behind me, so I could not identify them if I had to, but this is what I heard:
The mother said that there were a lot of nice looking desserts on the menu. She said, “You know, my very favorite is chocolate…” Then there was a long pause. She said, “Oh, what is that word? You know, since that stroke I just can’t get the words out that I’m thinking.” The daughter said, “Do you mean chocolate cream pie?” “No”, the mom replied. I could tell she was getting frustrated and was embarrassed that the word was not coming to mind.
The daughter continued trying to help. “Chocolate cookies, is that your favorite, mom?” By now the mother was losing patience with herself. “I just don’t understand why I can’t say what it is I’m thinking!” Her daughter kept a cool, even tone in her voice and calmly said, “Well, let’s talk about something else and eventually it will come to you, and you can tell me when it does.”
I thought to myself, “This is not her first rodeo!” I said a silent prayer for both.
The topic changed from chocolate to shoes rather quickly. I was not as attentive when that happened. The subject of chocolate always makes my ears perk up!
The daughter was talking about flip-flops, when out of the blue her mom yelled “BROWNIES!!! I like brownies!” I could hear a smile in her voice, as well as a feeling of great relief that finally the right word emerged from her mind – and out of her mouth!
I don’t write this to depress you, but to let you know how important family is when the difficulties come along. This love of family – this love that comes from God – that is God – shines forth at times like this. Alzheimer’s disease affected my family and maybe you have a friend or loved one battling it – or maybe you do.
There is not a cure for this disease, but if you have a loving family surrounding you and supporting you, consider yourself blessed indeed.
I’m reminded of the movie called “The Notebook”. I think it’s one of James Garner’s best performances. That is what family is all about. That is what marriage is. Remember when he tells their children he won’t leave the facility because “That’s my sweetheart in there” – ??? I cried the first time I watched that scene – okay – I cry every time I watch that scene!
Did you see Glen Campbell’s farewell tour? There’s a documentary about it called “I’ll Be Me”. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glen_Campbell:_I’ll_Be_Me
Look at the love he is surrounded with. His loving wife and daughter are so patient and just keep loving him. I cry when I see love like that. I believe the love that God puts inside us is the best kind of love. It’s a love surrounded with hope. 🙂