Sweetie was in his office the other night so I had complete control over the remote. I spend more time scrolling through Netflix than I do watching a movie. I decided to watch the documentary about Glen Campbell and his life with Alzheimer's Disease. I'm still trying to figure out if it was informative or more like watching a traffic accident. You don't want to see what happens, but you can't keep your eyes away from the horror.
Maybe horror is too strong a word. In many ways the movies was beautiful, touching and funny. But there's no getting around the fact that Glen Campbell is forgetting more than he's remembering (last year, I believe he was admitted to a memory care facility in Nashville).
At the beginning of the movie, Glen and his wife, Kim, were sitting on a couch looking at family pictures."Who's that?" he'd ask. Then she'd tell him it was one of his children or another family member. I cried. I honestly cannot imagine doing the same with Sweetie.
There were a few surprising things in the movie. For instance he looked old. And tired. I think during the filming he was 76. That's only 6 years older than Sweetie. Of course, Campbell lived a much more, shall we say "exciting" life than my hubby. Maybe that accounted for some of the aging. Sweetie ended his love affair with Scotch and cigars many years ago. He's no spring chicken, but he doesn't look old to me.
The other surprising thing to me was Campbell's amazing musical abilities. He had some trouble with some of the song lyrics. He used teleprompters. He kind of wondered off during some of the performances. Nothing, however, got in the way of his fingers when he played his guitar. I knew a man who had played the trombone in a band for years. Even when he couldn't remember where he lived, he remembered how to play. It's a mystery to me that a person's brain can be so full of plaques and tangles that memories can't be retrieved yet other parts still as act if they were brand new. Sweetie doesn't have music to fall back on, or art. I wonder how we'll fill his days in the future.
Midway into the movie, Sweetie came in to watch. The room stayed pretty quiet as we each processed our own feelings about what we were seeing. Sweetie obviously looked at things from a different perspective than I did. I watched on two levels. I paid attention to the affects of the illness on Campbell, and studied how his wife/caregiver/children interacted with him. The movie showed that Campbell could be belligerent at times, wondered hotel corridors, was somewhat paranoid, fitful. All symptoms I've read about. I think probably there was a lot of editing of the family's reaction to these behaviors. I didn't see the degree of exhaustion and sadness on their faces that I expected. Perhaps that would come as the disease continued to progress.
Both Sweetie and I felt sad when it was all over. And big time scared. While there are reasons for it - denial, forgetfulness and my ankle, to name a few - neither of us have succumbed to the fear that we felt a few months ago. It crosses my mind every day. But I'm not holding on to the what ifs like I did. The more information, the better. Zeroing in on the things he does remember (like how to talk "mortgage") works a lot better than worrying about what he doesn't. I think having Buddy around has helped both of us think about something other than ALZ. The upside of housebreaking a puppy!
If you ever had a thing for Glen Campbell and/or his music, or if you just like documentaries, I think this is a good movie. The numbers of people who are expected to be diagnosed with ALZ, the cost of treatments and effects of the disease on caregivers are staggering. Chances are pretty good you're going to know someone who is affected. This show might help give you an idea of what it's like.
And it's knowin' I'm not shackled
By forgotten words and bonds
And the ink stains that have dried upon some line
That keeps you in the back roads
By the rivers of my memory
That keeps you ever gentle on my mind