Lisa Geneova is the author of the novel "Still Alice." It is a story that follows two years in the mid-life journey of Alice Howland.
Alice is a cognitive psychology professor at Harvard who develops early-onset Alzheimer's disease. The story was beautiful and provided a look at Alzheimer's which touched me unlike most books I read.
I liked the book and at times I didn't. The problem was me. It brought back memories that were difficult to deal with. I would read a chapter and my heart would ache. Feelings of confusion and regret would cause me not to pick up the book for days. Then I would return to the book and read more. Sometimes two or three chapters but never more than that. I found it difficult to read and enjoy the book. Many times I would read other books to get myself into a better mood. Eventually I finished and was relieved. I am glad that I read the story. It helped me to look at myself and my relationship with my Dad during his illness.
There is no cure for Alzheimer's disease as of this writing. My Dad had Alzheimer's for many years and died on Monday October 8, 2007. I was there when he opened his eyes, looked at me and then slowly closed them. I know that he wanted to make sure he was not alone. He was not one for much talk so it was also his way of saying goodbye. Dad, you were never alone, I was there and so was your family. I love you, but during your illness I never told you that. I felt that you didn't know who I was, so it would have no meaning. I was wrong.
When my Mom was alive she would tell us that Dad was not remembering things. We did not support her statements as he always seemed fine when we visited them. It wasn't until after Mom died that we began to notice things. Unfortunately my knowledge of Alzheimer's was not very good. I didn't know what to look for and I didn't know what to do once he started getting worse. We finally put him in Charlotte Hall Veterans Home, Maryland. This made it easier for my brother and his wife who were trying to care for him in their home. It was easier for me because I didn't have to be a "care-person." Someone else would be looking after him. This was not Christ-like at all, but at the time I was fine with it. I managed to visit him each trip we made to Maryland. My interaction with him was not one of love but more of responsibility and duty. The good son visiting the sick father.
In the chapter "March 2005," Alice speaks before an audience at the Dementia Care Conference. She is still in the early stages of Alzheimer's, not confident as she once was, but reads her speech without any issues. The following paragraph is one small part of the speech that touched me. I wonder if my Dad had similar thoughts as the disease slowly destroyed his memories.
"I often fear tomorrow. What if I wake up and don't know who my husband is? What if I don't know where I am or recognize myself in the mirror? When will I no longer be me? Is the part of my brain that's responsible for my unique 'meness' vulnerable to this disease? Or is my identity something that transcends neurons, proteins, and defective molecules of DNA? Is my soul and spirit immune to the ravages of Alzheimer's? I believe it is."
Loving one another is a simple but powerful, and at times, difficult thing to do. During my journey through Dad's disease I traveled the road of darkness of denial, anger and fear. I did not love him as I should have.
"This is my commandment: love one another as I love you." John 15:12
Dee convinced me to read this novel and God made sure I finished it. I have learned from her what love is and I am blessed she is my wife.