At last night’s family meeting, Mom mentioned a limited release movie about Alzheimer’s that’s playing at a local theater.  She highly suggested that we all try to see it in the next two weeks before it’s gone. 

In some sudden burst of need and panic, I found myself in that dark, nearly-empty theater this afternoon, watching Memories of Tomorrow all alone.  I was sort of driving by the theater doing errands and felt instantly like I was being pulled into the theater, like I just HAD to see the movie right this instant, I had to KNOW!  It was a very weird experience.  My breathing was erratic.  It felt like my life absolutely depended on it.  My car practically steered itself into the parking lot.

The movie was powerful.  AMAZING.  I had to adjust to subtitles (the movie is Japanese and uses English subtitles) but once I made that transition I was enthralled.  The movie was about a business executive forced into early retirement because of early-onset Alzheimer’s and how he and his family dealt with their life from that moment on.  IT SO RESEMBLED OUR LIFE!  I totally related to the story and it exposed me to some shocking things that can happen.  With raw emotions, I walked out of the theater stunned yet enlightened.  Enlightened to negative consequences of the disease, horrible things that my family might have to endure along the way, things like physical violence.  It’s hard to digest but I strongly believe in forcing myself to be educated on the topic and knowing what to expect.  Or knowing really what MAY happen, as all cases differ.

I instantly called my husband from the parking lot and told him he HAD to come see the movie with me tonight.  He needed to know the truth about this disease as well.  He must have heard the irrational urgency in my voice because he agreed to go with me that very night.

All I remember now is he and I sitting on the bench in the lobby waiting for the previous showing to let out so we could be let into the theater.  Then, the show was letting out and masses were silently walking by us.  Then, two pairs of shoes stopped in front of us.  I looked up.  It was my mother and father – WHITE AS GHOSTS!  They literally were in shock.  We had a very short correspondence and then they said they had to go and they curtly walked away in silence.  It was horrifying.  It was like watching the living dead.

In my mind, my brother Todd and I have been riding out the storm together and with Mom and Dad since diagnosis.  But my brother Frank Jr. has appeared a bit more checked-out.  There has been palpable tension as everyone has been dealing with the diagnosis at their own pace and style. 

Tonight we had a family meeting.  Mom and Dad called it.  They wanted us all to watch the movie, The Notebook, together and then talk.  The Notebook is about an older couple dealing with the Alzheimer’s experience.  We watched the movie.  And then Frank broke down.  Finally.

Now, all seemingly on the same page, Mom and Dad shared with us their thoughts and concerns about the ride ahead.  Undoubtedly, Dad is extremely depressed.  He gave us examples of how lethargic he’s become: going for a run and stopping shortly in mid-stride and slowly walking home; sleeping while Mom’s at work because he has no job to go to anymore and nothing meaningful to pass the time.  He personally shared with us thoughts he has been having about possibly ending his life early.  He says he realizes that it is an option.  He says there is nothing positive about the long path ahead, this long goodbye.  He says he doesn’t want to put us all through that.  He admits that eventually, for him, at some point it won’t matter anymore – he won’t be aware of what’s going on – but we will all be suffering watching him deteriorate.  He wants to shield us from that pain (my god, always the considerate gentleman!).  And he wants to be remembered as a man of dignity, not as a fading aimless man.

I get where he’s coming from.  I think we all do.  But we also all made it very clear that under NO circumstance should he consider this serious act simply to appease US.  It is HIS life and he has to ride it out as HE sees fit.  We will respect his wishes, no matter what they are.  But HE has to make the decision (and, quite frankly, silently on his own if he’s truly to shield us from harm’s way).  I also pointed out that we need to get Dad on antidepressants immediately and that both he and Mom need to begin some sort of support counseling.  They mentioned that they went to a support group together just yesterday and will be going back.

But the plain simple thought of him choosing either path just makes me sob.  It was an excruciating conversation. 

And now I’m concerned about WHEN this (might) happen.  Again, like the open-endedness of an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, this possible alternate ending has left me waiting, worrying and on edge…