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.

Part of the reason Dad went back in for retesting this spring is because there were so many problems at work.  He has owned and operated numerous successful businesses in his lifetime.  The latest venture involves him and my oldest brother, Frank Jr.  (That’s right, Frank and Frank.  Plus, my mom, Fran, runs Accounting and Human Resources!)  Dad switched his President status with Frank Jr.’s VP status a few summers ago, and now the younger President just has too many complaints about his father’s performance.  Dad, who always memorized a roomful of strangers’ names at every party, now couldn’t remember having received an email, where he had filed it, or what his To Do List was following a staff meeting.  It was becoming a big problem.

So now with the Alzheimer’s diagnosis as proof, he is being coerced into early retirement.  He has been asked to leave his own company for the good of the company.  He has been abandoned by his baby – literally.

Noted, Dad’s long-term disability insurance benefits were also a consideration in the matter.  Before age 65, he was eligible for 30 month’s salary after diagnosis.  Having been diagnosed at age 64, six months before his 65th birthday, he is now eligible for maximum coverage.  But that’s the rational decision.

Today was his last day of work forever.  There was no big party, no big fanfare.  There was no time to prepare; it had all happened too fast.  He just kind of said goodbye to his coworkers at 5:00, shook hands, hugged, and casually said goodbye.  I think that must have been horribly sad for him.  After all, where was he walking to?