I lived with Carmella when she was 10 years into the Alzheimer’s.
We shared her upstairs apartment during my first years as a stringer for the Bergen Record in New Jersey. Carmella, born in the mountains near Napoli, would tell me how she danced with Sammy Davis and sang with Frank Sinatra. She would giggle every time she told the story, and she told the story a lot – like 55 times one Saturday I think. That’s Alzheimer’s, but that was also my grandmother – sweet, a little silly, always laughing, always surprising. I’m still not sure if the Sinatra tale was true, but I suppose it doesn’t matter. The Alzheimer’s may have stopped her brain from working but it didn’t change her. Many of us caring for family who are battling diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s are struggling with the deterioration. We too are facing emotional and physical health challenges. And sometimes we miss just talking about the horse race with dad, or getting advice from mom.
…So I was struck this week by this documentary about a family man from the north shore of Massachusetts, Eric Cook, and his son Michael. I remember Eric. He was the DJ at my wedding and I remember when he played Frank’s Fly Me To The Moon. I remember when my bride and I jumped off the couch with Eric and his family when Vinatieri kicked that field goal in the snow to beat the Raiders. I also remember Michael, or at least his 1st birthday party, and I remember watching Eric take pictures of his kid that day. Smiling. Laughing. Being silly like he was a toddler too. But it’s easy to forget and certainly easy to miss these moments and dwell on the disease with such a heavy burden in front of you. Unless you flip the glass. Unless you take a chance and every once in a while you try to engage, like Michael does here with his dad. What you hear may just surprise you…see Michael’s interview.
To see our study on caregiver health, click here.