This morning I hopped on Facebook, only to see the announcement of a new film, starring Will Ferrell. At first, I was excited, because I love his movies; from The Ballad of Ricky Bobby to Step Brothers. I even made a rare trip to the movie theater to see Get Hard (I never go to the movies). And then I saw the topic and realized immediately, that I was not going to be able to stand by and say nothing.
I disagree with the creation of this film…
My grandfather was a victim of Alzheimer’s disease and it was by far the most painful part of my childhood. More than all the bullying, being stuffed in lockers, and bad relationship with my parents, watching my grandfather forget who he was and become completely unable to care for himself has been the most traumatizing aspect of my life thus far.
I watched this man who used to dress up as Santa for my sister and cousins every year and sneak us cookies, completely forget the beautiful relationship we had always had. It is no secret to my audience that I have never been close with anyone in my family, but my grandfather and I had a strong connection. He and my other grandfather were my strongest allies in a sea of bad relationships and judgement.
The fact of this disease was blatantly clear to me because I was heavily involved in his last few years on Earth. I spent my days after school (and before swimming practice) with my grandfather. I watched his slow and painful deterioration first hand and no one can ever know the true pain that this disease causes until they have watched it first hand, until they have watched someone they love, who they share blood and history with, forget them and everyone around them.
There are many of us out there who have been through this exact experience and many will have a unique aspect to their experience. Here is mine:
My grandmother found my grandfather’s disease to be a burden. She was very quick to throw my grandfather into a nursing home, a cheap one that did not properly care for my grandfather. When my family would go visit him we could see his swollen ankles under his socks, cutting off his circulation. We saw the confusion he felt when the nurses would bungle him around as if he was a burden to them.
This decision by my grandmother caused a rift in my family that has never healed to this day. My immediate family and I insisted that it was too early and begged at least for a better facility when we knew the first battle was lost. The rest of my mother’s family (this was my mom’s dad) sided with my grandmother against my grandpa, saying he was violent and unruly. I can testify, as a witness most days of the week, that my grandfather had never done a violent thing in all his time with this disease. He remained as gentle as every day I had known him before. My grandmother just felt that he was too large of a burden to keep around.
In my life, there are very few moments I have burned into my brain so clearly I can still remembers the smells in the rooms, and two of them involve my grandfather’s death.
The first is the week before my grandpa’s death. My family and I went to visit my grandpa at the nursing home and we gave my mother some one on one time with him. At this point he has forgotten who she was, which was extremely painful for my mother. I don’t know if she knew that I was there in the door way, but I remember my mother standing next to my grandpa who asked to go outside. He loved going outside, especially in his later days. My mother promised that she would come back soon and take him outside soon. As we left, my mother with tears in her eyes, I think I knew in the pit of my stomach that that day would never come.
The other night that is burned into my brain is the day my grandpa died. The hospital called to say he was deteriorating. As I sat by my grandfather and watched him pass, I remembered all the moments that I had spent with my grandfather and I cried… I begged God (I still was Catholic at the time) to please take my grandfather quickly because I could hear the labor in his breathing and his pain was so real to me, even at 13 years old. I will never forget how I felt the moment he passed…
And now I am watching my other grandfather develop dementia and slowly pass away as well. A man who is my closest relative. It was just two days ago that he had to be rushed to the hospital. He has a few days left now and all I ask is that Will Ferrell reconsider his role in this movie, because he will never be able to take it back and someday he will know someone with dementia and he will regret his role in this project.
This is not an issue of liberals vs conservatives, Democrats vs Republicans, this is an issue of human vs inhuman.
I understand that Ronald Reagan was not fit to be President. His daughter’s sad stories about him forgetting where he was is certainly enough evidence. But there is no reason to make light of his illness, to cause his family so much pain and make light of a man who attempted to do what he thought he was right for the American people.
I disagree with his Presidency up there with the best of them. I am an anarchist after all, so I disagree with the very concept of his presidency. He made many mistakes, but that was because he was human, not because he was a Republican, the same argument I make when I opposed the very concept of government. If you are going to insult this man, I only ask you do it on merit, not on a disease that broke so many hearts and continues to break so many hearts today.