Please do not think that I am suffering. I am not suffering. I am struggling.
Struggling to be part of things, to stay connected to whom I was once. So, live in the moment I tell myself. It's really all I can do. Live in the moment.
On an early spring midafternoon, I sat alone in a movie theater. Everyone else had left their seats. I stayed.
I didn’t want to talk. I just needed to be alone in the silence of that big theater.
I needed time to think really, really hard about what I had just seen. Witnessed. And experienced. In the movie “Still Alice,” actress Julianne Moore portrays a middle-aged woman who is coming to grips with a terrible disease. Alzheimer’s.
The film is gripping and constantly pulled at my heartstrings. In the end, it left me feeling distraught. Depressed. It’s a powerful film.
Julianne Moore won the best actress Oscar for her role in this movie. I’m glad she did. She deserved it. The movie should have won best picture, too, instead of the silly “Birdman.”
Alzheimer’s is a disease most Americans have not openly discussed much. Or not nearly enough.
According to a recent AARP Bulletin, more than 5 million Americans had Alzheimer’s in 2014. About $566 million will be spent on Alzheimer’s disease research.
Far less than the $3 billion spent for HIV/AIDS and $5.4 billion for cancer research. Politics greatly influences medical research.
While earning my Eagle Scout as a teen, I volunteered community hours at a nursing home in Liberty. It’s no longer there — thankfully.
The entire two-story facility was filled with people who had Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
Like a dog, held by a belt around their waist, I walked patients on a leash daily during their physical therapy. I held the loop at the other end.
Sadly, most patients were left to themselves in their rooms. Alone. And often in the dark with curtains pulled and doors shut. I recall the rooms smelling of urine. TVs blared to drown out cries of “Help me.”
It was terrible. It’s something I’ll never forget for a young man of 15. I felt terrible for the patients and complained of their care to the floor manager to no avail.
I recently lost my Uncle John (also known as Bud) to Alzheimer’s disease. Letting Uncle go was very hard for me to do. We were quite close.
Uncle took time to teach me about all kinds of sports growing up. He had great eye-hand coordination and was a good teacher/coach.
He was the most gifted, all-around athlete I’ve ever known — from tennis to golf, baseball, swimming, diving, basketball, bowling, fishing and canoeing.
You name it, he could do it. And he did it really, really well. And how many 80-year-olds do you know who water ski?
Uncle did! On one ski with such style and finesse. But this all came crashing down the last four years of his life. It was terrible to watch. And in the end Alzheimer’s took his life. Until you deal with it on a personal level, it’s very hard to understand it or explain it.
This year was my seventh race in the Hospital Hill Run 10K or half marathon. Sponsors are always needed to run the race. Time ran out this year for me as I registered late, but I’ve decided to raise money and run for the Alzheimer’s Team next spring in 2016.
It’s the least I can do. And to honor my uncle at the same time. Doing what he enjoyed — being athletic.
Rodger Bowman lives in Kansas City, North, and is a middle school administrator and teacher. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.