wings and things

Still Anthony

A couple of years ago I read Lisa Genova’s novel, Still Alice and, over the last couple of days, Anthony and I watched the movie. For those who haven’t seen or read the story, Still Alice is about how a linguistics professor, Alice, is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 50 and how she and the family cope.

I suppose it was a strange choice of film to watch with a husband who has Parkinson’s disease dementia (and was probably a contributing factor in the grief I felt the other evening). But yesterday, as he and I watched the final scenes, he suddenly became quite engaged in Alice’s deterioration, and asked me what was wrong with her. I keep the dvd controller close so I can pause whatever we are watching whenever Anthony says anything.

Me: She has Alzheimer’s disease.
Anthony: It’s worse now, isn’t it.
Me: Yes.

I had paused the film at a particularly stark close-up of Alice’s confused expression (Julianne Moore is brilliant as the character Alice). Anthony and I both looked at her face for a few moments then I hit the play button again and we watched silently as the movie came to an end.

Unlike Alice, Anthony has not had to experience the creeping horror of knowing he has dementia. He still doesn’t know and I don’t tell him because I don’t want him to be afraid or embarrassed. So, when he asks where his mother is, or how she is (this is a frequent question) I just say that she is fine.

Anthony: Is she at home?
Me: Yes.
Anthony: Is Ming there too?
Me: Yes, and they’re both fine.
Anthony: So when are we going to Golden Valley?
Me: When the weather gets warmer, Ants. It’s too cold today.

Anthony’s mother died over 30 years ago and Golden Valley was his childhood home so the only ‘real’ aspect to these conversations is Ming.

I’ve recovered from my grief episode of the other evening and, since watching Still Alice, realise how lucky we are that Anthony has never had to go through that fear-of-dementia experience because it has just happened, insidiously, slowly, kindly even. He doesn’t know he has dementia; he still recognises all of us; there is still a lot of laughter and Anthony’s one-liners are hilarious.

Anthony: You need to brush your hair.
Me: I just did!
Anthony: Do it again, it’s not right.
Me: I’ll shave your head if you keep hassling me!
Anthony: Feisty!

Still Anthony.