Friday, August 19, 2016

Film Friday: The Notebook

Isn't this a little cliche?

Yes, yes I know. It's a chick flick. And chick lit. BUT it's also an amazing love story. It's inspiring. Noah is someone who embodies many attributes and ideals that I aspire to but know that I will likely fall short of achieving. So please, bear with me. This one is very personal for me, and not because of the lovey-dovey mushy stuff. My reason for choosing this very much revolves around Noah. For those of you who are unfamiliar with The Notebook (although I highly doubt that there are many of you), you can check out the movie here and the book here.

But, it's a love story, so why focus on just Noah?

If you've never had to watch a loved one descend first into dementia and then into alzheimer's, I really don't expect you to understand, but I will do my best to enlighten you. Alzheimer's is a cruel disease. It steals not only from the person it attacks but from everyone who loves and cares for them. It doesn't happen all at once. It comes in stages. At first, you may just chalk it up to your loved one getting older. Then you realize that it's not age that's stealing their mind. I watched my grandmother go through it. Each stage. Watching her sink lower and lower until she was bedridden and had almost no ability to move anything but her eyes and occasionally her mouth as she tried to communicate in Polish, having forgotten all her English. I know that in the end, she couldn't do more than move her eyes and make noises, but I couldn't bring myself to visit her anymore by that time. When I first read The Notebook I was astounded by Noah's inner strength and determination. Sticking by her side even when she no longer remembered who he was and his own body was starting to fail. Everyday reading to her and trying to remind her of who she used to be, and who he was.

What about your story?

My mother is an amazing woman. She took care of my grandmother. First at our home while we waited to get her into a care home (the people there were amazing), and then visiting her as often as she could, driving over an hour each way just to spend a few hours with her mother. At first, my mom was in denial. Who would want to accept that such a thing was happening to their own mother? When we look at our parents we see our futures. This is not a future anyone wants to see. As I write this I have to keep stopping to wipe away the tears clouding my vision and rolling down my face. My grandmother, who survived in Poland during WWII was being defeated by a disease. It was heartbreaking for all of us. I went to the home with my mother a few times. I cannot praise the nurses, doctors, and other staff there enough. The patients were at different levels, but all received loving care as if they were all family. It made me feel guilty that even though my mother insisted it was up to me if I wanted to go, and kept telling me it wasn't too late to change my mind and not go (my grandmother at that point thought I was her mother, and I keep the bullet in a special box, hidden away). I wanted to be strong like my mother, but hearing my grandmother cry out the Polish name for mother, matka, made it almost unbearable. I bear a strong resemblance to my mother and grandmother when they were younger, and can only guess that it stretches further back.

That's pretty rough. Have you ever shared this with anyone?

This is my first time admitting any of this. The guilt, the pain. My mother told me if she ever gets to where my grandmother was, she doesn't want me to visit her. To make sure she's taken care of, but leave her and remember her the way she was. Not the way the disease left her. It's a promise I know I'll keep. I'm not strong enough to go and visit when the person I'm visiting doesn't know who I am or why I'm there. I can't torture myself like that to assuage my own conscience. 

Why share it now?

I'm constantly reminded of my own mortality. There has been a lot of loss lately. I miss my grandmother at times like this more than ever. She was always there for me. She was a rock. An artist. A housewife. A survivor. And so much more. I'm currently transcribing the diaries she translated about her time during the war. It's hard. But I promised her I'd get her story published and I will. It's my way of being strong. Once I get it published I'm going to take that bullet out and get it made into a piece of jewelry. One I can carry with my always. A reminder of the fight she went through.

Have you seen this movie or read this book? How did it affect you? What did you think about it? Tell us in the comments!