PLEASE NOTE: Even though this blog is now dormant there are many useful, insightful posts. Scroll back from the end or forward from the beginning. Also, check out my writer's blog. Periodically I will add posts here if they provide additional information about living well with Dementia / Alzheimer's Disease.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

The Screening

Bloging presents difficult problems sometimes. For example, trying to put into writing the experience I had this evening at the Chapman University, Dodge School of Film Media Arts, Community Voices screening of ALZHEIMERS: A Love Story boggles my mind.

On so many fronts it was an amzaing evening which not only met but exceeded my expectations. I had an idea of what the documentary would be like having seen the second rough draft. But to see it in its final form, with music especially composed for it by Pedro Comacho, on a huge theater screen, in a professional theater atmosphere as part of a prestigious university program with an audience of some 200-300 people defies emotional description!

Being reunited with friends Maureen, John in spirit (currently on assignment in London,) their two daughters Grace and Amelia, and John's mom Gloria was wonderful. Gabe, their son who was responsible for the documentary in the first place, and I had spent a lot of time on SKYPE, lots of texting, a week in residency in Evanston during the shooting of the documentary and it was great seeing him again.

Gregory and John were college friends and then both he and Mo became our friends as Gregory and I planned their wedding (they were on the East Coast, had family and friends on the West Coast, and family and friends in Chicago.) We watched their children grow up and enjoyed our annual Thanksgiving visits when the family arrived in Chicago to be with her family.

Seeing, visiting with, and sharing the evening with the Documentary Crew was important. After   having shared an intimate filming week with them and the emotions of retelling much of Gregory and my story which until then had been buried or avoided or forgotten, we became a sort of family unit. They did such a good job distilling Gregory and my 40 years worth of love and our 11 years worth of  Alzheimer's into a 15 minute film using relatively few words and much imagery. Their professor had said, "Show, dont tell!" And that is exactly what they did.

Following the screening, all of the students took the stage for a question/answer period about their experiences and audience comments. My comment was in four parts: 1) I thanked all of the kids, and I can call them kids without being ageist since I recently turned 70 years old. 2) On the first day of class, their professor gave them the world and by the last class they had created magic. 3) My team's work was especially appreciated based on my research which shows that there is nothing out there on Alzheimer's and same sex partners. All of the writing, films, and books are based on children's experiences with their parents or on older husbands and wives experiences with supporting each other through Alzheimer's. and finally 4) Gregory is not a "victim" of Alzheimer's, he is a hero as were all of the people whose stories were told this evening.

After the screening I gave each team member a gift shopping bag including one of Gregory's mini paintings and a gift box left over from the opeing of Michael's Museum. They put together a bag for me filled with a souvenir book which they made for me with photographs, a mini music box that plays "It's A Wonderful World," an antique plastic Santa Claus, a solar dancing flower, and a big bouquet of flowers.

Refreshments in the lobby included fresh fruit, cookies, meat balls, assorted salamis and cheeses, and raw oysters brought in by the family of one of the teams who did their film on preservation of the oyster industry. Many people approached me to tell me how much they enjoyed my story, how impressed they were, how much they admired us, what a great love we have, how much they appreciated our openness, etc, etc. Many people comiserated having gone through careing for a parent and not being able to imagine how difficult it would be to go throught that with a partner.

While I was not worried about being a gay couple, I wondered what people's reactions would be. In many ways Gregory and my being a same sex couple was taken for granted with our love for each other being what mattered. Many of the students were sincerely moved and impressed by our relationship and they hoped they some day would find someone to love so strongly.

To close I will say that to survive what Gregory and I have been through takes a lot of self confidence and being self-validated and self-legitimized but to be validated and legitimized by others makes the work it takes to deal with a major event like Alzheimer's even sweeter. Yes I enjoyed being the center of attention for a brief  fifteen minutes for having lived this story but most of the credit needs to go to Gabe, Monica, Amanda, and Riani for doing such an amzing job of telling the story! I wish that Gregory could have been sitting next to me  enjoying sharing our story with others and moving them in ways that only tears can tell (or should I say show!)

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