Still Alice Matters
For those who have started to forget names and struggle to find the odd word the Oscar winning movie, Still Alice makes uncomfortable viewing. Set in the usual up market , well educated US rom com , all American, all good looking family- drop out sister, selfish sister, ambitious brother , laid back dad ,a driven mother- turkey on the table, home videos of holidays in Maine-you know the scenes backwards. But of course mum who gets the Oscar has got Alzheimer’s. Brilliant. Well it could be worst, she could have been getting an Oscar in Theory of Everything for having motor neurone. Except she would have to go trans gender for that one.
Seriously, oh yes, what do you do when your serious other gets to the point where he/she doesn’t need a partner , lover or friend but a carer. Do you step up. Well very originally in the film the husband has second thoughts. After all he is only 50 and has a great career opportunity. In the Theory of Everything she too, didn’t like having to give up everything to wheel chair the genial genius. AS well Alice as she descends into to the night organises a suicide bid, fluffs it and the chance and capacity goes.
But in our circle of acquaintances I dont know one who hasn’t stood firm. There is J who has stood by B and helped sustain her career despite 20 years of Parkinsons getting steadily worse. In the mean time for his love he has sacrificed a good part of his own brilliant career.
There is the distinguished academic who even in his seventies wipes the bottom of his wife who for 35 years has suffered MS and now cannot stand. There was Stanley in our old street who wheeled his wife for twenty years and on her death visited her grave twice a day. There is J whose husband M had a serious stroke three years ago and this was quickly followed by dementia, her life has gone down with his. There is our friend who has had to watch as her husband’s motor neurone goes slowly through the gears. Her career may not exactly be on hold but her loyalty means it has been severely impaired. There is our lovely neighbour whose husband after his stroke has long since stopped leaving the house. When asked she always smiles and replies”Not too bad”.There is even a lady from another street who has adopted an invalid across the road and shops and visits twice a day.
So why are people so loyal. Love of course is the oft given answer. The love of martys. But can you love the adult whose nappy you must change, whose food you must cut up, whose whereabouts are constant worry? No, this is duty, responsibility, humanity at best. But day after day it ceases to be anything but biblical. Many of course throw up their hands and demand the state or some professional carer takes over the whole or most of the burden. And who can criticise. Why should two lives be totally ruined? The fact that most dont is remarkable in our so called selfish age.
The great spiritual journey which we all, one way or another travel ,is the quest for meaning, purpose and value. Being carer of someone close answers many of those questions. But at a huge cost. Someone once said that a secret of happiness is to find someone worse off than yourself and help them. But you have to take an ultra Christian view to say these devoted carers are happy. They may see no other way, but surely they would rather anything else.
Trailer for Still Alice