« Modern Love

Magically Interrupted | With Michael Shannon

2016-02-17 | 🔗

Michael Shannon reads an essay that explores how Alzheimer's put one family back together.

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Modern love. The pod cast is made possible with support from living proof before the work messages begin to pour in, let's gift ourselves a good morning, a good morning as a moment to pause and ease into the day. It's a moment to run and chased the sunrise or its gently settle into Europe in a good morning as a moment to be present to find clarity and be grounded for the day ahead. Good days start with good mornings and good mornings start with yogi tea. Yogi tea tease me to do more than just he's good living proof. Dry shampoo is so good at actually cleaning hair that you can take a spin class and not wash your hair after use the code, of a living proof, dot com for a free travel size, dry, shampoo, with your twenty dollar order. We are the science you are the living proof and by Squarespace providing tools that help people showcase their passions with a customized landing page
website or online store, also offering domains hosting and twenty four seven support. Get your free trial at Squarespace, dot, com, slash, modern love. You should square face O from the New York Times and WB. You are Boston. This is modern love, the stories of love, loss and redemption. I'm your host in the Chakrabarti. It is rare, very rare, for all timers to be viewed as a blessing But Robert Lewis says the disease changed his family's life for the better, here's his modern love, peace, a memory magically interrupted, read by the Oscar
and Golden Globe nominated actor. Michael, Shannon. Your grandmother has Alzheimer's right. The doctor asked me scrawling notes into a Floppy Manila folder I hadn't expected discuss my grandmother's house timers with him. I was hoping to hear some explanation as to why, apart from her memory, my grandmother's overall health seemed so mysteriously improved. Her lupus, for instance, sit all but disappeared from her blood work. Yes, but I mean well, there is a theory. He said interrupting that people with Alzheimer's heal themselves of their diseases because they forget, Have them I glanced across the room at my beautiful grandmother, smiling vaguely in her lipstick, pink trench coat, but you don't really believe that I said the doctor shrugged with an implicit who knows which I found irritating, because I hadn't flown all the way
Manhattan to Nashville to discuss fanciful theories. I wanted solid answers about Joanna Health and he thrown me with his talk of miracle cures. But by that evening after I driven my grandparents home, I realized that the real reason this doktor at startled me was that for the first time I heard someone confirm my experience of my grandmother's disease. Alzheimer's has in a sense, healed my grandmother and our family five years ago, when Joanna Alzheimer's was first diagnosed. I can imagine anything less fair. At the time I composed a mental list of all the people, I knew could lose them. and without anybody noticing scores of people whom I have never heard say one original thing, while my grandmother, on the other hand, was the genius of the cocktail party, a brunette version, our fellow Texan, Ann Richards
who always seemed poised with a staggering stiletto quip, as a young artist in New York I'd spent years trying to find my voice. When I did it was my grandmother's. to this day I've never like anything. I've created that didn't somehow remind me of her. So the fact that my clumsy development and slow self discovery was occurring just as her decline began, felt like a tragic bargain. I was finding my voice just Does she was losing hers The only certainty about Alzheimer's is that it's characterized by uncertainty. There is no definitive test, no definitive diagnosis, so throughout
here is my grandfather and I accompanied her to a legion of new doctors, each of whom mentioned the possibility of Alzheimer's. My grandmother grew ever more foggy, sometimes hilariously. So the. The thing about Alzheimer's, she would say, unfurling her arm like Bette Davis, is that you always live in the moment. Like many southern women of her generation, my grandmother had been a stifled, lady prone to fits of drape drawn depression medicated with champagne and Streisand sad lives make funny people. She told me when I was sixteen humor was the way she had coped with every unpleasant thing in her life. From her long estrangement from my mother
her only child to the onset of a crippling disease, but while my grandmother was able to laugh at her decline, her husband couldn't he didn't find anything funny about watching her forget their life together, I think all my grandfather ever wanted was to be left alone with his wife, a goal he'd finally accomplished after more than forty years of marriage when they retired from Houston to his family's Tennessee home. In this way, my grandparents reminded me of the Reagan's one of those couples who are so Gaga for each other, that there is no room for the kids is nobody's fault. It's just that perfect couples, rarely have happy families, they have to have children because they love each other too much not to make something of it, but then the honeymoon. Never.
And who brings their children on a honeymoon. It's like they always say: two's company and threes and angry kid, like Patty Davis, desperate for attention with a complex about being shoved outside the magic circle, except that, in our case, Patty Davis was my mother, a scarlet o hara for the silicon age, with a chest as big as her mouth and hair, in between these two genteel southern ladies are family, became an old west town. Just wasn't big enough for both of them which meant that my grandfather, I during Joanne, as he did not only stop speaking to his daughter, even stop speaking about her, at least with me.
Until the day when we were finally forced to accept the fact of Joanne's Alzheimer's and it's awful progression, more Joanne forgot. The more often Alfred asked me to visit. At the end of one of these Tennessee weekends. He suddenly blurted sunny. I think. time your mother came home for a visit. I was too surprised to say anything. Then he repeated, I think. It's time your mother came home I'll make it happen. I mumbled good. He said tapping the wheel. It's time, course. I had no idea. I would make it happen. Fortunately, My mother, who for many years had been no stranger to a bloody Mary, was newly sober and I took advantage
that narrow window of alcoholics anonymous time before making amends becomes a crashing bore. All that summer, I begged her long distance. I swore that if she would only visit her parents one more time, everything would be different. Lee I played my ace. I asked her to visit them in Tennessee for my birthday in September, deem it she screech. So now I dont go I'll, be ruining your birthday, fine I'll do but prepare yourself for disaster. There won't be any disaster. I said oh really, one good, reason why things will be different. This time, how's hymers, I answered. From my grandfather and me having to witness Joanna's Alzheimer's had been agonizing like watching the miracle worker backward every. Seemed accompanied by a new limitation. But for my grandmother the disease seemed liberating
For the first time. In all the years I known her she'd seemed truly happy. Imagine to be freed from your memory to have every awful thing that ever happened to wiped away and not just your past. But your worries about the future too, because with no sense of time or memory, past and future ceased to exist, along with all sense of loss and regret, and that's the fantasy. Isn't it There have always been an element of existential fury to my grandmother's, barbed wit concerning her lost time and Miss chances, but as her Alzheimer's advance, she forgot to be angry and she seemed healthier to her pace quickened her complexion brightened her hair thickened and, with my help and her husband's credit card, even her wardrobe improved
her transformation was magical and unmistakable. It was certainly unmistakable to my mother on that bracing September day, when my grandparents and I picked her up at the Nashville Airport but Joe and offered set its Jessica is in, Money said Joe and before embracing my mother, that's my daughter's named to my mother, forced to smile and shot me aware. He looked at abruptly softened once we got to the Buick and my grandmother. Reach for her hand. Tell me all about yourself darling. She said I want to know everything about you all through my birthday dinner that evening joy and positively doated on her daughter, beaming sweetly and patting her hand. This behaviour unsettled my mother who afterward made at the actual production of rooting through the closet in her bedroom. What are you doing? I asked looking for space
pods, she said who are those people Robert and what have they done with my mother? I keep thinking. I must be in a black out that I must be drunk in a ditch somewhere and when I wake up I'll, have the hang over of a lifetime, because believe me, if that nice old lady, Then my mother I'd never have left home now that my grandmother had in a way disappeared. She was fully present to my mother for perhaps the first time in their relationship now that she was all but unreachable. She was finally available each evening is Joanne scooted close at dinner. My mother found the nearness less nerve. Wracking, on the last day as we were leaving for the airport, my grandfather kissed, his goodbye, suddenly joint grab onto the lapels and my mother's jacket, as if you were about to shake her. My mother look. Addled but then Joanne said, thank you for coming Jessica. I want you to know how much
means to me. I want you to know that I know we've never been close, and I know It's been mostly my fault. I'm not sure it's time. I've got but more than anything want to have a shot at spending it with you. It's so important. I mean, after all, Second, we are sisters, I groaned then looked over to see my tough mother crying close enough mom she said the the Cotonou word nominated actor Michael Shin reading, Robert Lulus S, I love felling, my boyfriend and I often play falling, be together by together. I mean sitting next to each other playing into
really and not cheating. Sometimes when I open up spelling bee- and I see that you have completed a few words on your own, I feel a little betrayed in ferry may have happened again, I have one friend I will send screenshots from spelling bee of inappropriate words that I always get nervous. I sent it to my parents or something like that. Me and my dad. We like to play fun together and I wish the out I forgot to see it. J, a c k, P, o t jack yeah yeah, I'm same as earth's sky. The digital puzzles editor for the New York Times. You can try, spelling bee and all our games at N Y Times dot com, slash games, a I love, spelling my boyfriend and I often play spelling bee together by together I mean sitting next to each other playing,
Julie and not cheating. Sometimes when I open up spelling bee- and I see that you have completed a few words on your own, I feel a little betrayed in sorry. It may have happened again. I have one friend, I will send screenshots from spelling bee of inappropriate words, and I was getting nervous. I sent it to my parents or something like that. Me and my dad. We like to play fun together and I wish the out I forgot to see it. J, a c k, P, o t Jack. Yeah yeah now run nice I'm same as earth's sky, the digital puzzles editor for the New York Times. You can try, spelling bee and all our games at N Y Times dot com, slash games and memory magically interrupted. well. By now I bet you're wondering how did run it's mom feel about the essay we'll find out when we come back
the the Hmm the I'm Katy at living proof and we get love letters all the time like this one chair living proof. I've used so many dry shampoos, but my hair still gets greasy and I wear a ponytail by day three. Your dry shampoo has my hair so clean and full of body that it fell down on day. Four. This is the most effective dry shampoo. I've ever used love cat. You can use the code, love for a free travel, sized dry shampoo with your
in dollar order living proof, dot, com, we're back, it's modern love. The podcast I magnet Chakrabarti and with me now is Daniel Jones, editor of modern love for the New York Times Dan good. To see you good to see you do also with us. Is the author of this week's essay Robert Littler Robert thanks for joining us? How do you do with such a pleasure to be here? It's such a pleasure to have you so I'm eager to know how your mom responded to having her story told in modern love. While my mother is a great sport, you know because this was not the first time I had written about her but she's, not a softie. If you know what I mean and so my having kind of written about her kind of caving to her mother's affection, it actually was uncomfortable for my my mother to have me chronicle, and she was very, very generous about me doing it. The thing that really grabbed me-
about. This particular column is, of course, no matter how for aught relationships between children and their mothers might be at the end, when, when your mom tells your grandmother close enough, I could just feel it. I feel that, like when my I'll have my mom to introduce above it'll get along like you know when she just kind of give me that nod in whatever way that not is- and you just feel a cat like close enough- is sometimes with my mother actual my mother lives with me turn. If you didn't know, that's so Daniel you'll be getting another I didn't know the medicine pretty soon. You know I worship and adore my mother, and I feel, like you know, if you're a gay guy- and you have in your lucky enough to have it's like getting the gay Oscar. You know for your mother to move in with are wonderful and all kidding aside like if you go through your life,
like your mother, isn't fond of you or your mother. Isn't, you know, doesn't approve of you it. It does something to you and that that's no joke to have that change in the third act of her life profoundly changed her worldview she's now about to go to law school. You know so that she can do pro bono work for for women's rights and for the rights of children and it's because of the excruciating experience of my grandmother's old timers that we would never have chosen in a million years and yet enabled this intimacy. That was absolutely transformative. What kind of response did you get after your column was published? I've never experienced such
a sense of closeness with people. I heard I received hundreds of letters, but one a man whose father had been in a concentration camp and his family always said. I wish you'd known your father before he was in the Auschwitz, because, God, what a lovely young man, then he got old timers and he wrote me this line. He said old timers was the only thing that was able to take away the bitterness of my father's experience of having been in that concentration camp. I mean what what I love about this story and what I found so moving. Is this idea that relationships can be reconstructed late in life and relationships that were given up on? In this case, important relationship between mother and daughter. That was just in a deep freeze can be reconstructed.
Because her memory is wiped out and that's the heartbreaking irony that is yet to me. It was because I feel like you have you have relatives, you love and you have relatives you like you know and then and then there's another category. Does the category of a person you ve almost feel like you, ve been sent this planet to fulfil or to replace In some way, and and my my grandmother was that person for me- you know like whatever might be special about me and that's up to debate, is was much more special about, she was the original, and I am the indistinct photocopy and so
I am writing about it with such a mixed bag of emotion. It's a totally unique experience in my life. Well, it's also such a great way to end our conversation. Robert Lyla is author of this week's modern love essay, a memory magically interrupted. He has a new coffee table book coming out this spring called southern style thanks as thank you again so much. Thank you very much and Dan Jones, editor of the modern love column for the New York Times. Thanks as always, thank you very much. Special thanks to Michael and who read this week's essay. He was recently nominated for a golden globe for best supporting actor in ninety nine homes, and you can see him next month.
I find drama midnight special and he stars, as Elvis Presley opposite Kevin Spacey in the movie Elvis and Nixon which comes out this spring next week on modern love, totally award winning actor Patina Miller brings us a story of love, light and darkness, and the abstract blindness is epic, noble, simple and reality it's tedious draining messy. It's a lot like the reality of being married. What's coming up next week and two weeks from now, we have an episode that all about taking a leap of faith. So we want to hear your stories about a time. You took a leap of faith for love, but here's the challenge we'd like you to do it in three sentences or less so write it down or record a voice, memo and email it to modern love at W B. U r DOT, Org and don't worry,
to tell us where you're from so we can add you to the modern love map on our website. Again, that's modern love. At W B. U R, DOT, org modern love is a production of the New York Times and WB. You are Boston's NPR station. It is produced directed and edited by Jessica, Alpert, John Karate and embracing the idea for the modern love. Podcast was conceived by LISA Tobin. Iris Adler is our executive producer. Daniel Jones is the editor of modern love for the New York Times and adviser to the show music for the podcast courtesy of a pm. I'm making Chakrabarti thanks for listening.
Transcript generated on 2022-04-17.