Monday, June 29, 2015

Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me

Last night I watched  Glen Campbell…I’ll Be Me on CNN. The 2014 film documents Glen’s Alzheimer’s journey.

I heard about the documentary a few years ago at the Alzheimer’s Advocacy Forum. My mom went to D.C. with me in 2013 when Glen Campbell was there. He fairly oozed charm and posed to have his photo taken with many of the ladies, including my mom. 

I’ll Be Me was painful for me to watch. It brought back memories of Jim’s loss of communication and musical skills. At least only family witnessed Jim’s problems and not a paying audience.

The family told of their struggles to make sure they walked the fine line between the cathartic benefits of Glen performing and being vigilant of him embarrassing himself. Audiences were tolerant. If he played the same song twice, so what? At least they got to see him perform.

Campbell’s physician felt that performing on his “Goodbye Tour,” doing what Glen loved, helped
him maintain the ability to function longer. Sometimes his daughter, Ashley, had to tell her dad the correct key for certain songs. During their “dueling” instruments, her with a banjo, him with his guitar, she admitted that sometimes he didn’t always follow along. Glen relied heavily on teleprompters to remind him of the words to songs he had sung for years.

During his doctor visits, I heard some of the same questions with similar answers during Jim’s visits with his neurologist. When asked questions, he couldn’t answer, Campbell said, “I don’t worry about those things.” The doctor asked him who the first president of the United States was and Campbell replied, “My goodness, I don’t know. I don’t use that very much lately.” Jim would typically say, “I have no idea,” in a tone that indicated he didn’t care to know either.

Ashley testified in front of a congressional hearing on Alzheimer’s. Advocates in D.C. for the Alzheimer’s Advocacy Forum, wearing purple sashes, packed the room.  Ashley’s emotional testimony explained the changes in her relationship with her dad. She said it was hard for him to recall her name. Their times fishing together no longer lives in his memories.

When watching old family films, Glen asked, “Who’s that?” His wife, Kim, gently supplied the pertinent information: “It’s you, honey,” or “That’s your first wife,” or “It’s your oldest daughter.”

Jim once looked at photos from our honeymoon. I pointed at a photo of me, and playfully said, “Do you know who that is?” His answer, of course, was, “I have no idea.” The devil is in the details. Some of the most hurtful moments are when you realize what had been memories shared, become your memories alone.

The film shows the relentless progression of Alzheimer’s disease. By the time of his final performance on stage, Glen did not know it was his last performance.  Cal Campbell said that when his dad performed, “He actually becomes himself again.”

The story ended with the recording session of “I’m Not Going to Miss You.” At this point, Glen is already fading away but his eyes sparkle when he finally gets into the song. This song really tugs at the heartstrings. The idea stemmed from Campbell’s remark that he couldn’t figure out why everyone was so worried about him having Alzheimer’s. He said, “It’s not like I’m going to miss anyone, anyway.”

Kim finally placed Glenn in a home where he could get twenty-four hour care. He is reportedly happy and healthy. He is losing his communication skills and doesn’t recognize many of his visitors.

As is often the case, family is feuding. Two of his children by a previous marriage have taken legal action against Kim. This family is torn apart at a time they should be pulling together. Individuals must arrive at acceptance in their own way and on their personal time schedule.

Glen Campbell’s Alzheimer’s story is heartrending and, oh, so familiar to millions who have lived a similar story. 

Copyright © June 2015 by L.S. Fisher

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