Monday, June 27, 2011

Glen Campbell Shows True Grit After Alzheimer’s Diagnosis

During a People magazine interview, Glen Campbell and his wife, Kim, revealed that he has Alzheimer’s. Seventy-five year old Campbell plans a Goodbye Tour when his new album is released this summer. It takes courage and grit, true grit, to make this announcement to his fans before the tour.

How forgiving will fans be? Some fans are going to notice the mistakes, as will the critics. David Lindquist’s titled his June 5 review of Campbell’s performance at the Palladium concert hall, Carmel, IN, “Glen Campbell gives mystifyingly bad show.” In his review Lindquist said, “Facing a sold-out audience nestled in a world-class room, Campbell came across as unprepared at best and disoriented at worst.”

Perhaps this concert was the wake-up call for Glen and Kim Campbell to set the record straight. Kim said, “Glen is still an awesome guitar player and singer, but if he flubs a lyric or gets confused on stage, I wouldn’t want people to think, ‘What’s the matter with him? Is he drunk?’”

I’m sure Alzheimer’s caregivers know what Kim is feeling. Each person has talents that are lost in the labyrinth of Alzheimer’s. Dementia is relentless and unforgiving as it takes away a lifetime of talent and achievement.

Glen Campbell has played the guitar since he was four years old. His talent was his ticket out of poverty to stardom. He has accomplished heights that most musicians just dream about—Gold, Platinum, double-Platinum albums, CMA Male Vocalist of the Year and Entertainer of the Year, four Grammys, and induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Campbell’s music crossed over to top both country and pop charts. “Rhinestone Cowboy and “Southern Nights” were both No. 1 hits. Campbell co-starred in True Grit with John Wayne and Kim Darby, and he sang the title song.

Lindquist goes on to describe Campbell’s performance, “He mangled lyrics (despite unabashed use of video prompts on three onstage monitors), clanged countless off-key guitar notes and generated zero rapport with the crowd.”

I can imagine how Kim’s heart must have sunk. I remember sitting at a family reunion watching Jim struggle to play music with his relatives and some family friends while he was still in the early stages. I remember a mediocre guitar player (one of the invited “friends”) telling Jim he was in the wrong key. This man who had no talent kept criticizing Jim’s playing. Jim just seemed to be in his own little world, but it made me angry. Jim wasn’t playing a concert hall where people had paid dearly for tickets—he was playing at a small park for people that loved him and were forgiving of the occasional mistake. Sometimes Jim forgot lyrics to songs he had sung hundreds of times, or he might play the wrong song in response to a request. Other times, he would play “Buckaroo” from beginning to end without an error. It was always worth the false starts to hear our favorites.

“Campbell struggled to even communicate with long-running band leader T. J. Keunster,” Linquist wrote. “‘What key? . . . Who wrote it? . . . I like this song,” served as an evening-long mantra . . .’”

These are classic communication mistakes of people with Alzheimer’s. These phrases are familiar to Glen from his years of playing music. When words failed him, he fell back on them.

Will Glen Campbell go through with the Goodbye Tour? If he does, will it be successful? Now that people know why he did not perform to his usual standards, will they be forgiving?

Jayling, a fan who attended the concert, posted a response on the Lindquist review: “It was a flawed show, yes. But overall I enjoyed the show.”

To perform this Goodbye Tour, both Glen and Kim Campbell will need to show more True Grit than Rooster Cogburn had in the movie. Glenn’s witty repartee may be gone and he may stumble on the words to some of his own top 10 hits, but for those who love him these flashes of brilliance that made Glen Campbell a legend in his lifetime will be worth the wait. Those fans will listen with love and applaud Campbell for what he can do, and forgive what he can’t.

Copyright L. S. Fisher, June 2011

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Call I Never Made

Have you ever had someone on your mind and think, I’ll call tomorrow, or next week? Then, you don’t get around to making that call—you just put it off one more day, and then another.

A few weeks ago, my caller ID was so full that I decided to delete some of the calls. As I was clicking delete, I saw a call from my friend Ted from more than a year ago. That reminded me that I should give him a call and see how things were going—see how his beloved wife Norma was doing. Ted was a devoted caregiver for Norma, who had been in a nursing home for many years.

“You ever see that movie The Notebook?” Ted asked me a few years back. He had invited me to Cracker Barrel, and he was digging in to chicken and dumplings.

“Yes, I saw it,” I said. “It was a beautiful story, but it made me cry.” Most stories about Alzheimer’s do make me cry, even if they are fiction.

“Me too,” he admitted. “What did you think of the ending?”

“It was a sad ending, but it brought the story full circle.” I wasn’t sure where Ted was going with this. I thought the ending was a bit of a stretch as far as believability. The odds are against an old couple dying at the same time.

“That’s how I want it to be for Norma and me. I know it won’t happen, but I wish we could just go at the same time.” Ted took a drink and I could see the wistful look on his face.

“You have to go on living, Ted. You can’t just die to make the ending come out to suit yourself.”

“I know that,” he said. He smiled and his eyes glistened with mischief, and he launched into a funny story.

Ted and I met at a Memory Walk awards luncheon about twelve years ago. I don’t think the Alzheimer’s Association really knew what to think about us. We tormented each other about how much money we could raise and whether Ted in Jefferson City or me in Sedalia could have the most successful walk. Outwardly, we were rivals, but it wasn’t long before we discovered that our friendship was much more important than the competition. That was saying something for two people as competitive as we were.

We ran into each other from time to time—I attended his chicken dinners and Ted drove to Sedalia to come to our Night to Remember dances. We not only spent money at the other’s auction, we would bring items to be auctioned off.

Occasionally, we would “meet in the middle” for breakfast. It was at one of our breakfasts that Ted told me his story for Alzheimer’s Anthology of Unconditional Love. I took notes, typed the story, and dropped it into the mail to him. He called me as soon as he received the story. “Linda Fisher,” he said, “I can’t stop crying long enough to read this story.”

We talked often on the phone, but days turned into weeks, weeks into months, until a year passed. I really felt a strong urge to talk to Ted. I had his home number and cell number programmed into my phone. But it seemed that I was always going to finish a report, answer an email, or edit just one more story first. Another week passed without making the call.

Then, on Tuesday as I finished a few things at work before my trip to Maine, I picked up the phone in response to hearing my name paged.

It was Joetta from the Alzheimer’s Association. “Linda, I wanted to let you know that Ted Distler passed away.” I was just stunned. “He was a recluse for about the last year. He never left his home and never let anyone in to see him.” She went on to tell me about the changes in Ted, a friend who somehow sank into depression, and I never did anything to help. I felt like I had let him down at the time he needed me the most.

Then, I was filled with regret that I had never made that phone call—hadn’t reached out to my friend. Now he was gone, and I could never make it right. There would be no more moments to laugh and joke with Ted.

“Is Norma still living?” I asked Joetta.

“Yes, but she is fading fast and they don’t expect her to last long.”

I thought about chicken and dumplings at Cracker Barrel, a football game, breakfast, auctions, dances, chicken dinners, sitting on a park bench while I interviewed him for a research paper, a hug and kiss on the cheek—my friend, Ted. So many images and good memories of a dear friend. Lastly, I thought of The Notebook and wondered if maybe Ted didn’t get his happy ending after all.

Copyright © L. S. Fisher, June 2011

Monday, June 13, 2011

Cicada Ice Cream, Really?

Those pesky thirteen-year cicadas are about to drive everyone crazy with their incessant mating call. Is it any wonder that someone came up with the bright idea of sugar coating cicadas and mixing them up into ice cream? Cicada ice cream, really?

Sparky’s Homemade Ice Cream sent employees to scavenge in their backyards to find the perfect texture for a popular new flavor. What’s not to love about getting the final revenge for the critters making that irritating noise?

The national news picked up the story—because, let’s face it—Columbia isn’t the only place putting up with the bumper crop of cicadas. Cicadas are setting up shop everywhere. The national news reported that the health department ordered Sparky’s to stop selling cicada ice cream. That, according to the original reporter was an exaggeration. Actually, the health department admitted that consumption of cicadas were not addressed in the health code, but they thought the “eww” factor was not to be ignored. Of course, they put it in more official language than admitting it was totally gross and tossed around words like “could not recommend” instead.

That news was probably well received by whoever had the job of de-winging the cicadas before they were boiled and coated with brown sugar and milk chocolate. Hmmm. Rumor has it that they taste a lot like peanuts. I’m supplying these details for the homemade ice cream experts.

So, even though Sparky’s pulled their most popular flavor of the season, this is definitely ice cream weather. Today in Columbia, I heard this strange music. “What the heck is that?” I asked.

“It’s an ice cream truck,” my friend said.

“Think we can catch it?” My mouth watered as I thought of how good ice cream is on a June day.

I’ve always loved ice cream. When Jim and I lived in Manhattan, Kansas, while he finished out his obligation to the U.S. Army, we stopped by the 50 flavors place on a nightly basis. It was a hot summer in Kansas, and I was a hugely pregnant woman with a craving for blueberry ice cream.

We lived in a one-room apartment—two rooms, if you count the bathroom. Of course, we had no air-conditioning. We cooled the room with a box fan in the window. It didn’t exactly cool the room since the outside air was more than 100 degrees throughout the entire month of July.

One day, Jim and I had a spat and rather than argue with a cranky woman on the verge of heatstroke, so he jumped in the car and left me. Now, wasn’t I in a fix? No telephone, barefoot (who could stand shoes?) and pregnant, and my husband just drove away in our only car.

He wasn’t gone long, and soon he came back with a peace offering—a banana split. I never cared much for banana splits because the toppings made it sickening sweet. But, Jim brought it to me, so I sat down at the table with my back to him and tackled the enormous banana split, while he rested on our only other piece of furniture, the twin bed.

I will not gag, I told myself, pumping myself up with a psychological pep talk. I will eat every bite, even if I have to throw up afterward. This is the tastiest ice cream ever—it’s just the syrupy topping I don’t like, and all that whipped cream, and nuts, and that plastic tasting cherry on top. And even the good ice cream is melting faster than the Wicked Witch of the West.

I finally scraped up the last spoonful of the soupy ice cream, and Jim said, “I really thought you would offer me some of the banana split.”

Oh, now, that was just too much! My back was still turned to him, but he saw my shoulders shaking and rushed to throw his arms around me. “Oh, honey,” he said, “I didn’t mean to make you cry.” Yes, the tears were running down my face, but it was from laughter.

“It almost made me sick to eat the whole thing, but I didn’t want to hurt your feelings,” I finally managed to say when my laughter calmed down to uncontrollable giggles.

Later this month, on June 25, I can eat ice cream for a great cause at our second annual “Let’s Cream Alzheimer’s” Ice Cream Social. The Ice Cream Social and silent auction are team fundraisers for the September Walk to End Alzheimer’s.

We will be serving vanilla and chocolate with yummy chocolate chip cookies. We will not be serving cicada ice cream—Really!

Copyright © L. S. Fisher

Monday, June 6, 2011

A Glass Half-Full Kind of Day

Last Friday, I ate at Arby’s and when I went to fill my drink cup, I noticed the slogan on the side—“It’s gonna be a glass half-full kind of day.” Well, after all, it was Friday, and I had to agree with the slogan 100%.

If it had been a Monday, I might have thought a little harder about whether it was a glass half-full, or half-empty, kind of day. I don’t do Mondays well since it’s hard for me to get back into the grind after a weekend. Whether I’ve slept late each day of the weekend, or awakened early, it seems the week always begins out of kilter. I’m changing routines and suffer brain lag from the transition from weekend standard time to daylight rise-and-shine workday time. So, Mondays, in general, are a half-empty kind of day—at least until I’m caffeined up and ready to go.

Last Saturday was definitely a half-full kind of day. My mom came to my house and we were able to spend the day together. I’ve learned to appreciate a day with family. It seems that during our growing up years, we don’t fully appreciate family. Parents tell you what to do and when to do it (how dare they?) and siblings like to argue (they are always wrong!). Cousins are easier to like than siblings when you are growing up because you don’t have to live with them. Love them or want to strangle them, spending time with family fills the glass.

Optimists look at a glass and see it as half full. We all know that no matter how thirsty you are, a half glass is most assuredly better than none. The optimist feels blessed to have a half glass of cold, fresh water.

A dry-mouthed pessimist might look at the same glass and go, “Oh, golly gee, that half glass just isn’t enough water to moisten my parched tongue.” He begins to feel sorry for himself. “If I don’t get enough water, then my tongue will be so dry I may never speak again . . .” and so on until he breaks out in a sweat. He may question whether the water is fresh or if the glass is clean. He has high expectations and a mere half glass falls short.

After we marry and have children, we have some half-empty days when the budget is straining at the seams, the car breaks down, the dog dies, or heaven forbid, a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

When Jim was diagnosed with dementia of the Alzheimer’s type, we couldn’t even see the glass, much less determine whether it was half empty or half full. If we could have seen the glass, I believe it would have been empty—at first. Alzheimer’s is a slow process, and if you let the news ruin your life, you might as well throw the glass on the floor and stomp it. But you know what that means? A shattered glass will never hold liquid again. If the glass is broken, even a half-empty glass is an improvement. That is when you move from depression to pessimism, and with a little gratitude for winning small battles, it’s not that difficult to see the glass as half-full. A half-glass kind of attitude might be all that helps you through the tough times. If you let your inner strength kick in, you move forward with determination that better days are ahead.

In life, attitude and the happiness factor may vary from day-to-day, so a goal for a happy life is to have more half-full kinds of days than half-empty ones. Having a few down days shouldn’t affect a glass half-full attitude about life. Who knows, with an optimistic attitude adjustment, the glass may overflow with possibilities.

Copyright © June 2011 by Linda Fisher