Welcome to a new week and another Grateful Heart Monday in my blog, TheTwelfthStep, where gratitude remains the only focus in this series of my writing, which for today is for the understanding I received, about a disease I never quite understood, through a movie, “The Father”, and its main actor, Anthony Hopkins.
“The Father” revolves around Hopkins playing a man of the same first name as he, who is an 80-year-old facing the onset of dementia in his life. Shown through his perspective, the film takes the viewer down an incredibly bizarre path of presentation that was probably the most incredible portrayal I’ve ever seen of someone suffering from a disease that affects memory loss and identity. Watching parts of Anthony’s life disappear and reappear, seeing him struggle to identify even those closest to him like his daughter Anne (played by Olivia Coleman), clinging to parts of him that may or may not be real, I came to understand a type of disease that affected both my mom’s mother and her as well.
For example, my grandmother used to tell me the same stories over and over again. She’d also think my sister was her daughter at times. She’d forget my mother was divorced and would ask where her husband was. She’d think I was still in high school after I had long been in college. And she’d misplace things with ease until suddenly, in any given moment, she’d jump back into the grandmother I once knew and had grown to love. The one who shot hoops with me and made me laugh with ease, who had such a vibrancy to life. I never quite grasped back then why she couldn’t just snap out of what was happening to her. But, after watching The Father, I really understood far better some of what she was going through.
I saw early signs of this with my mother as well before her tragic passing in life. On some level, I’m actually thankful I never had to experience the pain that children go through with parents who lose their memories, including of them. Honestly, I pray to God I never have to deal with Alzheimer’s or dementia. It’s one of the biggest reasons why I don’t drink or drug, because both my mother and grandmother both drank profusely, which I think only aggravated the onset of their memory loss and disease.
Regardless, I have to give it to Anthony Hopkins for helping me understand so much better something I only witnessed a mere fraction of during my earlier years in life. Hopkins is such the dynamic actor that he makes me believe every single character he plays in all his movies, as if it’s really who he is in life. As an aside, I feel the same with every role Meryl Streep plays as well.
Nevertheless, watching Hopkins go through the motions of life as his dementia takes more and more of him away, it was heart-wrenching, but so eye-opening. Struggling to identify what was real and what wasn’t, clinging to facets of himself that he thought was still true, and eventually regressing into the young boy he once was, longing for a mother to take care of him as he wept uncontrollably, I found myself having far greater compassion and understanding of a disease I never did understand.
Truly, my heart, compassion, and understanding goes out to all those who have had to either endure watching a loved one succumb to Alzheimer’s or dementia, and to those who have directly battled and lost their lives to these diseases as well. Today’s Grateful Heart Monday is dedicated to the movie, “The Father” and its main actor, Anthony Hopkins”, who made that change of heart possible within me.
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson