Peter Gallagher: Keeping Memories Alive

| December 29, 2015 | Email This Post Email This Post

Peter Gallagher: Keeping Memories AliveMy work with the Alzheimer’s Foundation started for one simple reason: My mother, Mary Ann, had the disease for a third of my life. She was diagnosed in 1985 and died in 2004 — 60 years to the day after D-Day. (That’s not an inconsequential date in our family: My dad landed on a Normandy beach, and my mom was a bacteriologist at Walter Reed hospital.) Watching a loved one suffer from Alzheimer’s is excellent at making you feel powerless, but it doesn’t have to make you feel alone. That’s why I speak about it when I can, and perform at the foundation’s event in Los Angeles every year.

Even though my mother lived a long time with it, the disease progressed quickly. All of a sudden she was a little out of reach, and then it just kept going. But even at the end, there were moments of grace. If I sang her a song or we danced a bit, she would say, “Now that was real!” I don’t think she recognized us, but she recognized feelings. If she felt love, her face would show it. If she felt threatened, her body would show it.

When I was growing up, my mom was the one who talked to me, and I was sometimes able to give back. She suffered from depression as well, I believe. I had been a “mistake” in the family; my two siblings were much older when I came along. So when everyone was out of the house, with my dad on the road, and Mom couldn’t get out of bed because of whatever was haunting her, I would take care of her until it passed.

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