When my phone lit up this afternoon and I saw the news of Gene Wilder's passing I was saddened. Willy Wonka has always been a favorite in our home. Then I discovered he had been living with Alzheimer's for the last three years.
The statement from his family described this disease so perfectly. “The decision to wait until this time to disclose his condition wasn’t vanity, but more so that the countless young children that would smile or call out to him ‘there’s Willy Wonka,’ would not have to be then exposed to an adult referencing illness or trouble and causing delight to travel to worry, disappointment or confusion. He simply couldn’t bear the idea of one less smile in the world.”
Reading that statement made me think of my own family. We haven't exactly hid my Dad's Alzheimer's from the kids, but we haven't exactly spoken about it in great deal to them. How do you explain this disease to 8 year olds?
When my parents came down for the summer I knew I would have to tell the kids something, and thankfully, Dory was there to help me. How do you explain Alzheimer's to 8 year olds? You compare it to Dory. Sometimes he will forget what you just said, sometimes he will ask you the same thing, I mean he may call you Fabio...well maybe not.
We had a good summer with him. Granted there were definitely days that were worse than others, but the kiddos were none the wiser. He was just Dory and sometimes forgetful. This summer we were lucky. To echo Wilder's nephew in his statement today, "...we have been among the lucky ones – this illness-pirate, unlike in so many cases, never stole his ability to recognize those that were closest to him, nor took command of his central-gentle-life affirming core personality. It took enough, but not that.”
I am cherishing my moments, as I hope everyone in this community does.
To you, Mr. Wilder, thank you for the laughs. I hope you and Gilda are laughing somewhere over the rainbow.
To my Dad, I love you and your Dory moments.
"Adieu. Aufwiedersehen. Gesundheit. Farewell."