Before I Forget is written as both a wake-up call and resource guide for the fight against Alzheimer’s, which, despite being the third largest cause of death for Americans, receives only a fraction of the federal research funding devoted to battling ailments such as cancer, heart disease and AIDS. Unlike those other diseases, which are both manageable and survivable, Alzheimer is neither. Researchers, caregivers and others engaged in the battle against the disease predict a point of no return by 2020, at which time the costs and devastation of Alzheimer’s will overwhelm our capacity to deal with it, unless more money is committed to research and the development of drugs to manage the disease.
However, Before I Forget has been added to the Grown Zone Book Shelf for another reason: The story of Dan and B. is an unflinchingly honest, often painful, but ultimately inspiring example of what real Grown love is. The book vividly illustrates the sustainer characteristics—respect, compassion, forgiveness, acceptance, fidelity and safety—that are absolutely necessary in order to establish and sustain healthy, loving relationships of honor, esteem and respect. When a person is afflicted with Alzheimer’s, his or her demand for these sustainers increases exponentially, as the disease progresses from agitation and loss of memory to anxiety and the inability to complete basic tasks, to the eventual loss of the ability to speak and fine motor skills. Gasby is clearly Smith’s hero, steadfast and loyal despite changes in their sex life, the toll taken on their businesses, and the anger, resentment and burnout that are ever-present dangers for caregivers.
For an inspiring role model for how a Grown man loves, look no further than Dan Gasby’s love of B.Smith. However, it’s important to point out that Gasby and Smith had already established a relationship defined by healthy sustainer characteristics long before being confronted by the scourge of Alzheimer’s. His care and treatment of Smith was typical of their relationship, not a crisis response. Ultimately, Gasby is the person he’s always chosen to be with Smith, long before he was unexpectedly challenged with the role of caregiver. This is why we stress the importance of knowing who a person is before putting your body, money, home and/or heart at risk.
This book is but one chapter, but perhaps the most important one, in a love story for the ages. If you’re looking to set some real relationship goals, read Before I Forget to learn what you should be looking for—and what you need to be prepared to commit.
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