I am sitting at a dinner party in Deauville, France, listening to my grandfather recount stories I’ve heard him tell a thousand times before; times spent with Peter O’Toole in the desert, his love affair with Barbra Streisand and with other leading ladies, past exploits at card tables and racetracks.
But this night is different. The stories are off; rich details normally embedded like fine jewels are missing. The characters are colorless and the anecdotes lack grounding in space and time – they just seem to float out of place and order. Attempts at humor have been replaced by an obvious air of anxiety and frustration brought on by his trying to remember.
He’s just tired, I think to myself. He’s been traveling too much. Pay it no mind.
But then he starts the stories over again, seemingly unaware that he’s just finished recounting them.
Something is wrong.
This was my first indication that my grandfather had Alzheimer’s disease, and in the subsequent years, many clues would follow.
It’s the quintessential irony — creating a life filled with cherished memories and relationships only to lose them.
A World Champion bridge player, an Academy Award nominated actor, a man proficient in seven languages with a higher IQ than anyone I’ll likely ever meet…Alzheimer’s does not discriminate in its victims.
It has been a slow and steady decline made all the more apparent by a lack of forward progress towards finding a cure.
So we must unite.
Throughout the month of June, join me in taking the pledge to “Go Purple” for Alzheimer’s awareness and let’s find a cure together.
Alzheimer’s is a thief — stealing brilliant minds. This disease must be stopped.
About the Author: Omar Sharif, Jr. is an Egyptian actor and spokesperson. An advocate for equal human rights, he is the grandson of legendary Hollywood actor Omar Sharif.