Many Hats Disclaimer: The Channel 19 Interview

Alzheimer’s: A Crash Course for Friends and Relatives is a new edition of The All-Weather Friend’s Guide to Alzheimer’s Disease. 

Stephanie's Heroes aired in spring of 2012 for Channel 19 (see In the News). It was my first time on television, other than two brief appearances—one five years ago, one 30-some-odd years ago. In the more recent one, I had driven my pickup truck out to get horse bedding and was asked what I thought of the skyrocketing price of gasoline. I made a brilliant, insightful comment about how expensive it is to drive a three-quarter ton truck and pulled away from the gas station praying fervently the interview would not be aired.

Well, it’s a lot more nerve-wracking experience to anticipate, in advance, five or ten questions about one's life and work. Regrettably, I lost the better part of two nights sleep over it. At 4:00 a.m. the morning of the interview, I was, in fact, making cue cards for John to hold up, in case I forgot everything short of my name. I was therefore appalled that the cameraman (or “lady” in this case) zoomed in on my red-tinged, swollen eyes as an opening shot. Aside from pointing out that my eyes generally do not look like miniature cutouts from a National Highway System map, I’d like to make an additional clarification: I’m not currently wearing the many hats described. True, I was at one time a psychology professor. I was also a Scottish dancer at one time. In my one big cameo TV appearance, at age seventeen, I did the sword dance in a fancy dancing kilt and gillies, and I managed not to kick the swords across the studio.

There’s a difference between is and was. Could I handle the demands of a faculty appointment (the hours-long classes and querulous committees, the steady parade of students) while producing a book and launching a related business? No more than I could leap from a tall building and fly with a cape. I’m not sure how the facts got confused—the confusion did not originate with anything I said—but the whole thing made me sound rather amazing, which may have been the point.

I very much appreciate being called a hero by the people whose voices I worked hard to capture in my book. Stephanie Satchell is a calming, smiling person, who quickly helped me feel more at ease, although, you know, I managed to pepper my comments with “you know” you know. I have one final correction, for the record, and I did say this on camera: I’m not the hero. The true heroes are people who live with this disease and do their best in spite of overwhelming, unspeakable challenges. It’s not hard to be an All-Weather Friend in this situation, but dementia patients and caregivers nonetheless struggle with social isolation. I hope my book helps their friends and relatives understand. I hope it keeps people in their lives.

And next time I'm interviewed for television, I will, you know, use Visine. I will also not bother with cue cards, since I was sent an advance list of questions and then asked variations of them in a different order. John fumbled around behind the camera, holding up incorrect answers, which at least had the effect of widening my bloodshot eyes.