The Gift

  • Cast Number: 9
  • Run-time: 110 minutes
  • Bible Reference: Acts 20:24

Based on a true story about a family living with the reality of Alzheimer disease, as a grandmother moves into the house and the lives of children and grandchildren. A miracle unfolds under Gods faithfulness as a special gift comes through this bittersweet situaton. Suitable for Mothers Day or as a human interest outreach drama.
The true details of this drama make it a very useful program to show the awful effects of this horrible disease which strips away dignity. This drama has been used by Alzheimer Societies to promote understanding of this disease.
The basic storyline concerns a so-called "Sandwich Family", a family where a caregiver (Judith) looks after both her children and also aging grandparent under one roof. Older children have returned home after trying life on their own, while old age has forced a grandmother, who suffers from Alzheimer's Disease, to move into the family home for necessary care. Since this Sandwich type of family situation is becoming more and more common, any audience will associate with the dynamics of the situation.
The story is only partially fictional, being loosely based on the true story of my mother-in-law who died an Alzheimer's patient. The portion of drama regarding "the gift", is true and actually, wonderfully, amazingly and thankfully, did, in fact, happen.
This is a three act play, taking place in a family livingroom and a hospital room. The livingroom is furnished appropriately, the hospital room needs to have as a focal point a bed with protective railing around. Two chairs are necessary as is the usual oxygen, I.V., and other in-room facilities found above and around the bed in a hospital room. Visit a local hospital in order to get as much reality as possible in the set.

Act I, (livingroom scene) an adult daughter moves home, this brought about by a job layoff. Another older daughter moves back home after completing college education, while still waiting for a job opportunity. As the parents and younger children who are still at home are beginning to cope with this new reality, (at a time when the couple had expected to be enjoying a time of being on their own), a decline in a grandmother's physical and mental health forces the couple to make a decision on how "Grandma Mack" will be properly looked after. The decision is made that she will move in with them.

This has always been essentially a close, loving, caring family, however the effects of being a "Sandwich family" cause division, resentment and strife among the family. Each member ends up being inconvenienced by all others around them.

The younger children discuss with their friends the new reality of now sharing their home with older siblings and with a grandmother who often does not remember them and who often resents and is jealous of them.

The husband and wife attempt to have a happy marriage and family life but always find themselves pushed and pulled by the needs and priorities of their children and a demanding mother.

Act II, (hospital room), the family come to visit Grandma Mack on the evening before her birthday. During the first part of this act the family watch from the hospital corridor as Grandma Mack sleeps. They talk of her operation where she had a leg removed, of how thankful they are that her dementia will spare her from the full reality of the situation.
They reminisce about the person she was prior to Alzheimer's, and discuss the realities of the disease. Dad remembers some of the sad, some of the hurtful, even some of the happy times he has experienced in caring for Grandma Mack after she was moved to a nursing home. Mother talks of her doubts about allowing Grandma Mack to be placed in a nursing home.

Cast
Older daughter - Helen Pearson
2nd Oldest daughter - Rachael Pearson
Younger daughter - Patti
Son - Peter Pearson
Peter's friend - Billy
Judith's friends - Liz, Florence and Beth
Father - Frank Pearson
Mother - Judith Pearson
Grandmother Mack

Sample of script:

At lights up, Peter is absentmindedly looking through a magazine. He sets the magazine down, stretches, looks around, stands, walks to bookshelf, casually looks through the books, sighs, returns to seat on couch.
Judith enters room.

Judith: Hi Peter, what are you doing all alone? I thought that Dan was coming over to study with you?

Peter: Dan phoned, said he was too busy. Busy? We all know why he doesn't want to come back here! I doubt if Dan will ever come back here again, after what (emphasize) she did!

Judith: I'm really sorry about what happened, Grandma Mack didn't mean to embarrass you in front of your friends. It's just that she, well, she wasn't herself, that's all!

Peter: Wasn't herself? I don't even know who your mother is anymore! And why did she have to move in here anyway?

Judith: We have discussed this son. You know that your grandmother was not able to look after herself anymore. The accidents were getting more frequent, we were afraid she would hurt herself.

Peter: So we have to turn this house into an . . . an . . Alzheimer's ward. Mom, there's homes for people like that, why couldn't we have her put in a home where she can . . . .

Judith: I have told you before, my mother shall not be imprisoned in any, any . . . home! I shall look after my mother, thank you very much young man! And I will thank you never again to speak in that tone when discussing your grandmother.

Frank enters room

Frank: What's going on here? I could hear the screaming all the way across the street!

Judith: This young man is being impertinent that's what's going on! Never in my life did I ever consider speaking about my elders in that tone!

Frank: Peter! To your elders, doesn't sound like you!

Peter: I just asked why Grandma Mack had to move in here with us. I just said . .

Judith: He just suggested that his grandmother be institutionalized, that's what!

Peter: Well, I mean, why shouldn't she be where maybe they can help her. I mean I can't even have a friend in without her coming in to my room and acting like a fool!

Judith: Frank, I refuse to deal with him. I am leaving and I expect you to deal with your son! I refuse to listen to this any longer!

Judith storms off stage.

Frank: Want to talk to me about it, son?

Peter: Talk? What's the use of talking? Dad, you know that Grandma Mack has wrecked our family since she moved in here.

Frank: I realize it hasn't been easy lately since our family expanded again!

Peter: Expanded? Ballooned is more like it! First my sister loses her job and moves back home, then another sister finishes college and moves back home until she finds a job, next my grandmother moves in, "for the good of her health". And I can't see where either Helen or Rachael are trying all that hard to find a job. And most of the time my grandmother doesn't know who I am! And if I ever say anything to Mom she blows her top! And all you can say is it hasn't been easy!

Frank: I know, it's been hard on all of us, especially your Mom. She's in the middle, she's the meat in the sandwich!

Peter: Meat? What sandwich? Oh boy, as if we don't have enough trouble, now your starting to sound like Grandma Mack!

Frank chuckles: Sorry son! I just mean your mom and I have taken out membership in the sandwich generation. That's when middle age people like us are providing care for children and also for their parents, all at the same time, and all under the same roof. It's tough! Especially for your mom.

Peter: You keep saying that, but there are homes set up to deal with people who have Alzheimer's Disease. And we all know that's what's wrong with Grandma Mack, we just don't seem to admit it, especially Mom.

Frank: Frankly, Peter, there is no sure way to know whether your grandmother has Alzheimer's Disease or not. But there is no doubt that she is having memory problems, and she is showing many of the signs of aggressive behaviour that seem to go along with Alzheimer's. But we have to realize how tough it is on your Mom. After all, even when that person is loud and crass and obnoxious, maybe especially when she is, remember that person is your mother's own mother. And that's what makes it so tough! You can accept bad behaviour from other people, maybe even laugh about it. But when it is your own parent, well, it brings out a lot of denial, and regret, and hurt, and tears.

Peter: I'm trying to understand, Dad, honest I am! But when Grandma Mack did that in my room in front of my friends yesterday, what am I supposed to do Dad?

Frank: I don't know, son! Try to love her, I guess, and I know that's not easy.

Grandma Mack comes into the room.

Grandma Mack: It's hot in here! Doesn't anybody think about turning down the thermostat once in a while? Kids, that's who does it! Cheeky kids, don't know what this world is coming to! (looks at Peter) Who are you?

Frank: Grandma Mack, you know Peter, your grandson.

Grandma Mack: Peter? Grandson? I have no grandson name of Peter! Who's kid's that? Mike and Gloria's?

Frank: No Grandma Mack, Mike and Gloria don't have children. Peter is my son, mine and Jude's son.

Grandma Mack: Jude? Where on earth is Jude anyways? I wanted her to read to me. Can't see to read, you keep this place so dark! (calls out) Judith! I need you here!

Frank: Jude is resting, please let's let her sleep.

Grandma Mack: Sleeping? In the middle of the day? Well, I never! I worked my whole life, looking after Judith, running the store, never once did I need to sleep during the day!

Frank: Well Jude had a long night sitting up with you.

Grandma Mack: Sitting up, with me? I'll have you know that I was alone all night. Called for somebody to bring me a cup of water, should'a known it, nobody came!

Peter: I'm going to my room!

Grandma Mack: What did he say?

Frank: Nothing, Grandma Mack, nothing.

Grandma Mack: There's no respect from kids, just leave the room, never a thought of speaking to their elders! I am so fed up with the way I'm treated around here! Why, people treat there dogs better than I get treated. I'm packing up right now, I'm leaving!

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