Buzz Knight 00:00:02
Today on the Taken a Walk podcast series. We’re in the beautiful town of Brewster, Massachusetts glorious Cape Cod. I’m here to meet up with one of the most courageous individuals quite sure I’ll ever encounter. Greg O’Brien is an award-winning career journalist who continues writing at a time many would give up. He’s the author of Ann Pluto Inside the Mind of Alzheimer’s, which chronicles his journey as an embedded journalist going through this awful disease. He’s also the subject of the new documentary Have You Heard About Greg? I’m honored to meet up with Greg O’Brien for the Taking a Walk podcast series, Taking a Walk with last night Greg O’Brien.
Buzz Knight 00:00:51
It is so nice to meet you. I appreciate you being part of the Taking a Walk podcast.
Greg O’Brien 00:00:56
Oh, thank you. It’s an honor to be here, and I appreciate it because this is such an important subject that millions of people need to know more about and also to put things in perspective and disabuse so many of the stereotypes about this disease.
Buzz Knight 00:01:12
So the documentary, Have You Heard About Greg? The corner pieces of it are really about faith and about hope and humor.
Greg O’Brien 00:01:24
Buzz Knight 00:01:26
Let’s talk about faith first. Let’s lead off with the important corner.
Greg O’Brien 00:01:30
By the way, because you’ll ask me a lot of questions I probably can’t answer, which is my journey. Now, anyone who wants to learn more about the film Have You Heard About Greg? And where it’s playing, go to the Anacronym for Have You Heard About Greg? Hyhag.com. So that’s hyhag.com. That will tell you where it’s playing and all that great.
Buzz Knight 00:01:55
It’s an amazing documentary and a story that is a beautiful story as well. So your faith is growing up Catholic, right?
Greg O’Brien 00:02:06
I just want to give credit to the people. First of all, the genius behind Have You Heard About Greg? Is Steve Beckelson. He’s a filmmaker in Los Angeles. He grew up in Rye, New York, out of Manhattan, near Manhattan, where I grew up. And we were in the same class. And his mother and my mother were friends. I believe they were Cub Scout mothers together and both died of Alzheimer’s. And so the film is dedicated to all those men, women, people of all backgrounds in it, but it’s also privately dedicated to my mother’s.
Buzz Knight 00:02:45
And you had a serendipitous moment of running into Steve after you had not seen him for quite a while.
Greg O’Brien 00:02:53
Yeah, Steve went back to Rye for a reunion, 50 year reunion at Rye High School. And one of my best friends, Billy St. John, they were in class together at the high school. He saw Steve I wasn’t there at the time. And he said to Steve, have you heard about Greg? Which became the title. And Steve said, what are you talking about? And then Billy told him about my journey and On Pluto. And then Steve called me back on Cape Cod, where I live, and we talked, and he talked about his mom. And then I gave him a copy. I mailed him a copy of On Pluto and he heard I was going to speak and I’ve done a lot of speaking around the country and I was going to be speaking in Scottsdale at a big event to 500 or 1000 people. I forget what it was and he said, Can I come film it? I said, Sure. Based on that, he said, I’d like to do a documentary. And I said, Okay, you’re in charge. Not me. But I was co producer of it and writer and narrator.
Buzz Knight 00:03:59
So Steve, he’s got the connection obviously because of his family members. Right, right.
Greg O’Brien 00:04:08
But we also had out in La. Brad Ball who was a former executive with top executive with Warner Bros. Was involved in marketing and Scott Kennedy involved in distribution, amy Printer involved with publicity for it and a host of others. I can’t remember all their names, but I was blessed to have that team.
Buzz Knight 00:04:32
So faith throughout your life has carried you through difficult times and it carries you through this moment in your life right now. Can you describe your faith and what it means to this journey?
Greg O’Brien 00:04:49
Yeah, I first of all want anyone who’s listening and I’m the most imperfect Irishman they’re going to be. I’ve committed every sin a man can commit, but no, I have but murder and adultery and frankly have been tested in both. I passed the test. So I’m not an altar boy, although I was being raised Irish Catholic. I’m a little more evangelical now, but if someone asked me what my denomination is, it’s Irish Catholic. That’s just how I grew up. And so what happened in my faith is in the Catholic school, went through Catholic schools, you kind of spoon fed stuff. And when I started out in journalism after college, I started questioning and I was under the bar scene and all that on Cape Cod. And I remember being at a bar called the Beach Comber in wealthy and overlooking a beautiful swath of the Atlantic and I was just bored, which is unusual for me in those days in a bar and a regular guy, okay. So people could understand that I was just driven to and the sky was just gorgeous. On Cape Cod. There are some nights where you can see the Milky Way and it’s like someone took a paintbrush and flecked white paint all throughout and I was just drawn to drive up the beach and sit on top of a dune, which is about 70ft above the ocean. And I was just looking out and I just started asking questions about because I was challenging everything and what’s this universe all about. None soul taught me about God is God real? Who’s Jesus? And all of a sudden I found myself I just have to tell you how it happened. And people can have their own points of view and I totally respect that because I think respect is so important these days of different points of view. But I found myself in a conversation with someone. I didn’t know who it was and I wasn’t quite sure. And after that I was compelled to come back again on another night and on another night. And I was asking questions. After a while, I thought it was God. I said, Are you real? It’s like knock on the door and the door will open and who is Jesus and what about the Holy Spirit? What’s going on here? What I felt in my heart was looking out I heard in my soul, which is different from your brain, which we’ll get into later. Greg, do you think all this happened by coincidence? Look up at the Milky Way. Do you think it just happened by coincidence? So a couple of weeks later I’ll get into the end of the story. I’m in my twenty s and early twenty s and I’m running on the beach in Orleans. Anyone around here would know where that is. Beautiful September day. Sky was, blue and temperature was just right. And I felt a peace that I’ve never felt before. I was overcome by it. And I said, Lord, if that’s you, let me know. And seconds later I found myself crying in the sand. Sobbing. And I heard in my heart excuse me because I’ve been through ups and downs, but God like everyone else. But I heard in my heart I am real and I’m never going to leave you. And from that point on, in my early twenty s I never stopped doubting. Committed every sin, by the way, along the way that a man can commit but murder and adultery. But I’ve never stopped believing. And that’s been the focus. And that helps me get through. And this is just me. I would think it’s difficult getting through life or it would be difficult for me without faith, hope and humor. So that was the start of it for me moving from the Baltimore Catechism for all you Catholics who might be listening to a personal relationship with the Lord.
Buzz Knight 00:09:04
So do you reach a point where you don’t have any fear, including fear of dying?
Greg O’Brien 00:09:14
No. Here’s my fear. I don’t want to go until my wife and my son Connor daughter Colleen and Brendan are in good stead. And this disease is kicking the shit out of me right now. 60% of my short term memory is and I’ve done these kind of interviews before. So it’s kind of like the Catholic learning of Rote with the nuns. But again, you Catholics will know what rote is.
Buzz Knight 00:09:44
There’s nobody with a ruler
Greg O’Brien 00:09:46
No one is breaking a ruler over my head. But I have many concussions. So if that happened again, that ain’t good for me. Good. Right. Okay. I’m a funny guy and I just forgot where this is real time stuff. Where was I?
Buzz Knight 00:09:59
Well, I was just talking about the ultimate preparation in life.
Greg O’Brien 00:10:06
Yeah, you learned to move your focus. And I said before, 60% of my short-term memory can be gone in 30 seconds. I don’t recognize people I’ve known all my life. If you put me in a room and I don’t expect to see him, I don’t know. I just saw a good friend of mine in Staples the other day. I’ve known him since good part of my adult life. I knew he was a person of interest. I had to ask him who he was. He understood. He gave me a hug. And the rage is intense. The depression is intense. I’m not proud of it. Twice I flirted with leaving this planet, and I heard from the Lord, not your time, and you have no right to do it. I see things that aren’t there. There’s loss of place, loss of self, but it’s a disease that can take 20 to 25 years to run its course. And so the person who says, well, my mother was diagnosed and she died six years later, well, that statement may be true, and maybe she’s an exception to the rule, but in likelihood, her mother suffered 15 years silently, like my mother did. I lost my maternal grandfather, my mother, my father, and my paternal uncle to Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. They were all afraid to talk about it, and because of the taboo, the fear I’m going to lose my job, it’s the brain. Oh, my God. You can’t remove a brain, but you don’t get Alzheimer’s the day you’re diagnosed, just like you don’t get cancer the day you’re diagnosed. And I have advancing prostate cancer now, and I was diagnosed two weeks with prostate cancer two weeks before I was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
Buzz Knight 00:11:55
So when you were with your mom as she was ready to die.
Greg O’Brien 00:12:05
Mom and dad my dad was born and raised in the Bronx. My mom on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. My dad was director of pensions for Pan Am in the Pan Am Building. Had a great job, but we had ten kids. But they were able to buy or build a vacation home. First we rented and then they built a vacation home on Cape Cod. And we spent summers down here. But when I ended up, after traveling around the country working for newspapers and doing different things, ended up coming back to Cape Cod because I wanted to raise my kids here and doing most of my work then in Boston and New York and just traveling. But I want to raise my kids here. And my parents, after my dad retired, retired here, and then they started slipping into dementia, Alzheimer’s, and I became the family caregiver because the rest of the kids were in New York in different parts of the country. So it was an honor, but it took a lot out of me. And along the way, I’ve played a lot of sports in high school and college and numerous concussions. And I had two serious head traumas. One was a bicycle accident without a helmet, and the other was a car crash where my head hit the windshield and cracked it. Now, with the concussion, it’s not going to cause Alzheimer’s or dementia, but if you’re predisposed to it look at all the concern about kids in sports today. And I’m a big sport enthusiast, and with professional sports, there’s a concern that you take a lot of hits to the head. It can move you into a form of dementia.
Buzz Knight 00:13:52
So your mom is dying, but at that point, you sort of made, I think, a commitment that you were going to work at telling the story as a journalist.
Greg O’Brien 00:14:07
Telling the story. Yeah. Well, I was there at both their deathbeds and my mom was in full blown Alzheimer’s. My dad, he had prostate cancer. He had Macular degeneration, which I’ve started on. He had a form of dementia. He had circulation bypass operations because he didn’t have a feeling. His body was just depreciating. He was in a wheelchair. And my mother, again, which gave me so much courage, she was taking care of him. She took care of him and Alzheimer’s, and they didn’t want to go to the nursing home. I understand that. My dad’s parents died when he was young in tuberculosis, the quick consumption. And he was shuffled around to a lot of places, and I could see that, and I said, Okay, Dad. So I spent a lot of time up there, and we had to get help, which we did, to 24/7 people in the house. I was still the family caregiver, but my mom, during that time was sticking forks and sockets and serving my dad coffee grind, sometimes for dinner. And then there were times when they wouldn’t remember how to put the phone back on the handle. When you put the whatever I can’t think of the word, people know the conversation is over. You click it down. So there are times, like, at 930, I would call just or 09:00, I’d call just to check on them, and it would just kept ringing and ringing, and I go, Oh, my God, are they dead? Is there a problem? So I lived about 20 minutes away in Brewster, and they were in East Ham on the Cape. And I go up there, and there they are in the living room watching Johnny Carson or something’s fine. And I’m saying, WTF? And they go, Greg, what are you doing? So I had to come up with a story. I said, I just got out of the gym. I wanted to see how you guys were doing. But that was my life then. I was, in my own way, recognizing the symptoms of me. Because of the head injuries, I also carry the Alzheimer’s gene, Poe Four. And people, they don’t know what that is. They could look that up and it scared me, and I was in denial about it. And my mom, which is kind of a mantra, she was very bright. So the thing is about there’s a lot of things about stereotypes. They think, well, all of a sudden you have Alzheimer’s and you’re taking dumb pills. That’s not true. There’s something everyone’s different. The doctors will tell you there are no two forms of this disease alike like snowflakes. But my mom, like me and my father, they were high intellect people, and I was blessed by the Lord with a smart brain. And it’s something called cognitive reserve, which is like an extra fuel tank of IQ when the brain starts to fail. And one gets that. And this gets back to brain Health and the Brain Guide, which I want you to ask me about because I’ll forget it’s an example of someone who has developed their brain and exercise their brain and their body all their life. And sometimes that can help you go deeper into the woods. And that has helped me, and it helped my mom and my dad. So even as my mom was getting further in the woods, there was a side of her that knew what was going on. And her mantra was, greg, I can’t get sick. I can’t get sick. I can’t get sick. Wish I was sick. And that’s been my mantra. I’m not going to give in. Screw this. I’m not going to give in. But sometimes it just takes you out.
Buzz Knight 00:18:12
And then you have to just give yourself a break at that point.
Greg O’Brien 00:18:15
Yeah, I tell people and I’ll show you here because this is radio or podcast, but I’m holding up my cellphone and my iPhone and I’m saying my brain is like an iPhone. It’s still a sophisticated device. It has a short-term battery and gets lost very easily. But what’s so important are strategies. And I think it’s important anyone is listening that they want to take away. I’m not an expert on medicine. I cut up a frog in high school. But I am a no. I did and I mangled it partly because I think I wanted to. Don’t make judgments about me, but no judge. I was a wise guy in high school. It was archbishop stepping up high school in White Plains, and it was a creepy thing to cut a frog up. But I served now on the board of US against Alzheimer’s in Washington, DC. And you could Google US Against Alzheimer’s and look up something called Brain Guide. It’s right there on their website. And that will give you good research into because a lot of people on this journey don’t recognize it because they don’t want to until it’s too late. There’s so much strategy, so much help out there to get you through these years. For the average person, exceptions to everything. It can be a 20-to-25-year course here, getting through it. I could have, sadly, which I don’t want another eight to ten years on this because I’m freaking done now. And you’ll learn all about us against Alzheimer’s. And then also I do a lot of advocacy work for the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund of Boston. And look up Dr. Rudy Tanzy. T-A-N-C-Y-R-U-D-Y-T-A-N-Z-Y. He’s the chief researcher for a world expert in Alzheimer’s for the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund. He’s with Mass General. He’s at Harvard, and he has something called Shield shield. And I can’t remember what it stands for, but what it is. Each letter S for good example, talks about ample sleep, and it goes through all about how one can maneuver through this. And that’s why early detection is so important. Clinical trials are so important because it will tell the doctors. It will tell the doctors if you’re on this path and if you’re on this path now, there’s things you can do to slow the progression and help you through it. And some people will say, Well, I don’t want to know. Okay? So the great Bugs Bunny, he was paraphrasing someone else. Don’t take life too seriously, because no one gets out alive. My pastor, Doug Scalise, who’s in the film have you heard about Greg? He cracked me up in a recent sermon. He said, you know, mortality is still hovering around 100%, so get help there’s help out. There a strategy. There’s a strategy and that I use as a writer, written all my life, newspapers, magazines, books, scripts. And I use my laptop as my portable brain. When I got the diagnosis and my wife was with me, I started writing down everything I was afraid I forget, ended up with close to 20 pages of notes and research. And from that, I wrote Pluto with the help of my good friend Lisa Genova, who wrote Stall, Alice and other New York Times best selling authors for encouragement, William Martin and LeClaire and others who gave me encouragement. And that’s how I did it.
Buzz Knight 00:22:25
And I met Mary Catherine, your wife, as I was coming here for the interview.
Greg O’Brien 00:22:33
Buzz Knight 00:22:35
I didn’t detect that. She’s the warden, but I believe well.
Greg O’Brien 00:22:39
It’s a love term.
Buzz Knight 00:22:40
I know I love that because you.
Greg O’Brien 00:22:44
Have no filter in this disease, and so you end up taking things out on those that you love. And so sometimes we’re out in public, and I’ll introduce her as my first wife. Now, that’s not cool, but she knows I’m just kidding.
Buzz Knight 00:23:00
She knows. It’s sweet.
Greg O’Brien 00:23:01
Yeah. It’s an Irish thing. It’s a term of endearment.
Buzz Knight 00:23:04
Greg O’Brien 00:23:05
Any of you Irish people out there would know that it’s a term of endearment.
Buzz Knight 00:23:09
Are you still writing?
Greg O’Brien 00:23:11
Yeah. It takes me much longer now, but that’s a good question, because it leads into something else, which I think is so important in my journey and through my mother, my mother taught me how to fight this disease. That’s why she’s a hero. I love my dad, a typical father son relationship. But my mom turned out to be the hero of my life and taught me in her own Alzheimer’s how to maneuver through this mother’s son. And she taught me that when the brain starts to fail, search for the heart. And again, this is just me speaking, my mom speaking, too. The heart is, I believe, the soul. And the soul never dies. It’s the part of us. It’s who we are at the end of our lives. Our brain fails, but that’s not our essence. Our essence is the heart. The soul. I was in church yesterday and a good friend of mine has ALS. Another friend of mine, like me has advancing prostate cancer. And so I started praying for them and saying, God, I don’t want them to die because I’m really concerned about both, particularly my friend with ALS, it’s really getting bad. And I heard in my heart, not my brain. There’s an old saying the brain may not be all it’s cracked up to be. Greg, no one dies. The soul survives, and you go to heaven. Your friend Paul I will give you his last name isn’t going to die. His body is going to go. His mind will go. But that’s not the essence of who he is. And my mother taught me how to search for the heart and for that place of the soul and imperfect guys I am. I’ve learned over time, with a lot of scriptural reading and things like that, how to begin the process of searching for your soul. And I would encourage anyone who feels that that’s something they might want to do. And my writing, even though it’s taking longer now, has improved dramatically because it’s become more lyrical. And I’ve had good friends of mine who are accomplished writers who have said on this journey, I was always a good writer. Your writing has become much better. And one of my buddies from New York said, and by the way, you’re less of an asshole now. I was thrilled when he said that. Yes, of course I was thrilled when he said that. But a good example of strategies is and it applies. Strategies apply to different people depending on what you’re doing. But in writing, if there’s a concept that I’m looking for, it happens all the time now. That’s why the writing takes longer and I can’t find it in my brain. I’m looking for my heart. I’m looking and so I played charades with Google. Sounds like looks like all these things pop up and then it’s a process of following up on what comes up on the screen. And it might take me 20 minutes to find the name of a concept I’m looking for, which is frustrating. But when I find it, I feel good and I feel like I can look the demon in the eye and say, you didn’t get me today.
Buzz Knight 00:26:45
And is the writing just about things at the heart at that moment? Yeah.
Greg O’Brien 00:26:52
Well, good example in On Pluto. I couldn’t write On Pluto today. There were times when I was searching the soul and I was writing and it was coming out lyrically and I was writing, and I’m just going to tell people because I don’t deserve credit for anything. God, the universe. However, your audience here is probably outside of Boston. But I think God’s like, Coach Belichick, just do your job. So I’m just trying to do my job. But there are times when I was writing and I would look up at the screen here and I’d say, where did that come from? I’m not that good. Where did that come from? And I realized that I was writing from my heart, my soul.
Buzz Knight 00:27:47
And it’s gratifying, though, when you oh.
Greg O’Brien 00:27:50
It’s more than gratifying. It’s humbling. Does that make sense to you? Sure. It’s humbling because you know it’s not you, so you don’t take the credit for it. You’re in awe of the process.
Buzz Knight 00:28:03
It’s kind of, as someone like you.
Greg O’Brien 00:28:05
Said, that you’re now, I’d like to take credit for it not being as much of an asshole now, I want credit for that. But on the other stuff, I don’t know.
Buzz Knight 00:28:12
You could own that. But it sounds like to a degree, as someone who’s a fan of sports, it sounds in its own regard, the writing piece. A little bit like the notion of being in the zone.
Greg O’Brien 00:28:30
Yeah, that’s exactly it. In the zone. Yes. I’m glad you brought that up. It’s getting into the heart zone of writing, just like athletes get into the zone. Because someone had asked me that question before. I remember Michael Jordan, a personal hero of mine, and I was watching a game on TV many years ago, everything he shot, and the guys on his team were just going nuts. They’re going, Oh, my God. All of a sudden, he runs by him. He puts his hands up like, I don’t know where that’s coming from. He gave a shrug and he goes, I don’t get it. Right. But he was in the zone. I think the focus I mean, everyone has to find their own focus. But trying to learn what I’ve learned in this is to try to get into the zone of life. And I’ve tried through the zone of writing, but it goes beyond that. But it’s a humble journey because you know how imperfect you are and you know that there’s God, the universe, whatever you want to call it, there’s something far more powerful than you out there, and you’re just trying to track, catch, connect with it.
Buzz Knight 00:29:45
Well, we’re in beautiful Cape Cod, and it’s also the same as the mindfulness of a moment where you hear the birds chirping and you see the beautiful ocean front or whatever.
Greg O’Brien 00:30:09
I couldn’t be living in a better place with the stress and fear of Alzheimer’s.
Buzz Knight 00:30:15
Greg O’Brien 00:30:16
Buzz Knight 00:30:17
Yeah. You don’t have to think about.
Greg O’Brien 00:30:21
I was talking and I wrote about it in Pluto inside the Mind of Alzheimer’s. I wrote about what I call the magic of the bridges. And I remember this when I was a kid coming over from the mainland over the two bridges on Cape Cod, the Sagamore and the Bourne. We would come over the Sagamore, and when I get to the top of the bridge, it was an incredible peaceful feeling that I was in a good place.
Buzz Knight 00:30:47
Yeah. I felt that way myself, hitting the bridge.
Greg O’Brien 00:30:53
Yeah. You almost take a deep breath, and you go, okay, this is good. Yeah.
Buzz Knight 00:30:58
There’s something about it.
Greg O’Brien 00:30:59
It’s a moment and it’s never gone away from me. And I first started coming to Cape Cod. Of course, I was not on my own. I was four years old at the time in 1954. I’m 72, was born in 1950 and been here on and off the rest of my life.
Buzz Knight 00:31:17
Was your mom funny?
Greg O’Brien 00:31:19
Yeah, she was funny. My dad was funny. Well, my dad and mom were second generation Irish. We have 48 branches of the family tree and 47 go directly back to Ireland. My dad was from County Claire O’Brien’s maiden name was Brown, and she was from the Wexford area south of Dublin.
Buzz Knight 00:31:44
So you had to probably have a sense of humor to well, you had.
Greg O’Brien 00:31:48
To have a sense of humor to raise ten kids. Yeah.
Buzz Knight 00:31:50
I mean, really.
Greg O’Brien 00:31:51
Yeah, and they did, and they had strong faith, and I learned faith, hope and humor from them.
Buzz Knight 00:32:00
So the hope aspect is really about trying to be at peace with something really at a moment too. Right?
Greg O’Brien 00:32:08
Yeah, the hope aspect, in fact, it’s interesting. My pastor gave a sermon on hope in the Book of Romans, and hope is believing in something. You can’t see hope is the hope of God, knowing that even though in life, the good things and bad things, but there’s paradise at the end, and this is just a waiting room to get into. And I have it’s okay to get into a pity party, but a pity party really is a party of one. And so it’s okay to feel bad for a while, but I urge people to get up when they can. Another analogy here is lying down and wrestling as a position of defeat and walking hope, because regardless of when things in life are going to turn, generally, nothing goes perfectly for everyone. There’s the finish line at the end, and that’s where the hope comes in. And there can be miracles along the way too. Right. But miracles don’t happen to everyone. And so in the big press conference in the sky at the end, after Judgment Day, I got a few questions. I’m going to have my hand up, but just be silent. No, but it’s funny, and I’ve talked about this the other day in my relationship with god. I see the Lord as a combination with me in dealing with me as lurch in the Adams family. Just groaning, savallas, the lollipop icon and Kojack. Who loves you, baby? God is and I see God as a sense of humor. And I’ve written about this, too. Not too long ago, I had a WTF talk with God. People can figure out the Anachron of WTF. I don’t know if that’s a word you want your audience to hear, but it’s okay.
Buzz Knight 00:34:24
But they’ve heard worse. But fuck it, right?
Greg O’Brien 00:34:29
There I go again. Perfect. Sorry. Larry David, who’s a hero of mine. Oh, man, I love Larry David. All right, so where was I going here? Smart.
Buzz Knight 00:34:41
Well, you know what? First of all, you gave a great depiction of the word you’d have with oh, yeah.
Greg O’Brien 00:34:48
Thank you. All right. Yeah, that’s what I was and by.
Buzz Knight 00:34:50
The way, sorry to interrupt. I’m glad that you didn’t add a dash of Curly Joe Bessser representing.
Greg O’Brien 00:34:58
No, but I love him. Yeah.
Buzz Knight 00:35:02
Greg O’Brien 00:35:03
Another hero. Because there are times in my office, and this is just how the disease works. My family have seen it, where you go into rage. You’re going to rage sometimes when the brain shuts down or you can’t do what you and you start yelling and screaming. And I’ve done that. And I’ve taken the Lord’s name so many times. I’ve sought help from pastors and priests and stuff. And they said, God has big shoulders. Where I get mad at God. I had this WTF. And I said, WTF? With the real words. God’s got broad shoulders. I said, what’s going on? You know who I am? Trying to do the best I can, but you gave me Alzheimer’s. You gave me cancer recently because the body breaks down in Alzheimer’s. I had a spine replacement surgery at New England Baptist a year ago where they cut my back from the bottom of my neck to the top of my butt, put steel rods, plate, screws.
Buzz Knight 00:36:13
You know how to have a good time.
Greg O’Brien 00:36:14
Yeah. I still have no feeling from the middle of my back to the top of my butt. And over time, because it’s neuropathy, but signals aren’t going down. Complicated. From the brain and little feeling from my knees to my feet. And I’ve lost probably 30% of my site, maybe more. I go, WTF? I’m trying to do the best I can. Do you have a clue who I am? And I believe that God speaks to you in terms and uses words that you use all the time. So you know when God is speaking. And God has a sense of humor. And I said, and I want a God with a sense of humor, and I want a God like a Coach Belicheck do your job. And I said, you have a clue who I am? And immediately I heard a word that I use all the time. God. You have a clue who I am. Yes, dumbass, I made you and I have you right where I want you. And I started laughing and I started crying, and I said, Okay, I just needed to know you were there. Let’s move on. But God called me dumbass. I love that. Now there are people who would say, Oh, you can’t. Now we’re all different. I want God to call me dumbass and say, you could do better. Pick it up. And it made me love God more because he called me a dumb ass. And I love that. Now I know people are listening and go, we got to understand we’re all different, and we respond to the Lord in different ways.
Buzz Knight 00:37:43
But Hope, you also are on this mission of where On Pluto is about and where the documentary is about to draw attention to something that needs to be out of the darkness. So ultimately there’s more attention put to Alzheimer’s in terms of funding and that something good comes out.
Greg O’Brien 00:38:15
Buzz Knight 00:38:16
We’re part of your hope, right?
Greg O’Brien 00:38:17
Yeah, it’s funding, but it’s also given people hope when they walk through this with all the strategies that are in place so people don’t despair and to increase the number of people who are talking about it. What I want to see with Alzheimer’s is just to use the cliche to bring people out of the closet, talk about it. We had years ago. Didn’t talk about cancer, it was a big seed. Didn’t talk about AIDS, heart disease. We kind of tripped our way through, but we moved on with those, and now we need to build a critical mass. So that’s the prime purpose on Pluto inside the mind of Alzheimer’s in the film. Have you heard about Greg? The other side of it is the walk toward the end and trying to do some good things on the way out. And I write from perspective of a baby boomer where we first played by the rules, we broke the rules, we made new rules. Then a lot of us went on to do more establishment things. And now in the last lapse of our life, we’re trying to say, okay, what are some good things I could do on the way out? And Bugs Bunny don’t take life too seriously because no one gets out alive. So how can we all prepare for paradise?
Buzz Knight 00:39:47
The work that you’re doing is just.
Greg O’Brien 00:39:50
Well, I’m not doing the work. I’m just the dumbass.
Buzz Knight 00:39:55
The dumbass work that on God’s behalf right. Is absolutely beautiful, inspiring. It’s so important. And I hope everybody who’s listening here, worldwide either picks up I know On Pluto has been published in different languages. Yeah, right.
Greg O’Brien 00:40:21
It was also published in Mandarin. And I have a funny thing. I have people in the office, and I give them a copy. Can you check this to see if there are any typos?
Buzz Knight 00:40:33
So I hope people pick up On Pluto. I hope people see the documentary have you heard right?
Greg O’Brien 00:40:39
And if you’re looking for places, have you heard about Greg? It’s Hyhag.com and you’ll find out. And also I heard today that the film will be showing in hopefully I’m pronouncing right in cons in the film festival and in France.
Buzz Knight 00:40:59
Greg O’Brien 00:41:00
Someone told me that today.
Buzz Knight 00:41:01
And let’s reaffirm also some of the particular Alzheimer’s organizations that you want to.
Greg O’Brien 00:41:07
Sure, Google us against Alzheimer’s and look through that for the brain guide. But there’s all sorts of information about Alzheimer’s in it. The Cure Alzheimer’s Fund of Boston, and Dr. Rudy R-U-D-Y tanzi, T-A-N-Z-Y math, general Harvard, chief researcher at the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund, close friend of mine, absolute brainiac. And if you Google him with the letters S-H-I-E-L-D you’re going to come up with a whole list of things that you can do in this journey to maybe push off symptoms for a longer period of time. And that’s what it gets back to getting involved in clinical trials now and early diagnosis. I ended up getting an early diagnosis ten years before I would have because I had the serious head traumas, both of which the doctor said you probably shouldn’t have survived. And that caused me to get an early diagnosis because I couldn’t do my job as a reporter. So I might now about ten years into this, I could have another ten years or longer, which I’m not happy about, but I need to just do my job, dumbass that I am. So I ended up getting a diagnosis earlier. But what that has helped me to do, because we all have things in life to do, is help me to write about it while I can. And I couldn’t write OnPluto today, but I could then. So I guess if you want to call it that’s a blessing.
Buzz Knight 00:42:51
And it’s sharing your vulnerability, and it’s brave. And I appreciate the time on the Taking a Walk podcast. Great.
Greg O’Brien 00:43:02
Well, God bless. It’s an honor to be on this. Take care and thank you for listening. Anyway.
Buzz Knight 00:43:10
Taking a Walk with Buzz Knight is available on Spotify, Apple podcasts, or wherever.
you get your podcasts.