A reader writes:
Don't forget that Thatcher was also a research chemist for a number of years before politics, and qualified as a barrister as well. Palin went to how many different colleges before getting her BA in Sports Journalism? (The answer is four, in five years.) Thatcher served 32 years in Parliament, 18 before she stood for PM. Palin has 8 years as a councilperson or mayor of a city with fewer than one-tenth the number of people as Thatcher represented for Finchley. And then two years as governor of a small state with a part-time legislature.
I can't say Thatcher is one of my favorite politicians, but I've never heard anyone disparage her intellect or work ethic. For Palin to compare herself to Thatcher, and to try to get a photo op, is absolutely insulting.
Palin wants to be viewed as Reagan's heir. I wonder if her angling for a photo op with a elderly woman suffering from dementia is because a photo op with Reagan's widow has fallen flat? I distinctly remember in last summer's Vanity Fair piece on Nancy Reagan that the author said that three subjects were off-limits for the interview were abortion, gay marriage, and Sarah Palin.
Obviously Palin has never visited anyone suffering from dementia, otherwise she would never even consider such a meeting. Five members of my family and I recently went to visit an aunt who was suffering from severe dementia.
We all gathered in a room and waited for the nurse to fetch her. When the nurse brought her into the room she looked confused and frightened. The nurse guided her to the corner of the bed to be seated, and this seemed to clam her down; she smiled and folded her hands her lap. Then she started speaking...very rapidly. Nothing she said made sense. If you didn't listen to her words it almost seemed like any conversation you had ever had with her. Her voice inflections were the same, and she smiled during her brief pauses, and she still gesticulated her "thoughts" in the same boisterous manner she always had. There was a glimpse of the person she once was, and it was a bittersweet moment that had me smiling while tying my stomach in knots. It's difficult to explain...it was exhilarating to see any glimpse of the woman I loved so much, but 'just a glimpse'' was painful and cruel.
Very quickly that moment disappeared. She started talking even more rapidly and aimlessly walking around the room. Eventually she walked out of the room, down the hall and into one of the common areas. The nurse gathered her up again, and spoke to her in a very soothing, calming voice..."Come over here, Bridgie, and see if you can visit these people over here." My mom and her sister tried the same tactics, softly and politely coercing her to join us. Bridgie started to become more and more unwound, the more people engaged her, and soon she started to cry. It was obvious at this point that our presence was overwhelming her, and we need to leave - right away.
I couldn't even hug her goodbye. This was too much for me. It was the first time in my life that I couldn't control my tears in front of a group a people. I cried my way down the halls and out the doors, through the parking lot to the car, and all the way home. I cried forever. I cried a river that day. It was the most heart-wrenching experience of my life.
Knowing what I know now, I can't imagine bringing an entourage of cameras and detached visitors into the room of a dementia patient. Even if it were just a few people, the chances of it not going well are there. Because with a dementia patient, you never know what you're going to get. You never know what will upset them. Palin needs to rethink her callous, selfish desires and consider the fragile, vulnerable state of Ms.Thatcher.
(Photo: British Prime Minister David Cameron and former Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher leave from Number 10 Downing Street following her visit on June 8, 2010 in London, England. By Oli Scarff/Getty.)