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Coping With Early Onset Alzheimer’s

Resilience and Reinvention

My name is Franne Golde. I’m a mother, wife, songwriter, clothing designer, author, advocate, caregiver and founder of frannegolde.com.

I came to Los Angeles from Chicago in 1978 to pursue my career as a singer/songwriter. Within a couple of months I wrote a song that was recorded by Diana Ross. It would turn out to be my first worldwide hit.

Since then, my songs have appeared on records that have sold over 100-million copies. I’ve worked with such superstars as Pat Benatar, Heart, The Pussycat Dolls, Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, Selena, Christina Aguilera, Faith Hill, Jody Watley and The Commodores. My song “Even If My Heart Would Break” was included on The Bodyguard, the biggest selling soundtrack of all time.

The music business as I knew it started to change in the late ‘90s, when people began downloading music for free. My earning power went down the tubes and my husband Paul, a successful record producer, was also feeling the heat. We tried to go with the flow and hoped for the best! I wrote a #1 Billboard Hit and Grammy Nominated song in 2005 for the Pussycat Dolls, but that would be my last.

At that time, my son’s school asked for my help with an upcoming fundraiser. In that and subsequent years, I contributed memorabilia from Sheryl Crow, Ringo Starr, and others, along with various concert tickets.

By my son’s senior year, I’d run out of favors, so for the annual fundraiser I invested a thousand dollars to create a mini boutique in the school gym. I’d always loved fashion and people frequently asked me where I’d gotten my clothes. Often they were pieces I’d modified with scissors, needle, thread, ripping and knotting. I loved interacting with and styling all the moms and neighborhood drop-ins. By day’s end I had sold out.

Then I started selling clothing to friends out of my house, often designing what I couldn’t find. I wasn’t trying to create a business, but I was having a blast and learning the ins and outs of finding fabric, patternmaking, samples, tweaking, cutters, sewers, marking, grading and production. It was a whole new world and turning into an expensive hobby!

By 2011, the music business was hitting new lows and even successful songwriters were going broke. No one knew what the future held. Paul was having a difficult time finding projects as well. He wasn’t prone to depression, but he seemed anxious, forgetful, and sometimes confused, although he always had an explanation for everything. I attributed it all to the radical change in the music business and the attendant financial stress.

By late 2012 I knew something was seriously wrong with Paul. I never expected to hear what would take months to find out. In his mid-fifties, Paul was diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease.

We have been through so much over the past five years – shock, fear, sadness, and endless tears leavened with a healthy mix of denial and hopefulness. We’ve been in support groups, visited our state capital and walked the halls of Capitol Hill, lobbying for increased research funding and improved access to care and support. We’ve done walks to raise money and awareness, served on the Board of the Alzheimer’s Association and currently sit on the Board of Music Mends Minds, a fantastic organization that brings meaning and pleasure to anyone with cognitive issues through the awesome power of music.

Paul has been able to accept this new normal with a glass-half-full mindset and hope. His yoga and spiritual practice is his salvation. He sees the beauty in everything and everyone and is a constant reminder of what’s right in the world. He has far fewer filters than ever and doesn’t judge or complain. He is grateful and lives in the moment.

I struggle with tremendous grief when I allow myself to think that my future, with my best friend and the man I love, might not be as I once imagined. But mostly I follow Paul’s lead.

I knew I could no longer make a living writing music and it was hard to imagine doing anything else. It had been my life for over 35 years. Yet I had to take care of my family.

My only option was to sell my songs, the one thing that was all mine and that I’d worked so hard to nurture and protect. It was one the hardest things I’ve ever done.

The sale brought some cash, but I needed to get back to work. I couldn’t just go out and get a nine-to-five job. It wouldn’t begin to cover our expenses or satisfy my passion.

I needed to reinvent myself and in a moment of revelation I realized that I’d

already started doing just that. I had lots of samples of clothing, more significant, I had been working on what I considered to be, the perfect black pant. I made close to 100 samples till I got exactly what I was looking for.

Working became my therapy and I poured myself into it.

I launched frannegolde.com in August, 2016 and was thrilled when the orders started coming in. A couple of months later I got an email that O, the Oprah Magazine expressed interest in seeing my pants. I couldn’t believe it, it was just like 1978 all over again, when Diana Ross gave me my first hit with, “Getting Ready For Love.”

My black pants were featured in the January 2017 issue of O and dubbed the “Magic Pant” by Adam Glassman, Oprah’s fashion guru and Creative Director of O magazine. This was followed by a feature on the Oprah segment of View Your Deal, on ABC. More orders poured in and my team and I were off and running.

As my business continues to grow, I still fight my grief and sadness every day — and some days grief wins. But I know first-hand that there are silver linings. I feel them and see them regularly.

I’m grateful every day that I still have my husband and he is still able to do so many things. We treasure our time together, and though there are frustrations, we give each other unconditional love and support. I have my wonderful son, my family and friends and I’m still able to be creative and find joy, every day. That’s really all you can ask for.

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