When it comes to offering my booth for charitable events, my heart will forever be connected with the Alzheimer’s Association. My family, like so many others, was deeply affected by the destruction of the disease. My dad starting exhibiting symptoms in his 60’s, but was never truly diagnosed. In fact, his symptoms eventually became understood as Alzheimer’s although the word was never put on paper as a diagnosis. It began as forgetfulness and progressed from there.
The disease took away some of the things that he was most known for in life, including his sense of direction and his loving character. I lived a few hours away from my home town. When my parents would come visit, Dad’s confusion would show more prevalently during his visits than it would at home – on the streets that he grew up on. In the early days, while Dad was able to drive, he would randomly get lost or would argue that he was going the right way, when others knew he that he wasn’t. Before the disease, my Dad could go somewhere once and would always know how to get back there again. That is a trait I wish I had inherited – thank God for GPS!
The focus of my Dad’s life and everything that he did was for the love of his family. He never shied away from showing affection. Maybe he didn’t say the words because he wasn’t much of a talker, but you knew it in his actions. He worked hard, gave everything he had and disciplined with a kind heart. As the disease progressed, but he still had awareness, you could see the frustration come to the surface. Eventually, the disease created a personality in my dad that was completely unrecognizable. What was left behind was an empty shell with periods of aggression and anger that simply didn’t exist in the dad that I knew growing up. It was truly agonizing watching my mom become the caretaker of a stranger, and an angry one at that.
Anyone that has walked the road with someone progressing through Alzheimer’s knows that each day is unpredictable at best. Every person has a unique experience with the disease. You spend your time trying not to be angry and then are left with guilt, loneliness and recent memories that are created by a disease that overshadow a lifetime of happy memories. My heart goes out to the caregivers, family and otherwise, that live day to day with the pain of loss. I still wish I could wipe away the Alzheimer’s memories so only the happy ones are left.
“His memories are not gone. I am simply keeping them safe until he joins me someday.”
At one point during a particularly difficult time for my dad, I was praying for him, my mom, myself and anyone else that stepped in during the most uncomfortable situations. God left me with this sense of hope… “His memories are not gone. I am simply keeping them safe until he joins me someday. I can assure you that someday you will see your Dad again and he will know you and have back his lifetime of memories.” That hope has stayed with me as a healing balm. I miss my dad every single day, but I take joy in knowing that he has been restored fully with his memories intact.
If you choose to walk during the Alzheimer’s Walk – thank you! If you are a caretaker (family or otherwise) – thank you! If you have lost someone like I have, or are experiencing the disease on a more personal level – have hope. I pray someday there is a cure, but until then, I know that God has a stash of memories that he is hanging onto until the day comes when they will be returned to their rightful owners. I pray that helps lift some of the despair that this disease brings to those it touches.
The local “Walk to End Alzheimer’s” walks are:
St. Charles County, MO – at the St. Charles Community College in St. Peters on Sept. 29th
Lincoln County, MO – at Troy Middle School in Troy on Oct. 13th.
Stop by my photo booth near the end of either walk route and take a keepsake photo that you can text to yourself or a loved one. Together, We Can End Alzheimer’s.