Friday, January 11, 2019

Treasure Hunt


Although I’m a declutter class dropout, I’ve been tackling the piles of storage tubs in my basement. A person my age has a long time to accumulate a wide variety of items. I’ve filled a half dumpster of old paperwork, things I just don’t want anymore, worn outdated clothing, and worthless souvenirs.

The process is slow, but I don’t want to resort to the strategy a friend of mine used when she sorted through her deceased husband’s storage boxes. She spent weeks going through his things, but finally decided to dump the rest without looking inside the boxes. I don’t fault her for this at all. The hardest part of decluttering is knowing what to throw away, knowing what to keep, and how to dispose of the rest.

In the midst of wondering why I hadn’t thrown mountains of stuff away years ago, I’ve found unexpected treasures. I found a lost photo of Jim holding his M-16 in Vietnam. I found a box of ribbons for our Alzheimer’s Walk Committee’s participation in parades. I found a box of magazine and newspaper articles I’d saved but hadn’t put in the scrapbooks from the five years that I coordinated the “Memory Walk.”

Recently, we found a scrapbook my husband’s mom had made with photos of family members with neatly handwritten captions. I considered it a real treasure. His cousins dropped by for a visit, and I showed the scrapbook to them. My husband, an only child without children of his own said, “Nobody is going to want this when I’m gone.”

Therein lies the dilemma. Our generation’s treasure is trash for the generation following us. Although my kid’s value some mementos, they have no room in their homes for all my stuff, especially things that mean nothing to them. Along with the items in the basement, I have several collections. Some have at least garage-sale value and others, well, not so much.

I floated the idea that my kids should hold my memorial services at Christmastime and give everyone attending a nutcracker. “Give the big ones to people that I don’t like,” I said.

My daughter-in-law quipped, “Gives an entirely new meaning to ‘parting gift.’ ”

The best thing to come out of my treasure hunt was finding one of Jim’s guitars that had been in a “hidey-hole” for the past eighteen years. I gave it to my brother to use for as long as he wants. We practiced the songs for our monthly nursing home gig and for my mom’s birthday party. It really warmed my heart to see someone playing Jim’s guitar. When my brother sang “Sing Me Back Home,” I told him that the guitar could probably play that tune by itself. “Maybe that’s why it sounded so good this time,” he said.
  
Going through the clutter, has been a time of remembrance of good times and hard times. Of course, now I must press on to get past that stage of mass chaos. One of my motivations is the thought that someday someone may just dump the storage tubs into a dumpster without looking at the contents.

Copyright © January 2019 by L.S. Fisher
#ENDALZ

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Something Different


In college, I took an accelerated class on Office programs, and it was no surprise that our tests were computerized. As many of us know, there may be more than one way to come up with the correct answer, but we had three tries to come up with the “preferred” computer chosen method. “The test is only going to have one correct answer, so if the way you do it the first time doesn’t work, try something different!”

This could well be a life’s lesson. During the time I was a caregiver for Jim, I lived and breathed the lesson of trying something different. It became my mode of survival. It seemed that each day brought about some of the same challenges and piled on new ones. You would think it would be easier as you learned what worked with the old ones, but the solution bar kept changing for the old ones along with the new ones.

I documented these challenges and began to put them into a memoir Indelible. I had a rough draft finished  a decade ago, but put it aside.

I resumed the project in September 2016 with hopes to have it finished by the end of 2017. Instead, here it is a year later, and I still have work to do. In the book, I share some brief glimpses into everyday challenges of having a husband with dementia. These flashes of reality could be thought of as verses. These stories, some short, some longer, make up chapters. Eventually, when the words come together in a coherent manner, it will become a non-fiction book.
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The book has taken a back burner to all the other distractions life has thrown at me. Many mornings I wake up with intentions to work on the book, but first, I have to tend to all those other obligations, all the immediate things that must be tended to, and the dread of what’s coming down the pike.

As we close in on the new year, most of us take a moment to reflect on the year just about to trot into the sunset of the past. As we close the chapter of 2018, I’m more than ready to open a new one in 2019.

Too often, I’ve made the mistake of trying to be a people pleaser, and that means some of them have stolen my pleasure. Worse yet, they’ve stolen my time.

 
I plan to move into the new year without resolutions, but with the resolution that the same old problems aren’t going to be approached in the same old way. Sure, I’ll still make mistakes and take the wrong approach, but maybe by the third try, I’ll get it right. Who knows, maybe 2019 will be an Indelible year.

Copyright © Dec 2018 by L.S. Fisher
#ENDALZ


Saturday, December 22, 2018

What Day Is It?


Jim and Linda, Hawaii, 1969
We had our family Christmas get-together the second week in December. The following Friday, we had our final practice session for the December nursing home gigs. On the way home, I stopped at Walmart to pick up a few essential items.

I walked into the store and stopped in my tracks. Why did they still have all that Christmas stuff out? After my initial shock, I realized that Christmas was still more than two weeks away.

It is no wonder I wouldn’t remember what day it was. My husband and I have been working on migrating our websites to a new server since the first of the month. The project is so fraught with problems, we’ve been working practically non-stop. “My brain is mush,” I told him.

I had been trying to write a note about the umpteenth way to approach a failure and noticed I was making letters backwards and out of place. My brain would not process how it was supposed to look. It made me think about Jim in the early stages of dementia. I wrote about it in Indelible, a memoir in progress.

Jim began to have difficulty writing. He would write letters but they wouldn’t make words. Most of the time, the combination was close enough that I knew what he meant.

I wanted him to feel useful and to “exercise his brain.” One morning, I was washing the breakfast dishes and Jim was sitting at the table. “Honey, would you make a grocery list for me?” I nodded toward the pad and pen I’d placed on the table. “We need paper towels,” I said.

He picked up the pen and wrote on the notepad. “We need milk,” I said.

He set the pen down. “I don’t want to.” He walked out of the room and I sat down to finish the list. On the paper, he had printed, “taper powels.”

Later he picked up the list and studied it carefully. “I wonder why I spelled ‘paper towels’ that way,” he said.

If not for the date displaying on my phone and PC, I would be completely lost as to day and time. Still, even those reminders aren’t enough when my mind is on overload. A few days ago, I looked at the date and noticed it was the day Jim and I married in 1969. I had a complete meltdown, then had to pull myself together to try to make it through the day. My mom called and our music was cancelled. I was torn between having more time to help with the migration project and disappointment that I wouldn’t be able to lose myself in the calmness of playing the ukulele.

I had planned to go to the funeral of our third family member to die within the last thirty days. I would have been there, except for some strange reason, I thought the funeral was Saturday. We played music Friday, and I never sat down to read the paper until late. I saw the funeral notice and my heart sank when I realized I had missed it.

Soon it will be a new year and a time of promise. I look forward to getting back on track and living the retirement dream. I look forward to a time when the outside stress and pressure subside, and the drama ends. I’ll be glad when life gets back to normal.

I think I need one of those shirts or mugs that say, “This too shall pass. It might pass like a kidney stone, but it will pass.”

Copyright © Dec 2018 by L.S. Fisher
#ENDALZ

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Ugly Christmas Sweater


We recently held a raffle as a fundraiser for our Walk to End Alzheimer’s. At our celebration, we had an ugly sweater contest. I have a few Christmas sweaters that would classify as ugly, but I really don’t remember where I stashed them, and I’ve been too frantically busy to find them.

I looked at a few stores where they definitely had butt ugly sweaters, but I was not inclined to spend $40 for a sweater so ugly, I’d only wear it once. I had already cancelled out of one party, and I was in such a funk that I just didn’t know if I was even going to make it to this one.

Finally, a few hours before the Alzheimer’s Walk party, I breezed into Walmart and looked at several sweaters so ugly they were kind of cute—in an odd sort of way. I chose five sweaters and took them to the dressing room. It was important that the sweater fit because I was down to the wire and certainly didn’t have time to exchange it.

I put the sweaters on a hook and one started flashing. It took me a few minutes to find the off switch. I finally got a good look at the sweater that was flashing and knew it was the one. It said, “I having a meltdown.” Ah, perfection.

This entire season has been one big meltdown for me. I’m to the point where I don’t want to go to bed at night, and I don’t want to get up in the mornings. I’ve decided it ’tis the season to be grumpy. I’ve felt like an ugly sweater inside and out, and this one told the story of the past six months.

Sometimes it’s hard to decide whether my knee or my head hurts more. I feel like crawling into a shell and pulling my head inside like a nervous turtle. I went an entire week without going out of the house except to walk the dog.

The season of Ho-Ho-Ho, is more like bah-humbug. There’s nothing like losing two family members to take the jolly out of the holiday season. 

On the positive side, my house is as decorated as it’s going to get for the holidays. We finally found a mutually agreeable date for our annual family get-together. Now that two of my grandchildren are all grown up, we have a lot of working adults with schedules to coordinate. We had eliminated all weekends in December, but a Christmas miracle cleared up a day this upcoming weekend.

When I turn on the trees and the fiber optic bear, it chases away the blues. Now I need a little Christmas magic to give me back my stamina, enthusiasm, and optimism. I would so much rather have a white Christmas than a blue one.

Oh, and that sweater…turns out that I kind of like it. I combined the “ugly” sweater with a Santa hat, a “rosy the riveter” scarf, fingernails painted in five bright Christmassy colors, one red and one green earring, and I found some of that good old holiday cheer. The flashing lights helped temper the “Meltdown” message.

Copyright © Dec 2018 by L.S. Fisher
#ENDALZ

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Life’s Little Mysteries


I’ve always liked a good mystery, and life is always serving up new ones to give inquiring minds a workout.

I was talking to my mom and she said today had been a long day. I was thinking the same thing this morning when I thought it was afternoon and it was only 11:30 a.m. Some days seem longer than others do, although according to the clock, they are all the same. I would consider that one of the mysteries of life.

Today, the blackbirds were back again. They covered the yard and the fields. As far as I know this has happened twice. Since the snow melted, and we are supposed to get another one today, I thought maybe they were like all the people who storm Walmart when bad weather is predicted. It’s a mystery why everyone is out of bread and milk right before a storm.

I know my mother-in-law always said that deaths happen in threes. It really does seem to be true. When two other people in the family die, I start being more cautious.

When I go outside at night, I look at the heavens and think how mysterious it is. The planet, stars, moon, and UFO’s leave me breathless. Watching a meteor race across the sky leaves me wishing for more knowledge and a better understanding of how the universe works.

Another mystery to me is why some people seem to live charmed lives while others struggle every day. Why do people get life-threatening diseases like Alzheimer’s, ALS, or cancer? Why do some people have to live with autoimmune diseases, diabetes, kidney failure, and a multitude of other ailments? It would be easier to understand if good people didn’t get bad diseases.

Why do some people have talents that others totally lack? It’s a mystery to me how some people can be so artistic while another might be a math wizard but can’t draw a stick figure. I never could understand how Jim could play and sing a song he’d heard only a few times. Where does that innate ability originate? I can’t solve that one.

I think one of the biggest mysteries is dying. Why do some people have slow, lingering deaths while others die peacefully in their sleep? Why are some lives cut short while others go beyond quality of life? You often hear people say life isn’t fair, well length of life isn’t fair either.

When Jim was dying, I felt heartache and anger. I knew his death from dementia was inevitable. He would have not wanted to live once his personality changed and his memories faded. Jim had always treasured his memories, and it was sad to see them disappear into the broken links in his brain. Still, it was heartbreaking to let go. I’ve heard people often describe death as a blessing, but when it came to Jim, that is one thought that never crossed my mind.

Dementia stole a lot from us. One of the things I missed the most after dementia was our conversations. We talked about ghosts, UFO’s, love, fear, heartaches—anything about life and death. Jim was never afraid of dying. He always said that death was closing one door and opening another. Life after death was a mystery he wasn’t afraid to solve.

The mystery we should all strive to attain is how to make the most out of the time we have on earth. My goal is to live a drama-free life and not allow others to steal my joy. When I leave this world, I want to leave more than I take.

Copyright © Dec 2018 by L.S. Fisher
#ENDALZ

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Thirty Days of Thankfulness – Not Your Usual List


November is a time for self-examination and giving thought to our many blessings and giving thanks where thanks are due. Many of my Facebook friends have been posting one thing they are thankful for each day this month.

I’ve never participated in this delightful idea, but felt compelled to complete my monthly list in one fell swoop. I made the list and entered it into One Note on a sleepless night. After reviewing the list, I realized that I don’t remember seeing any of these items on their lists. I always suspected my thought processes might not be the same as the average person, but until now, I’ve kept some of the weirdness under wraps.

I am thankful for...



1.      Mice. It’s easy to think of mice as pesky rodents with no purpose in life other than leaving droppings behind furniture and chewing up important papers. But mice are extremely important when it comes to medical research in general and Alzheimer’s research in particular.
2.      Sleepless nights. On sleepless nights, my brain goes into creative overdrive. My best ideas come to me in the middle of the night.
3.      Wishes that didn’t come true. Throughout my lifetime, I’ve made a lot of goofy wishes, and I’m so thankful that they didn’t come true. I don’t think the life of a fairy princess, a rock star, superhero or being married to Paul McCartney is what God had in mind for me.
4.      People who hurt my feelings when I was young. Yep, all those cruel kids made me into a rhino-hide adult. It is almost impossible to hurt my feelings, because frankly I don’t give a poop about what insensitive, rude people say to me.
5.       Failure. I’ve learned more from my failures than I ever learned from my successes. Let’s face it, when I make really bad mistakes, I try hard to not do it again.
6.      Not being beautiful. Being beautiful is a burden I wouldn’t want to carry. Besides, I had to work a lot harder on my personality.
7.      Hard times. There have been times in my life when it was a challenge to figure out how to pay the bills, feed the kids, and not have too much month left at the end of the money. Because of  hard times, I’ve never had that fear of being poor that some people have. Been there, survived, and know that happiness isn’t based on the size of my bank account.
8.      Hard work. Without years of hard work, I wouldn’t have done as well in my job as I did and wouldn’t be looking forward to retirement.
9.      Having my heart broken. If a few boys hadn’t broken my heart when I was younger, my life would have turned out differently. I’m happy with the way it turned out, so thank you for breaking my heart and forcing me to move on.
10.  Rainy, gloomy days. When the rain falls and the sun is elusive, it is a perfect time to sleep in and laze around reading a book.
11.  Boredom. My life is so hectic that if I find time to be bored, I can relax...or think of something totally fun to do.
12.  Hunger. When I’m hungry, I know I haven’t overeaten.
13.  Paying bills. When I pay bills, it means I have another month of electricity, internet, phone service, and a zero balance on my credit cards.
14.  Not winning the lottery. I’ve always known that winning the lottery would screw up my life, and I like it the way it is.
15.  Flies and spiders. When I’m in a murderous rage, I can squash a spider or swat a fly and not suffer an ounce of guilt.
16.  Clear packing tape and plastic wrap. The way these two stick to themselves and trying to figure out how to get a roll started teaches me patience.
17.  Old age. Without old age, I’d have to pay to get into ballgames and wouldn’t get senior discounts.
18.  People who don’t like me. They teach me to stand up for myself.
19.  People who take advantage of me. They keep me on my toes and help me say “no.”
20.  Running late. It’s amazing how much time I’d waste waiting if I got to everything early. Besides, I’ve avoided traffic tickets and dangerous driving when I decided it was better late than never.
21.  Anger. If an injustice makes me angry, it means I am passionate enough to care.
22.  Fear. I might not be alive today if I didn’t have sense enough to be afraid from time to time.
23.  Ignorance. Since I clearly don’t know everything, ignorance means I always have something to learn.
24.  Grumpy old men. Without them, grumpy old women wouldn’t have anyone to argue with.
25.  Lousy TV shows. When a lousy show is on TV, it is much easier for me to turn it off and do something productive.
26.  Bratty kids. I’m so thankful that none of those bratty kids belong to me.
27.  Runny nose. Without a runny nose, I’m sure my head would explode from the inside out when I have a head cold and infected sinuses.
28.  Thunderstorms and lightning. We need the rain to replenish the earth and the lightning keeps me honest since I don’t want to be struck down for telling a lie.
29.  Bad lab results. Without bad lab results, I wouldn’t have incentive to work toward being healthier. I would have continued the same bad dietary habits with the same results.
30.  Uncertainty. I don’t know everything that is going to happen in my future! Uncertainty keeps me optimistic that the best is going to happen and not the worst.

One of the great things about making a list like this is that it made me realize the thing I am most grateful for is living the life I want and wanting the life I live. I am happy to be me and I don’t envy anybody else’s life or want to be somebody I’m not.

Copyright © November 2013 & 2018 by L.S. Fisher

#ENDALZ

Monday, November 19, 2018

I'm Telling You, Friend


After Jim developed dementia, he forgot the lyrics to most songs and had difficulty playing his guitar. Eventually, he sang the same cowboy song repeatedly. This song is so obscure I can’t find the lyrics online, but I think the title is “I’m Telling You, Friend, I Ain’t Had a Good Day.”

Maybe the reason this song stuck in Jim’s brain was because of all the bad days he had. The song is a warning even to friends about what a person feels like doing on a bad day.

I felt this song a lot when I was a caregiver, and I’ve been feeling it lately. I don’t want to take my anger and frustration out on anyone, but especially not on my friends and family. Instead, I just internalize and feel sad and depressed.

Too many bad days are beyond our control. When you receive a one-two punch in the face, the third one can be the knockout blow.

So, I binge on Hallmark feel-good, predictable movies. I play games on my Kindle where I win some and lose some, just like real life.

Playing my ukulele makes me happy. My granddaughter says it is a happy instrument, and I agree with that assessment. I regret that I never learned to play an instrument while Jim was living. I could have learned so much from him. Maybe he could have taught me that song about a bad day. Playing it on a happy instrument would have surely pointed out the absurdity of how we let things we can’t control ruin a perfectly good day.

I sometimes have to remind myself of two yardsticks I used to get myself through the days of caregiving. One measure was “so what.” When Jim did something he shouldn’t have done, I would ask myself “so what?” The day he stripped his clothes off in the front yard, my mother-in-law called me at work. She couldn’t get him to come in or put his clothes back on. So what? We lived in the country, there wasn’t much traffic, and the weather was mild. It took me fifteen minutes to drive home and solve the problem.

The other measure is “What difference will it make a hundred years from now?” So far, I can’t think of anything.

Someone pointed out that without bad days we wouldn’t appreciate the good ones. I am thankful that I have a core trait of optimism. I know that I’ll come out on the other side with inward peace and outward calm. In my lifetime, a few bad days are, ultimately, followed by a hundred good ones.

Copyright © November 2018 by L.S. Fisher
#ENDALZ

Friday, November 16, 2018

The Forgotten


I went to Walmart on November 1. The Halloween decorations were down, and the Christmas decorations were on full display. After searching the store, I came across a small display of Thanksgiving d├ęcor.

Unfortunately, one of the important celebrations for our country has been mainly forgotten. It seems that the only important thing about Thanksgiving weekend is Black Friday. Wouldn’t you know that my Google calendar has Black Friday on its list of holidays with the exact same emphasis as Thanksgiving?

It seems that not only has Thanksgiving been demoted, our seasons have as well. We thought when we went from winter to summer without any sign of spring, that was a once-in-a-lifetime fluke. Now, we’ve gone from summer to winter without more than a whisper of autumn. We were sweating one week and dashing through the snow the next.

As I thought about the forgotten, I thought about people with dementia. We think of those afflicted with dementia as being forgetful, but sometimes, their family and friends are the forgetful ones.

It’s sad during this time of thanksgiving that thankless people abandon loves ones because “he won’t remember me,” or “I don’t know what to say to her,” or “grandpa keeps asking the same questions.” Oh yes, it might be a little awkward at times, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth the effort. These people were the first to be critical of families who remained a constant presence in their loved one’s life.

It irritated me when someone asked why I provided personal care that the nursing home was “paid” to do. I wanted Jim to have excellent care and as much time as I spent with him, there is no way that aides could spend that much time with one resident.

When I visited Jim in the nursing home, other residents thought I was there to see them. I took time to talk to them, accept their hugs when offered, and to compliment them on a pretty blouse, or a new hairstyle. I entered into their world and felt the anger they couldn’t for the way their families had forgotten them.

At Christmas, an influx of visitors showed up with inappropriate gifts and criticisms of their loved ones care, surroundings, or the other residents they found to be annoying. These visitors never came alone. They missed the one-on-one time so important to the residents and replaced it with confusion.

When we think about the forgotten holiday, it is a time to remember the forgotten, forgetting people. Be thankful that you can spend time with your loved one, you can hug them, and touch their warm, living hand. The sad thing about Alzheimer’s and other dementias is that the time will come when they are gone, and you will rue the time you threw away. Time that could have been spent relishing that moment of clarity, the recognition that comes and goes, and the opportunity to go for a drive or a walk in the park.

I miss the times when Jim showed a glint of humor or understanding, the communication without words. I miss holding his hand, giving him a shower, coaxing a smile, and stopping by Dairy Queen to get him a milkshake. I miss the friends I made with resident’s family members and the staff. I miss the quirks of the residents.

Thanksgiving isn’t so much a holiday as a way of life. When we are thankful for the blessings we have, we don’t let setbacks get us down—at least not for long. A little bit of thankfulness goes a long way toward coping with the unfortunate circumstances that life generously sends our way.

Copyright © November 2018 by L.S. Fisher
#ENDALZ

Saturday, November 10, 2018

November: Alzheimer's awareness and Caregiver Month


November is designated as the month to raise Alzheimer’s awareness and to honor caregivers. I am going to focus on Alzheimer’s caregivers.

Taking care of a person with Alzheimer’s or other dementias is an all-consuming undertaking. In the US, more than 16 million family members and friends provide unpaid care for their loved ones with dementia. They provide 18.4 billion hours of unpaid care at a value of $232 billion. About half of the unpaid caregivers provide care for four or more years. Alzheimer’s disease is called the “long goodbye” for a reason.

The average life expectancy after diagnosis is between eight and ten years, but some people live twenty years or more with the disease. Diagnosis takes an average of 2.8 years. Jim’s diagnosis of an Alzheimer’s type of dementia was the result of the process of elimination. Especially at his age (49) an entire battery of test results were examined for a different cause for his confusion. It was critical that we ruled out treatable conditions: drug interactions, vitamin deficiencies, thyroid problems, depression, and low blood sugar.

The emotional stress of caregiving is pretty much off the charts for 60 percent of the caregivers. This emotion is followed closely by depression. The entire process of caregiving was a ten-year rollercoaster for me. We had good times, keeping our lives as close to normal as possible, followed by crisis after crisis, completing the downward spiral from end stages to the inevitable conclusion.

The object of this article is not to sugarcoat caregiving, but to bring awareness to how difficult it is to care for another person. I had an exceptional amount of family and friends supporting Jim and me. I was in my mid-forties, and that made me wonder—how could an elderly person provide care for a spouse without that support and without the resilience of a younger caregiver?

The long-term commitment of an Alzheimer’s caregiver causes medical problems for the caregiver. I was one of the caregivers guilty of not taking as good of care of myself as I should have. My company required annual health fairs and my test results fell within the heart-attack-waiting-to-happen category. I don’t know if I would have made it through if I hadn’t changed my ways about my own health.

If you are a caregiver, I urge you to take care of yourself from the beginning to the end. Contact the  Alzheimer’s Association and join a support group to learn from the experiences of others, to have an opportunity to vent, and increase your circle of friends. Visit www.alz.org for vital information about strategies to help yourself and your loved one.

If you know a caregiver, don’t abandon them. Provide emotional support, include them in fun activities, and let them know that you love them. Help them to the best of your ability to do so.

Caregiving is a marathon, not a sprint. I urge family caregivers to never give up on life and happiness. Find hobbies and social engagements that make you happy, and rid yourself of obligations that add to your stress. Draw on your inner strength and spirituality to help you live life to the fullest.

Copyright © November 2018 by L.S. Fisher
#ENDALZ

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Alzheimer's Day at Walmart


Sunday, my sister-in-law Ginger and I spent a good part of the day at Walmart collecting for the Sedalia Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Our walk was in September, but since we fell short of our goal, we were trying to get a few more donations and “meet and greet” the shoppers.

We’ve set up outside Walmart several different times, but it’s usually during the heat of summer. In fact, we have a real talent for choosing the hottest day of the year. This was a first for me—I wore a sweater.

The weather was sixty-ish, but the wind was gusty at times and just a steady strong breeze at others. I lugged the table to the ideal spot and Ginger and I began our battle with the wind. We struggled with taping down the tablecloth. As soon as I set the collection jar on the table, the wind caught it and blew it down the sidewalk. Finally, we had everything taped or weighted down. We set out T-shirts, books, Dum-Dums for the kids, and informational brochures.

People couldn’t decide how to dress for the weather. We saw shorts, flip-flops, children with bare feet, sweaters, coats, dresses and high heels, boots, and a few who might have made the famous Walmart photo ops.

The time flew by as people stopped to donate and share their stories. Many of them have traveled the same journey as I have. 

A young woman told us, “My nana has it.” Others: “My dad” or “My mom.”  Another lady made a donation and said, “Thank God, no one in my family has Alzheimer’s, but we do have friends that have it.”

One man wheeling a full shopping cart almost passed us by, but he stopped. “Thank you for doing this,” he said. “I walked in Tennessee this year.”

I smiled. “Thank you!

One man came up to us. He reminded me of Jim because his hat was covered with colorful hatpins. He chatted for a while, and then he said. “I’ve been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.”

The T-shirts were popular items and I went back to my car several times to replenish the stock. Just as we were thinking about closing down, a man wearing a suit walked up to us. He made a donation, and we handed him a T-shirt. “My mother died from Alzheimer’s,” he said. He looked up at the sky and I saw the tears welling up in his eyes. He began to talk about her and her faith in a better world. The tears slipped down his face and he dried them with the T-shirt. He talked about his family dynamics and the guilt his brother felt for not being there for his mom. As he wiped tears, he said, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to bring you down.”

“Hey, we’ve all been there,” I said. “Let me give you a hug.”

We hugged in the way that those of us who have lost loved ones to Alzheimer’s hug to comfort each other. Then, he hugged Ginger.

As it usually happens when we fundraise for Alzheimer’s—we find others who know the pain of watching a loved one fade away with this formidable disease. As always, we share the hope that the end of Alzheimer’s is nigh.

Copyright © October 2018 by L.S. Fisher
#ENDALZ