According to the Alzheimer’s Association website, more than 55 million people are living with Alzheimer’s Disease worldwide. My Dad was one of those 55 million. November is Alzheimer Awareness month so this is the first article in a series highlighting this illness and the families fighting it. My dad’s journey is over, but I dedicate this to all the families still dealing with Alzheimer’s Disease. We remember and you are not alone.
My dad lays in the hospital bed with his head hung down. His neck hurts, but he can’t seem to hold it up anymore. His 90th birthday was in December, and his Alzheimer’s is getting worse. The big strapping, strong man that I did flips off of as a kid is fighting to remember his life. We are fighting to hold on to him too.
It’s times like this where I start to remember all the little moments we spent together. They seemed so insignificant then, but way more important now.
I remember summers spent in his garage. He had an auto-body shop located at our home, so we would sneak in and out getting his tools for our projects, helping him put up his shop rags, peering into his shop fridge to see if he was hiding any goodies or even sitting in one of the “cool” cars he was fixing.
I remember him painting those cars, and he would pretend to use his paint gun to paint us – our hair flying up and our clothes pressed to our body as we squealed and ran away. He was actually pulling the air button and not the paint button, but he would laugh as we ran off. Do you remember that, Daddy?
I remember loading and chopping wood with him. He would chop it and I would load it into the wheelbarrow and help bring it to the house. That wood kept our fireplace and wood stove humming in the winter. I loved those cold nights, under the stars most of the time, with just us. I didn’t have to share him with my sisters then. He would talk about everything and sometimes nothing.
I remember Daddy helping those less fortunate. We always had what we needed growing up, but there weren't a lot of extras. We knew we were blessed, but when Daddy saw a struggling family I think it touched his heart. He would slip them money when he thought no one was watching. Never for accolades or attention, but to help. I caught him one time as he slowly snuck it out of his pocket and hid it in the palm of his hand. He shakes the man’s hand and you can tell the man can feel the folded money and is surprised. After all, hundreds have just walked by him and his family as they ask for help at the rest area where we stopped to use the restroom and stretch our legs. I asked Daddy, how do you know if he will use it like he is supposed to? It’s not our place to judge, he says. He answers to God if he’s lying, and we answer for not helping when we could have. Looking at me he says I hope someone would help us if we needed it. Do you remember, Daddy?
I remember spending summers at the lake. Him throwing us into the water and swimming with us. I remember us grilling breakfast at the picnic site. I remember him loving the beach. He and Mom walked up and down the sandy shores, hand-in-hand. I remember him swimming with his first grandchild, her squealing with delight.
I remember his excitement when he found out that he was going to have a grandson. I remember him crying when he found out that his second grandson was severely ill. How he loved him, but you could see his broken heart in his eyes.
I know you are struggling to remember, and I know it’s hard. But we remember these things and so much more. We remember all the wonderful, small, insignificant, daily things that you did for us as we were growing up. We remember the dedicated and loving husband and father. I hate that you are having to go through this. Losing pieces of yourself as this horrible disease progresses. But just know this, you may not remember, but we always will. The love, the caring, the lessons and the compassion that you taught us. The legacy you built will live on in all of us.
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