I had the best grandmother growing up who we called Gui (pronounced "Guy"). When I was at Gui's house, she put her world on hold and her entire focus was on me. We'd play barbies, house and office. She'd set up croquet on the back lawn, we'd go for walks. Whatever I wanted to do, she did. I loved being with her so much that I was known to fake being sick so I could spend the day at her house while my mom went to work.
Our relationship kept growing as I grew. When I was 15 and learning to drive she'd come over let me drive us to McDonald's for a Happy Meal and then all-around town.
It wasn't long after I turned 16 that we saw changes in her. She became confused with directions and we noticed that she was buying many of the same things over and over again; 100s of rolls and toilet paper and cases upon cases of grapefruit soda.
I moved away for college and shortly after Gui was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and moved into a group home. After her diagnosis, the disease progressed quickly. By the time I came home for a visit from college my grandmother no longer recognized me, and I didn't recognize her. She always had jet black hair with a swipe of white. She always wore bright red lipstick with impeccably painted nails in the same color. The woman I saw on that visit home had a head full of white hair, no lipstick and bare, ragged nails. And, she looked through me like I wasn't even there.
Six years later on July 6, 1999 I got the call that I'd been expecting and dreading. I was relieved her body had been set free of the awful disease, but it made me even more pissed to think all of the memories my grandmother and I had missed out on making.
She didn't attend my college graduation. She wasn't at my wedding and she never met any of my boys.
It was on that July day I decided I needed to do something. I reached out to the Alzheimer's Association and they informed me of the upcoming Memory Walk (its name before the Walk to End Alzheimer's). I set out to collect donations and on a cool September morning, my dog and I showed up to Mayberry Landing and walked with a few hundred other people around Caughlin Ranch.
That became a tradition for me. Every year since then I have walked. I walk because it helps me feel like I'm making a difference and I know that I am. I walk because, selfishly, I don't want my own grandkids to one day be saying the same things about me. I want to be around for their special moments.
This year, for the 20th anniversary of my grandmother's death, I decided to step up and chair the Walk. I want this year to be record-breaking. I want us to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to provide care and support for those living with Alzheimer's in our community and their caregivers. I want to raise money for research to support prevention and a cure. And I want you to be there with me, either in person as a fellow walker or in spirit with a donation.
Together, we can make a difference.
Thank you for helping us advance Alzheimer's support, care and research!
I have raised
Elite Grand Champion
Walk Committee Member