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