This is Team Jack Attack's 10th year participating in the Walk to End Alzheimer's and it was 5 years ago this summer that my Dad was placed in a long term care facility. Each year around this time I try to sit back and take a moment to reflect on this journey. I try to find a moment of good amidst the flood of bad.
This year, on May 4th, we were blessed to welcome Owen Timothy into our family. And as happy as I was to add another baby boy to our crew there was also sadness in knowing that he'll never truly know his grandfather the way little boys should. It is an odd feeling to experience so much joy and sadness at the same time over the same event. It doesn't seem right to be experiencing the miracle of birth and the path toward death at the same time.
It was not supposed to be this way. I never imagined I'd be corralling my kids in a nursing home setting, reminding them to be quiet and gentle. I didn't expect to be losing a parent while in the heart of parenting. I thought it would come much later. When I was ready. When he was old. Not in the supposed prime of his retirement years.
When I smile at my little ones' antics there is almost always a twinge of sadness. My Dad will never be a part of this joy. He will never grandparent in the way I dreamed he would. Never again will he be the Dad he was to me. Not because he has passed, but because I've witnessed who he was then and who he is now. I still have my Dad. I can still hug him and give him my love. But it's different.
The Dad I knew, the Dad I loved is different than the shell of his former self that he is today. I try to remember the good times and talk to my kids about who my Dad really was in hopes that they will somehow love him a fraction of the amount I do and remember him as something more than what Alzheimer's has left of him.
The other day I was driving my son Jack (named after my Dad) to camp and out of the blue he said "I wish I knew Grampy when he was fun". At first my heart sank and sadness swelled over me. But after a brief moment of sadness I found happiness in the fact that I had not let his memory die. The memory of who he truly is.
I'm not letting Alzheimer's take the best of my Dad. Jack was one when my Dad was hospitalized and became non-verbal so he never really had an opportunity to know "fun Grampy". But, by spending time talking about him and reminiscing about the good old days when Grampy was the life of the party, Jack has a sense of who Grampy is - who he really is. Not the man he sees when he visits now, but the man he truly was - the fun loving jokester who was always up for a good laugh.
The Dad in my memories is different than the Dad I have now. He was my first Prince Charming - my first hero. And that is how I want my kids to remember him too. Here you will see a picture of "fun Grampy" before he was a grampy, when he was "fun Dad". My boys, Jack (6), Carter (3) and Owen (3 months) may never get to experience "fun Grampy" as he was but I won't let them forget what a special person he is.
It will take persistence to endure this journey of loss. Something, thankfully I learned from my Dad. Parts of him will always be a part of me. As I lose him, I can't help but hope that I'll find him. In me. In my children. In all the good memories.
Please help us put an end to this disease - make a donation, join our team or volunteer! Please know that your continued donations mean so much. With your support, Team Jack Attack has raised over $95,000 in support of the fight against Alzheimer's since we started walking in 2010. We couldn't do this without each and every one of you. We greatly appreciate your continued love and support.
Thank you for helping us advance Alzheimer's support, care and research!
I have raised
Elite Grand Champion