He was my rock- my harbor- the one person in this world that I could always count on. He believed in me and stood by me and for me.
He was my dad.
There was a sentence I lived to hear- “Why, that’s just wonderful!” I heard it every time I booked a job. I heard it every time I called him after every VA Hospital volunteer visit. I heard it so many times throughout every Alzheimer’s Walk season. I founded AA Unite in honor of my mom, but I founded it for my dad. To give him hope after he lost the love of his life- and to make the promise- “A cure in our lifetime- I promise you, Dad- we’ll find it.” I worked so hard to make my family proud, but he was the one I wanted to shine for.
He took care of my mom throughout the years of her Alzheimer’s. “She is my love- I cannot leave her.” He cared for her every day until she died in May of 2012. He carried on the traditions that meant so much to both of them. He was in a Book club, a church Bible study group- he made sure to get together with friends and have lunch or dinners. In time, his memory began to falter. He stopped driving and his world began to narrow. Having lived through it before, I knew he was in the beginning stages of Dementia. He would ask the same questions over and over. He was still my dad- kind, patient, caring and a gentle pillar of wisdom and heart. In his last year, I was able to see my dad for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. I got to take care of him- take him on errands, to the doctor, to church. I cooked meals for him- and we watched the news together. He was having trouble walking, so, I managed canes, walkers and the wheelchair to make sure he was safe. I got to tell him how proud, honored and blessed I was to be his daughter.
In his last six weeks, he was in the hospital. I combed his hair, put lotion on his face and massaged and held his hand- for 12-18 hours at a time. That’s what a daughter does- we take care of our fathers- and it is an honor. I read my play- “What if I Fly?” to him. I showed him pictures of all the AA Unite teams across the country and told him who everyone was. Someone said- “You will have a hole in your heart”- but that was filled a hundred times over with the promises I made to him- “I promise- I will do you proud. I will dedicate this play to you, every performance will be in your honor. I will tell your story. I will walk that much farther; I will work that much harder for a cure. It will be my other life’s work- I will do it for you. My friends will write your name on their purple flower- we will walk in your honor. I’m not losing you, Dad-you’ll always be with me. I love you so much- I will miss you every day of my life- and I will live my life with the same amount of heart and kindness you showed to so many every day.”
In his last two days-for the first time in weeks- he opened his eyes and saw me- his hand was squeezing mine. I said to him- “They are trying to tell me that it is just reflex- but I know better. I’m your daughter. I know it’s you.I’m right here. I love you.”
He died July 12th, 2019. I miss him every day- and yet, I know he is always with me as I walk to keep my promise to find a cure for a soldier who took his final walk and a father who is finally at peace.
So, come join us on Saturday, November 7th from wherever you are. We can still walk together- even from far apart.
In loving solidarity-
Founder and National Team Captain and Coordinator
Actors and Artists Unite to End Alzheimer's
www.alz.org/AAUnite - our national team page!
Thank you for helping advance Alzheimer's support, care and research.
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