Eyes squinted, he ceaselessly clicked the empty cigarette lighter, cupped hands around the broken cigarette dangling from his tightly pursed lips. Years of habit were the most recognizable thing about my father now. Dropping the lighter, he shuffled toward the microwave and began pressing buttons, while simultaneously batting at the nearby screen door with his free left hand - unable to make the connection between the screen door and it's handle. Outside. He'd loved the outdoors. There was no leaving now, though. Alzheimer's disease had trapped him in an endless loop of forgetfulness and frustration. He'd spend many more hours trying to escape - but he was already gone, mostly, this man with whom I'd shared so many hours of music and stories. Turning away from the door, he moved to gently run his fingers along the nearby shelves. Familiar friends lingered there - a precious collection of music he'd studiously gathered and zealously guarded. He picked and fidgeted until he pried out a CD sleeve, turning it and gently dusting it off, unaware that the treasured music had slipped from its case to the carpet. It lay there, mere inches from an unboxed cassette whose mangled brown tape meandered through a red-patterned field of discarded cd's, cassettes and tape reels. He looked at me without recognition, paused, and stepped forward to try to insert the empty CD sleeve into a nearby lamp. Broken bits of Tchaikovsky's 'Russian Easter' hummed around the bedraggled cigarette still clenched in his mouth as he began fumbling in the desk drawers for a lighter. We all know someone affected by Alzheimer's or dementia related illness - a family member, friend, neighbor - or we know of families affected by this terrible disease. I'm walking for my family members and those of my friends, and we all support the Alzheimer's Association's determination to work toward a cure, to end the broken lives and relationships this killer disease leaves in it's wake.
Thank you for helping advance Alzheimer's support, care and research.
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