A diary-style account of Dad's Alzheimer's disease and how we (Kristen and Megan) deal with the challenges of this disease. Dad is hilarious, heart-wrenching, and naked one too many times, and although the disease is confusing and frustrating, we are able to find that humor and love still prevail.
Yesterday was truly a special Day. We held Dad's Memorial in my backyard and we had over 40 people come to celebrate his life. It was perfect for Dad. We ordered beer Koozies and drank Coors Light while munching on Peanuts in the shell. Pictures and Flowers were everywhere, and we served BBQ Ribs, Fried Chicken, Coleslaw, Gravy and Mashed Potatoes, Cornbread and Bisquits, and BBQ beans. We were so touched to see everyone there. Alzheimer's is a very lonely disease since the nature of the disease makes the individual forget who everyone is and therefore lose contact with friends and family. We tried our hardest to stay in contact with people and this blog helped tremendously. So, I extend a huge thank you to everyone who attended and/or sent flowers. It meant so much to us. It was an amazing party for Dad.
Here are the words I shared at the Memorial:
I look back on Dad's life... it's interesting. Life handed Dad a lot of lemons. But he still managed to
make lemonade. He has four
children - I know we didn't turn out
too bad - we cared for him until the day he died. And I know my sister Kelly who lives in Oregon would love to
be here and is taking it pretty hard.
She sent beautiful flowers.
His lemonade also included numerous trips with friends and family to go
fishing, camping, hunting and so on. He was a hard worker and a loyal worker
throughout his years at UPS and Wal-Mart.
But many of Dad's life-lemons were very bitter... an unstable childhood, three
marriages, estrangement from close family members, back injuries that forced
him to stop working at a job he loved (UPS), and lastly the worst lemon of all,
Alzheimer's. He dealt with them in
many ways, but perhaps the best way he coped was through his playful
personality... and he had A LOT of personality. He had an awesome laugh and always wanted to make people
laugh. He was that way until the
end. When he was confused or
couldn't think of the correct word, he made a joke. He. Was. Funny!
And he never hesitated to tell a joke around us even if it was
inappropriate or dirty. All we could say was "Daaaaad!!!" and try to ignore it. As teenage girls, I think we had our fair share of
embarrassing moments around him.
But that was who he was. He
showed us his true colors always.
I will also add how he shamelessly flirted with women, waitresses, store
clerks, cashiers... right in front of us.
Sometimes he whistled across the parking lot or out the car window. Megan and I would start slouching in
our seats while rolling the window up as fast as we could. He loved women.
And it was embarrassing! He also had a
collection of shirts and hats that said various things like, "Who are all
these kids, and what do you they want from me." or "FBI, female body inspector" or "stop your
grinnin and drop your linen".
passion he had for the things he loved was and is so inspirational: Fishing, Music, Dancing, The Dodgers,
Cooking, Gardening, Hunting.
I think of Dad before Alzheimer's, so many things come to mind. I think a lot about the connection he
had with the earth around him. He
grew anything and everything... and then he cooked it too. We had chickens, pheasants, avocado
trees, citrus trees, an apple tree, bonzai trees and sago palms, a compost pile
and a HUGE garden with countless vegetables. What a beautiful way to grow up. He exposed us to all of that. He was "green" before "green" became
was always something cooking on the stove... Goulash, Beans, Soup (oh man, his
turkey and rice soup!), his home-made teriyaki sauce!, and we ate a lot of ribs
growing up as well... and that's one reason we're serving them today. And I could eat buckets of the fresh
fish that he would come home with after a fishing trip. I used to watch him filet the fish on a
wood block in the garage and Megan used to wrap them up in towels and carry them around like babydolls. Oh, and
the old refrigerator that he turned into a smoker... he smoked his own fish! It was amazing. Every Saturday morning we would have a
big breakfast of bacon, eggs, toast, and potatoes. The house smelled so good. Oh, and I can't forget french toast on Christmas morning. I only wish I would have retrieved some
of those recipes or special ingredients long ago when he was capable of passing them on to me.
have so many picture memories of my Dad in my head. I've been trying all week to retrieve them, but the last few
years seem to be getting in the way.
I can picture him in white short corduroy shorts, tube socks, no shirt,
a beer in hand tinkering in the backyard with the dodger game on the radio. Or sometimes he would be in the garage
with music playing. I also picture
him in his sweatpants, uggs, and flannel button-up reading the newspaper every
morning with a cup of coffee sitting next to him.
was at every activity that Megan and I were a part of growing up: Tennis, Basketball, Plays, Concerts,
Homecoming. He was always there
and always reliable and I know he was so proud of us. And as we got older, Dad grew sweeter... it's almost like he
knew he wouldn't have much longer with us.
love of music and dancing stayed with him until the very end. It didn't matter what kind of day he
was having, the music would have the needed affect on him. It would calm him or uplift him. I was always surprised how the words to
the songs stayed with him even when he was barely talking. Those moments are my treasured moments
with Dad. I'll never be able to
listen to Frank Sinatra or Ray Charles without thinking of him. Especially the song "Georgia on My
Mind". The day before he
died, I held my phone up his ear and played it for him one last time. I think it made him feel less scared
and at home with himself.
I would like to share how Dad enriched our lives. We had to step up to the plate and advocate for him. Megan and I became closer to Dad than
we had ever been and our love for each other grew stronger. As Alzheimer's descended into his life,
we kept laughing, we kept dancing, we kept singing. We cried too, but got back up. Dad gave us a purpose.
Megan and I will not stop fighting Alzheimer's until there's a
cure. No one deserves to endure
what Dad had to go through. And I
think that's what I'm grieving about more than anything, because honestly we
lost Dad a while ago, but watching him the past few years was really hard. He also showed us how important family
is. It's the most important. So, I'd like to say to Dad... You were so brave, you did the best you
could always, you were loved and cared for, you touched so many peoples' lives,
you could make anyone smile and laugh.... so now I ask that you watch over Megan
and me as we did for you. We love
you so much.