Why I Walk

I was asked to write a piece for The Daily Herald on why I Walk to End Alzheimer’s. I wanted to share this emotional piece with all of you:

Why I Walk

2012 Walk to End Alzheimer's
2012 Walk to End Alzheimer’s

Team Bonnie’s Braves has walked in the Naperville Walk to End Alzheimer’s for a few years now. We walk for my grandma, Bonnie, a 72 years young mother of five, grandmother of eight and great-grandmother of 1.

Bonnie grew up in Chicago and has always had a huge spirit (including that Irish fire) despite her petite frame. She loves to garden, run, read, cook, quilt and spend time with her family.

That is before Alzheimer’s.

Now just a fraction of herself – she still has that spirit and fire – she has lost interest in things that once made her so happy and complete.

Bonnie has a beautiful sewing room all her own. A true dream for sewers, knitters, quilters, etc., yet now projects sit undone. Every time my daughter and I visit her she excitedly shows me her sewing room and all her projects.

“I’m working on this guy and this guy over here…” She’ll tell me, but I know the truth. I know she has not worked on these projects for days, weeks or maybe even months.

Why has Alzheimer’s taken my grandma from me? I’ll sometimes ask God with frustration and anger. I’ll wonder how my Papa – her caretaker – feels after losing his life-long partner whom he’s been married to for 53 years. Does he feel sad? Or lonely? Or exasperated?

I’m sure he feels all those things, but he doesn’t share his feelings with me. My mom and my aunts sometimes do. At times they’ll get really saddened by the “loss” of their mother yet she’s right there in front of them. “I miss her.” They’ll say.

My mom tells me, “As long as she remembers who I am I will be okay.”

I went with that philosophy for a while. She does remember our names though she doesn’t know what day – or even season it is. Just a couple weeks ago she was putting up 4th of July decorations despite summer coming to an end.

See I love this woman so much. Of course everyone loves their grandma, but my grandma is so much more than a grandma you see once in a while. She cuddled me, disciplined me, taught me many things – like making bread – and she always made me sleep until “the hand is on the 6” even though I’d excitedly arise at 5 am ready to play our morning game of Solitaire while she drank her coffee. It was Heaven to me and I still remember the chiming of the Grandfather clock I so love.

And while she still remembers who I am, she is not who I remember her to be. I had an experience with this just the other day. I called her on the phone excited to tell her my goings-on. Distracted, tired, annoyed, I don’t know, but she abruptly hung up with me.

She’s never done that before. I wanted to cry. I did cry. My mom said, “That’s not Grandma, that’s the disease.”

I know. I know. But the next time I saw her I felt distance from her even though I tried so hard not to. I reminded myself, that wasn’t grandma, it was the disease. But it felt different.

My mentor, my protector, my discipliner, my supporter, my cheerleader…she’s gone. She’s not gone – she’s still there right in front of me – but she’s gone.

And that is why I walk as a part of Bonnie’s Braves. Because no family should lose someone who is standing right in front of their face yet is completely gone.

* Click here for more information on Alzheimer’s Disease.