The Sedalia Memory Walk was Saturday and the sea of purple shirts showed our community support for loved ones with Alzheimer’s. Our Memory Walk was fun with a cake walk, Don the Balloon Man, refreshments, door prizes, raffle items, and dance routines by the young ladies from Center Stage Academy. Smiles and hugs made the rounds as we connected with others who had walked a mile in similar shoes, helping lighten each other’s load for the journeys we shared.
“Do you remember me?” a lady asked. “I worked at Four Seasons Living Center when Jim was there.” Jim was at Four Seasons four years and although her face looked familiar, I couldn’t come up with her name. “I’m Pat,” she said. “My husband wound up in the same room Jim had in the Alzheimer’s unit.”
“I remember you were having problems with your husband. I’m sorry to hear he had Alzheimer’s.”
“Yeah,” Pat said, “one day the staff found him standing on top of the sink.”
I had to laugh about that one. “Well, Jim did a lot of things, but he never did that!”
“You know, you just have to remember the funny things that happened,” she said. I agreed. It is much better to remember the times we smiled than to think about the distressing times.
Just before we began the walk, our master of ceremonies, Terry Kelley, sang “The Dance,” and I walked up to take a picture of him. The song was so touching, I gave Terry a hug. The tears started flowing because the words of that song are so true for me and for millions of caregivers.
My cousin Reta had taken a picture too, and she pulled me into a big bear hug. Connie Pope from Fair View hugged me too and said, “Are you all right.”
I think through the boo-hooing I let her know I was. “It’s that song,” I said.
Connie said, “Look around, Linda. See all these people here today? They wouldn’t be here if it hadn’t been for you and Jim. You are the one that started this whole thing.” I may have started it, but Fair View has been at every Memory Walk since the first one I coordinated in 1999.
The teams were introduced, then Memory Walk Coordinator Sheila Ream and I carried the Memory Walk banner and led our walkers down Memory Lane toward the fairgrounds. Sheila handed off the banner to her son Phillip who has helped us throughout the year. As we rounded the corner and saw the long line of walkers behind us, Phillip said, “I’ve looked forward to this all year.”
While the prizes were being announced, we handed out purple and white balloons for the balloon release. We used a marker to write our loved one’s names on the balloons. I put Jim’s name in a heart and wrote “To heaven with love.” I tied the balloon onto a basket handle, and while I signed a book, Jim’s balloon broke away and raced toward the sky.
That afternoon, after a leisurely soak in the bathtub, I put on PJs and settled in for the rest of the day. I got to spend the evening with my two youngest grandkids. My three-year-old grandson played with his race cars, and shouted, “Start your engines!” Before when he played, he called his driver Josh, after a relative he has seen race, but after the Memory Walk, he said the driver was Jim.
As our grandson played with his cars, I couldn’t help but think how much Jim enjoyed his grandkids. Jim never got to meet the three-year-old that often talks about “Grandpa Jim” and even pictures his grandpa as the tiny driver in his racing game.
Jim and I parented two wonderful sons. Our four fantastic grandchildren bring so much joy to my life. When I look at my sons and my grandkids, I know it is best that I never knew the heartbreak early onset dementia would bring to our family. I’ve been blessed with love, and the pain diminishes when compared to the dance that forever lives in my memories.