A Walk to Remember

My father never practiced writing or editing, but I’m pretty sure some of the traits I acquired from him make me good at both: an almost-obsessive need to be precise, a driving desire to get things right, and an eye for detail.

Whereas those traits help me notice misplaced commas or overuse of passive voice, my father used them to help fuel his rise from a part-time shoe department salesman to a retail store manager. Later in his life, he would rely on all of those characteristics and a whole lot of self-confidence when he decided to leave retail and open a fast-food restaurant in an unlikely spot in our small town. Lots of people predicted his Triple T Grill would never last, but within a couple of years it had become one of the most popular hamburger places in town.

However, a few years ago, Daddy’s desire for precision and perfection started to fade. He no longer cared about issues he had always been passionate about. He let responsibilities slide. He started forgetting details. Unfortunately, our family knew all too well that these could be symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease because at that time, Daddy was still taking care of his mother who had been suffering from AD for years. We tried to make excuses for him, tried to pretend we didn’t see what we feared we were seeing. But eventually, we could no longer deny that he wasn’t functioning on the level where he had performed most of his life.

At some point, he was officially diagnosed with Alzheimer’s—the disease he had feared above all others. Our family was devastated by the diagnosis, but Daddy wasn’t bothered by it—he never remembered getting the news. Today, he lives in a beautifully appointed, well-run, secure Alzheimer’s facility where he receives care from trained professionals 24 hours a day. He’s happy enough in the place, even though he doesn’t really understand where he is or why, but he still begs to go home, even though he isn’t quite sure where home is.

I live 1,500 miles away from my dad, so I don’t get a chance to visit very often, and I have found very few ways I can reduce the effects of this disease on him. So next weekend, I plan to participate in a walk to help raise money for the Alzheimer’s Association. Not only does this organization provide money for research into ways to prevent or cure AD, but it also provides services for caregivers like my mother, who has benefited from support groups and expert advice.

The Alzheimer’s Association can tell you exactly how many people in this country have been diagnosed with this disease. I don’t know those numbers, but I do know that I can no longer count on my fingers the number of friends who are caring for or have recently cared for parents with Alzheimer’s. Several of those friends will be walking with me next week, and we are all looking forward to doing something. I know it’s not much; I know funds raised in the walk won’t directly help my dad. But at least the walk gives me a small way to talk about my dad and to honor him through action.

If you would like to support me in my walk or just want to pitch in to fight this dread disease, please visit my fundraising web page where you can make an instant donation to the Alzheimer’s Association. Do it in honor of my dad or give in the name of your loved ones or friends. The end of Alzheimer’s disease starts here.

October 19, 2011

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She worked with me chapter-by-chapter over the course of nearly a year to hone my writing through attention to style, organization, and mechanics. Her close reading and keen eye have been invaluable d… Read more
Dewey W. Hall, California State Polytechnic University

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  1. I feared Mr. Fielder at one time.. When I was in advertising at Brownwood Bulletin,
    I dreaded the days it was his turn for a visit.
    I always sold him, but daang, I had to work for it.
    Justification of price, placement and results were required, every time
    And I felt beaten up with every sale! Whew!I would have to encourage
    My self before going in to see him…”You know he’ll buy the ad, just go in there
    And take it! You can do it!”. LOL. … Love him!

    • Lisa, sorry he terrorized you (I’m sure you weren’t the only one.) He was frequently irritated by the Bulletin. It wasn’t exactly known for “attention to detail” and that always bugged him. But he also loved to yank people’s chains — he still does, in fact. That’s one trait he hasn’t lost!