Father’s Day hasn’t been an easy day for me since my father started slipping down the rabbit hole of Alzheimer’s disease. It’s not that I don’t want to celebrate my father and all the ways he worked for me and loved me; it’s just that it’s difficult to know how.
I live 1,500 miles away, so I can’t drop by his nursing home for a visit. Last year, I called and talked with him for a few minutes, but he can’t talk much these days.
Shopping for cards is tricky. I can’t buy him one that says, “Dad, remember when I was little …” because he doesn’t remember when I was little. I can’t buy him one that says, “Dad, I can always count on your advice …” because he can’t give me any advice. Hallmark has yet to make a card for the father who has Alzheimer’s.
Shopping for gifts is worse. What do you get the man who has no hobbies, no activities, travels nowhere, and doesn’t quite know what to do with a wrapped package? For a while, I sent him food—especially candies and cookies and anything sweet, which he loved. But he can’t eat so well now, and it’s hard to send pureed brownies through the mail.
But this year I’ve found a way to honor him—even if he won’t know it. It’s called Burgers for Bill, and I’m counting it as my Father’s Day gift to my dad even if it won’t fully unfold until six days later.
Alzheimer’s Association’s Longest Day
That day will be June 21, the summer solstice, The Longest Day, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, which is encouraging people all over the world to use the day to raise money to battle this disease. Some teams are raising money by holding fishing or bridge tournaments; other people are running or climbing mountains in honor of loved ones.
My dad didn’t fish or play bridge or climb mountains, and I can’t ever remember seeing him run. But he did love to make and eat hamburgers. In 1983, he opened the Triple T Grill in Brownwood, Texas, in a mostly residential neighborhood a few miles from a plethora of fast-food franchises along the highway. Many people predicted he would fail.
But he didn’t. Instead, the little dining room overflowed at lunch from the first day, and the drive-through line often snaked all the way around the tiny building. Daddy succeeded beyond even his own expectations because he believed in simple but good food and in pleasing his customers.
Nothing made Daddy happier than making someone happy. And his customers were very happy with the way he made burgers, and shakes, and fries, and vanilla Dr Peppers, and the way he remembered the distinctive touches for each order, and the way he tried to make everyone feel special. Although he sold the business and retired in 1998, many people in Brownwood still remember him as the Triple-T-Grill man.
For the Longest Day, what better way could I honor my dad than by asking people to eat a burger in his honor? So I created the Burgers for Bill team with a very simple concept: enjoy a burger the way my dad would if he could and make a donation to the Alzheimer’s Association in his name.
Triple T Grill Remembers
If you’re in Brownwood, Texas, on June 21, you can actually do both at the same time—at the Triple T Grill, of course. Jerry Shepherd, the current owner of Triple T, is eager to promote Burgers for Bill because he knows how much my dad loved the Grill and the community he built there.
So Jerry has promised to donate a dollar for every Saturday Special that he sells on Saturday, June 21, to the Burgers for Bill team. He will also be accepting direct donations to Burgers for Bill from the store that Bill built.
If you can’t get to the Triple T Grill that day, you can still support the team. All you have to do is eat a burger—make it yourself or buy it from your favorite place. Just enjoy it the way Bill would if he could. And donate to the Burgers for Bill team in his honor by going to this Burgers for Bill webpage. Use the bright yellow DONATE button on the right-hand side of the page to donate immediately using a credit card.
Or you can send a check made out to the Alzheimer’s Association to Tammy Ditmore, 501-I South Reino Road, #194, Newbury Park, CA 91320. All donations sent this way will be made in Bill’s honor.
Recognizing My Dad
People often ask if my dad still recognizes me; so far, I can truthfully say, “I think so,” even though I’m not sure he can always call my name. But really, it doesn’t matter a lot to me if he recognizes me—because I still recognize him. And I’m thrilled to find this small way to strike a blow against the disease that has robbed him—and me—of so much.
Happy Father’s Day, Daddy.