He was the father of one of my best buddies in high school. You just naturally respected him for a couple of reasons:
n He was in great shape. He stayed fit from the time he left the military and walked miles every day as a postal carrier. He wasn’t a big guy. But you knew you shouldn’t irritate him beyond the point of wrath.
n At that, his boiling point was high. He tolerated a lot from us teenage hoodlums; and he treated us like we really were old enough to make decisions. He might kid you about the length of your hair ... but you knew he was kidding. Every once in a while he’d frown and shake his head in a way that signaled to us that we needed to re-think something. But for the most part, he let us be as crazy as we needed to be.
As a kid, I spent a lot of time at their house. And we kept in touch years afterward – saw them now and then up until the point some years back when they retired and moved to the small town where my buddy now lives.
Last week, during a vacation to the home territory, I made a side trip to check in on my high school friend and his family. His folks are in their 80s now. His dad lives in their house and is getting along with some help dealing with his memory issues; his mom is, at present, staying in a nursing home and recovering from some health issues.
We decided to all get together at a local eatery for dinner.
I was helping my buddy’s mom up to the restaurant and his dad met us and took command of the wheelchair. He gave me a sort of suspicious glance.
Inside the restaurant, he came up to me. “I recognize all these folks,” he said, indicating his family. “But I don’t remember you.”
I said my name and told him how his son and I were best friends in high school. He kept looking at me. “We lived on the street behind your house – May Street,” I said. He still looked at me, brow furrowed. “I was at your house in Beatrice all the time,” I said. The name of the town seemed to spark some thread of memory. I mentioned my parents’ names.
“Oh ... little Steve,” he said. He remembered me.
“Well isn’t this a coincidence,” he said. “You and us showing up at the same place to have dinner at the same time.”
We all laughed a little. Smiles. And he was happy.
But before long, you could tell he wasn’t remembering too well ... only knowing things were OK. His family did a great job of making him feel safe and happy.
We know a few people now, the older we get, who are experiencing memory loss. Some who seem perfectly healthy, otherwise, but just can’t link things up. Some with a level of dementia – a little lost, maybe a little scared, maybe a little frustrated. The severity varies.
A cure for Alzheimer’s could unlock the secret to preserving memory and throwing down the mantle of fear that accompanies old age now days.
It’s hard to believe that any of us are not somehow affected by it – if we’re mature enough to be aware, we probably all are related or know someone touched by the isolation and frustration of Alzheimer’s or related diseases.
We can help them out. And we can be involved in the annual “Walk to End Alzheimer’s” event. It’s a good cause and it’s happening next Saturday, Sept. 9, starting at Gauche Park (note that the event has been moved since last year), 421 C St., Yuba City. Registration opens at 8 a.m. (you can register online, too, at alz.org), and the walk begins at 9:30 a.m. There is a two-mile route and a one-mile shortcut.
For info, email email@example.com.
As of Friday noon, the local event had logged $42,854 in donations, just over half way to a goal of $78,000.