“I walk to honor my husband Jack, who has been living with Alzheimer’s for the past eight years. When we met 18 years ago, he was my knight in shining armor. For the first several years, life was perfect. We walked on the beach every Sunday morning. He kept our lawn immaculate, grew tomatoes in our garden, and had dinner ready with flowers on the table when I came home from work. Now his yard work consists of pulling a few weeds as he sits in his wheelchair. I smile and tell him how nice the yard looks, and he says, “I did it for you.” And I turn away so he can’t see the tear on my cheek as I remember the hours of work he put into keeping our home beautiful. Jack can no longer bring me flowers, or find the kitchen to prepare dinner. But he always thanks me for a delicious meal. On occasion I bring home fresh flowers, a bittersweet memory of the ones he would bring me. He looks at them and asks, “Do you like the flowers I got you?” Of course I do!
Yes, I miss the old Jack. Long conversations, beach walks, shared hobbies, all those things that make a relationship. But his eyes still light up when he sees me. He tells me several times a day “I love you” and calls me his beautiful wife. This makes watching him try to remember what his shoes are, and how to put them on, a bit less painful. Today our reality is a different one. I listen to his stories of walking across the desert with only a tablespoon of peanut butter to sustain him, and jumping from an airplane without a parachute. I simply smile and agree when he ‘remembers’ the time we took our pet bird on a tour of Europe. Many of Jack’s stories are influenced by his career as an aircraft mechanic. The best story of all illustrates the ravages of this disease and also the wisdom that is still there. In his mind, he flew from California to Florida – without an airplane! Someone asked recently “How did you do that?” His response: “It’s easy. Just hold out your wings and don’t do anything stupid.”
I walk to raise money to find a cure. I walk to spread awareness of this disease. I walk to support and share with other caregivers and families. Our name is ‘Team With Wings’, and our motto is, ‘Just hold out your wings and don’t do anything stupid’.”