Yesterday, my youngest daughter and I went to see Jerry. When we opened the door to the memory unit, there he was. It was as if he had been anxiously waiting for us. All neatly dressed in his red Alabama t-shirt, he came with stretched out arms and wrapped them around Katie. Yet, he was looking over her shoulder at me. Puzzled, he knew this person he was holding was someone he loved. “Hi Daddy” she said as she rubbed his arm; eyes swelling up and turning red. Mine do the same, now, when I envision them. TIme with our loved one with Alzheimer is never enough. The thirst is never quenched.
We turned and walked down the hall, arm in arm, Katie on one side and I was on the other. I wanted Katie to have as much time with him as possible, so I sat in the back seat of the car while we did our Dairy Queen run. She drove to the dock, where we could eat our ice cream and watch the boats. The country music was turned up and I could see Katie’s sweet hand, tenderly, stroking his hand to the fingertips. He was sort of oblivious to it yet enjoying it. The most important thing was eating his ice cream. The most important thing to her was touching his skin. I could see it in her eyes, weeping, but trying to be upbeat and strong. She was doing all humanly possible to communicate. Jerry even eluded to her husband, “How’s....” She told her how he was a dentist and would be so proud of him. Her eyes began to well up again. She told him of her baby boys. She talked about how she use to swim and how he was at every meet cheering her on.
Katie is a daddy’s girl. Their bond was strengthened through their competitive spirit. He would constantly remind her of the “fire in her belly” mental state before a race. She would give her all until he had to pull her out of the water.
In a way, Jerry’s competitive spirit has brought him this far. It’s been thirteen years and he is still going. The beginning diagnosis suggested 10 years. He was, I’d say, able to “live” for the first 10 years and we altered our lifestyle to take in as much as we could. He had fire in his belly. I believe he is still fighting this disease, but the fire is beginning to die down. Alzheimer’s Disease is definitely winning and will win physically.
Jerry’s spirit will continue, however. Alzheimer’s disease will NOT destroy his spirit; not now, not even after death.
For now, we’ll keep spending as much time with him as we possibly can. Our love for him never ends.