Everyone impacted by Alzheimer’s has an amazing and touching story. My friend Marty, whose family also lives with this disease, very eloquently stated a wish that I share: that someday soon our kids will talk about Alzheimer’s the way we talk about polio – a disease that is all but gone due to the advances of science.
My story is also one of love. It is not only about my father currently living with Alzheimer’s, but the amazing caregiver that my mother was for him.
My father, Ray, was in the United States Air Force for 30 years. He was a fighter pilot – full of life – and considered himself lucky to be entrusted to defend our country by flying the F-100, F-4 and ultimately the F-16. He served in Vietnam, and never speaks of the experience.
The true hero of this 30-year story, though, is my mom, Sue. If you’ve ever read anything about military wives, you know the stamina, love and intention it takes to manage a household, move every two years (for some), make new friends, support other wives, and hold it together when your military husband is away often. She was loved deeply by her peers and by me and my brother for her joyful spirit and great advice.
At their 50th wedding anniversary, my mom shared great stories of their travels, adventures and friends. We’d lived in Europe for over 10 years, and she said we’d moved 26 times since they’d been married! Their grandkids called her “Super Nana” because she was indeed super-human, and always there with everything we needed, all while caring for my dad.
My dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s sometime in his 60s. My brother and I didn’t know for a while because my mom always kept it together and didn’t want to worry us. Even after we did find out, it didn’t seem to be so bad because my mom made everything seem effortless. She put up a good front to make everything appear “handled” and “not that bad.”
On November 10, 2012, my mom passed away unexpectedly. They said it was from heart failure. I agreed that her heart did fail – she died of a broken heart. Once she was gone and not there to make “everything alright,” we realized just how bad my dad’s condition was – the anger, the paranoia, the confusion and the onslaught of questions that he must’ve asked my mom over and over every day.
My Promise Flower Dedication
I am actively involved in the Alzheimer’s Association, volunteer at many events and even co-chair the Denver Walk to End Alzheimer’s volunteer committee.
As much money as I raise, and as hard as I work to get the word out for advocacy and change to support research to end this disease, it never seems like enough.
I am so happy to have the chance to make a significant donation to support the Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado in their names, and place my mom and dad up on the Promise Garden Tribute Wall. My parents raised me to take action, and this is a perfect way to do that and honor both of them.
About the author:
Kristen Beatty is the co-chair of the Denver 2016 Walk to End Alzheimer’s Volunteer Committee, and the director of business development at Webolutions. Kristen is a proud graduate of the University of Denver, and has lived in Denver most of her adult life. She currently resides in Centennial with her husband, Brian, and their two children. Kristen and her brother, Doug, work together with their families to care for her father living with the disease.