Weatherford Democrat


September 20, 2011

Don’t lose this thought

WEATHERFORD — Last night during an event, I forgot a donor’s name and used some sleight-of-hand movements to sneak a peek at his name tag. I called my forgetfulness stress-related.

At home this morning, I rummaged through my purse in a semi-frantic state, searching for my missing car keys. I called that forgetfulness age-related.

Finally locating the keys, I misspelled buffoon. I called that forgetfulness just plain scary.

Our daddy lived with Alzheimer’s disease for six years, the last two with only a rare glimmer of recognizable memory. My three sisters and I know that we may carry a genetic pre-disposition to this disease that will take away every memory we ever had.

For now, we recall the fear in his clear blue eyes upon hearing the doctor’s fatal diagnosis. We recall more clearly the blank, glazed-over stare that followed as his illness progressed. We recall the fear in our mother’s clear blue eyes upon hearing how unpredictable her future and his would be. We recall equally the exhaustion that represented itself across her otherwise beautiful face when only three years into this battle had passed.  

Because no one else should have to see in their loved ones’ eyes all that we have seen, I ask you to stride side-by-side with me and your neighbors this Saturday, Sept. 24, and walk 2.5 miles to end Alzheimer’s.

Join honorary chairman and Weatherford neurologist Sheri Hull and the North Central Texas Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association at 8 a.m. sharp at Weatherford College baseball field on College Park Avenue. It’s a walk to remember.

Now, here’s my story of one precious man who wasn’t that lucky.

Daddy was a retired 75-year-old entrepreneur so healthy that he took no prescription drugs. For at least a year before his official Alzheimer’s diagnosis many signs were there, but none of us could bear to mention what we feared the most. OK , so he drove on the wrong side of the road last week. We raised eyebrows, shrugged and denied, denied, denied. Then – no denying.

Daddy had been a soft-spoken, gentle family man but also strong and athletic. As the disease progressed, his personality departed but not his physicality.

Aggression and agitation were unleashed unpredictably but always at their worst during the “sundowner” hours of evening. On several occasions, he demanded Mom leave their bed, insisting she was a stranger. Nearer the end of his time at home, he started locking her out of the house. No 30-minute period of time, day or night, allowed for a relaxing reprieve from the anxiety – and subtle fear – of Daddy’s surly, sure departure from all that we recognized as him. Three years into his diagnosis, Mom simply slumped to the floor in a torrent of tears, and we knew it was well past time to relieve her primary caregiver stress.

Nursing homes, including those with special Alzheimer’s units, are poorly equipped to handle an otherwise strong, healthy man without a mind He threw chairs over the fence; he struck an orderly; he grabbed at several others for imagined infractions. The battered staff over-drugged him and finally “kicked him out” for further evaluation and placement elsewhere.

Our gentle giant of a daddy had become a terror!

The Waco VA Hospital became his salvation and ours. For lack of another solution, our ever-faithful Marine captain was housed his final two years with mentally-ill veterans. We no longer could visit him in his room. He was rolled out to us in the waiting room, well secured in a wheelchair and sparing us the uglier reality of his retreating life beyond those locked doors.

Family members tag-teamed to assure Daddy had regular visits. Feeding him became the only interactivity that remained.

Though he moved in constant agitation, signs of recognition became blips on a flatline. A year or so before he died, Daddy asked Mom to marry him. For months after, she said she was going to visit her fiancé.

Very late in his illness, in the midst of blankness, he expressed a precious flicker of joy at the sight of his new great grandchild. At the end, unable to secure hospice care, we were desperate that he be allowed to leave this world in a restful, pain-free state. We feel indebted to the hospital nurse who communicated our wishes to the only night doctor on the floor. For the first time in years, his exhausted body relaxed. He slept and then gently slipped into death. One last breath in and out.

Peace be with you, Daddy.

Sandy M. Owen is a guest columnist from Fort Worth, working on Weatherford’s Walk to End Alzheimers, a one-mile walk to raise awareness for the disease. For more information on the walk, call 817-598-6273.

Text Only
  • larry jones cropped:color NOW HEAR THIS: Old dogs and old men

    For most of us, our pets give us great joy and provide wonderful companionship.  This is especially true during the time of our youth and also during our golden years.  During these seasons of life we have more time to bond with our 4-legged friends than during the prime years when we were so desperately trying to make our mark on the world.  With this wonderful gift of love from our pets, there is a down side.  We live longer than they do, and it is hard to face losing them.  Down on the “pore farm” in the not too distant future, I will face this inevitable fact.

    June 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • larry jones cropped:color NOW HEAR THIS: Recalling memories of long ago

    Years ago, I had a good friend in the Navy, who was actually my immediate superior in the chain of command, whose comment made an enduring impression on me.  He looked up from his desk one day, and said, “Larry, (he always called me Larry, even though my first name was Lieutenant Commander at the time) we have one of the best jobs in the world.”  And how is that, I thought to myself?  He went on to explain that we were paid fairly good salaries to fly around in shiny airplanes and visit exciting parts of the world.  We were given a title (just like royalty), wore nicely tailored uniforms, and hung around with some of the most impressive young men and women in the nation.  Danny loved his job.  He went on to retire as the Chief of Naval Personnel, a Vice-Admiral.

    June 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0912 one bday wm j kelly 2013 mug.jpg KELLY: What do you think?

    Little League Baseball: This is one of the most successful programs for young people, both normal and handicapped. All of the people involved in this program are volunteers, and they do wonderful work in developing character and teamwork in children.

    June 12, 2014 1 Photo

  • larry jones cropped:color NOW HEAR THIS: Caring for those who have borne the battle

    With all the recent controversy surrounding the healthcare provided to our veterans by the Department of Veterans Affairs, I can’t resist the opportunity to weigh in with a few thoughts of my own. Over the past month or so, especially the past couple of weeks, it seems that everyone and his/her dog has pointed out facets of a very flawed and disgraceful system charged with providing care for those who served in uniform to protect and defend our nation. In each commentary, everyone concurs that our veterans deserve better. 

    June 8, 2014 1 Photo

  • larry jones cropped:color NOW HEAR THIS: A possibly terminal case of the crud

    I’ve heard several women during my lifetime make snide comments about what a bunch of crybabies we big tough men become when we’re sick.  Maybe, it’s because the bigger you are, the sicker you become.  One thing I know with absolute certainty is that at this very moment in time as I pound away on my keyboard, I am sicker than a dog with what may be my last case of the crud.  Not unlike all the other really rotten bad colds I’ve had in the past, I don’t see how I can possibly survive this one.

    May 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0912 one bday wm j kelly 2013 mug.jpg KELLY: What do you think?

    We read a lot about the alleged long delays in getting an appointment for treatment at the VA hospitals, some delays so long that the patient dies before obtaining one. I cannot think of anything more stupid by a family than to let a loved one die because they could not get an appointment for free care at the VA.

    May 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • larry jones cropped:color NOW HEAR THIS: Remembering our fallen comrades

    Each year in observation of Memorial Day, I clumsily search for fitting words to honor the sacrifice made by so many of our nation’s finest young men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedoms and our way of life.  Each year I fail miserably to achieve the desired result.  No combination of words or phrases in any language by even the most highly acclaimed author could adequately honor those who, in the words of Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg, “…gave the last full measure of devotion.”

    May 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • PASTOR POPHIN: Remembering on Memorial Day

    You remember the dates: July 4, 1776; April 12, 1861; June 28, 1914; December 7, 1941; June 25, 1950; somewhere between 1955 and 1959; and Sept. 11, 2001. These are all significant dates. If you don’t know what they mean, look them up.

    May 24, 2014

  • larry jones cropped:color NOW HEAR THIS: Rain for the just and the unjust

    Most of us plod along through life doing the best we can, but very few of us ever become really good at anything. Rarely do we achieve world class status, but my mother checked this box with her iced tea making skills. In my early years, there was never anything as good as coming in from the field hot and sweaty, sitting down at the dinner table (at noon), and having my first glass of cold iced tea. The first glass was always the best. The primary secret to my mother’s wonderful iced tea was the fact she used rain water from our cistern, rather than the hard well water. She also insisted on using only Lipton’s tea — none of that “off brand” stuff would do.  

    May 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • william kelly.jpg KELLY: What do you think?

    On April 27, 2014, two popes were made saints. This happening was unusual because the Catholic Church has two living popes, one retired and one the present head of the Church. 

    May 15, 2014 1 Photo

Must Read
Top News
House Ads
AP Video
Texas Scientists Study Ebola Virus Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow Southern Accent Reduction Class Cancelled in TN Raw: Deadly Landslide Hits Indian Village Obama Chides House GOP for Pursuing Lawsuit New Bill Aims to Curb Sexual Assault on Campus Russia Counts Cost of New US, EU Sanctions 3Doodler Bring 3-D Printing to Your Hand Six PA Cops Indicted for Robbing Drug Dealers Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey Raw: Obama Eats Ribs in Kansas City In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast Raw: Otters Enjoy Water Slides at Japan Zoo NCAA Settles Head-injury Suit, Will Change Rules Raw: Amphibious Landing Practice in Hawaii Raw: Weapons Fire Hits UN School in Gaza Raw: Rocket Launches Into Space With Cargo Ship Broken Water Main Floods UCLA