I vividly remember the day my dad told the entire family that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease. We were enjoying our 45th annual family vacation at Sandbridge Beach, Virginia in August, 2006. After a relaxing and fun day on the beach, my dad called my four brothers and me to the dinner table and told us. He asked us to do everything in our power to keep he and my mom in their house and not separate them. We assured our dad that we wouldn't separate them, and I'm happy to say that we honored his wish. As the week went on, it was difficult for me to process the news. My dad had always been so healthy - physically and mentally. And he had been my mom's caregiver for 25 years (my mom was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease in 1979). He admitted that he had a short bout of depression after his diagnosis but had finally accepted it. His mom - my Nana - had died from complications of Alzheimer's Disease so he knew what laid ahead for him. He asked me, his only daughter, to be his power of attorney, which I gladly accepted even though I didn't know exactly what that involved. But I knew from that moment on that I would do whatever he asked me to do to make his life as happy and stress-free as I could. I live 3 hours from my parents' house and traveled home every weekend to gather and organize all of their financial papers and to set up 24-hour care at their house.
Over the next several years, I saw my dad's memory fail as well as his ability to bath and dress himself. That was very difficult to watch. But one thing that my dad never lost was his sense of humor - his smile was contagious. Even after he lost his ability to talk, he would start laughing for no reason - he thought of something funny and couldn't share it with us in words but when he laughed, we all laughed.
A few days before my dad passed away, I was sitting next to him and rubbing his forehead (which I have done ever since I was a little girl), and he just looked at me, his eyes lit up, he smiled, and then squeezed my hand. I knew for that brief second that he recognized me and he was happy. My dad passed away on January 6, 2011, and I've missed him and thought about him every day. When I discovered that one of the charities for the NYC Marathon was the Alzheimer's Association, I knew that I wanted to raise money for this charity and run in memory of my dad. On August 26, 2011, my mom passed away from complications of Parkinson's Disease. So now I'm running in memory of my mom and dad.