Today I participated in Cincinnati’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s as part of the Alzheimer’s Association’s broader walk campaign.
Please see my campaign page here, and if you are so generous as to float a few dollars, I would be grateful. I’m eternally grateful and appreciative of those who have already donated. I honestly thought since I started so late, that I would raise the money myself. Thank you to those generous people.
I have a personal and general reason for participating in the walk today. In 2014, my great great uncle and aunt, Peter and Bridget, from Luton, England (about an hour outside of London) visited. It was the second time I’ve met them; there was another time when I was much younger and my only memory of that is that Peter and his friends came out of a clown car. Like, really, a real, true 12 people in a tiny car clown car type thing. That second meeting would be the last, given the distance.
But it was that impressionable of an encounter, to where six years later, I still think about “Perfectly Pretty Peter.” Peter liked doing the PPP and for me, “Big Bad Brett,” or BBB, nicknames. I already had an affinity for all things British, but Peter was the loveliest, liveliest (he was in his 70s at this point) person. We hit it off right away, cracking jokes and cracking up. It was like making an instant best friend, despite our age difference and despite it being, for all intents and purposes, our first meeting.
I wish we had the chance to have more time together.
At that time, and I only found out after the fact, Bridget already had early onset Alzheimer’s. Within a year, her condition continued to worsen, to where by her and Peter’s 50th wedding anniversary (and apologies, I may have that wrong, as it might have been the 51st anniversary), she didn’t know who he was in anymore.
Imagine nearing 50 years together with the love of your life, and she doesn’t remember who you are anymore. Worse, there’s nothing you can do, as there’s no cure for the disease, and so you watch her deteriorate over time. PPP had to do that, and it breaks my heart to think about it. Such a lovely man going through that.
On a more general level, five million Americans have Alzheimer’s, and it’s more than just being forgetful or spotty with your memory. Over time, it takes everything from you, down to a basic memory of how to function. And of course, it takes memories of our loved ones, too. Also, there’s a perception that Alzheimer’s is the “old person’s disease,” and it’s what happens when you get older. That’s unacceptable and untrue. For example, 200,000 Americans under 65 have younger-onset. But also, quality of life for “old people” matters, too, and Alzheimer’s doesn’t have to be inevitable.
So today, I walked in Bridget’s name, and in Peter’s, as he’s also beginning to show early signs of dementia, and all those who have suffered through this awful, dreadful disease. And for the 16 million unpaid caretakers who have had to become quasi-caretakers of their loved ones and, like PPP, watch that loved one slowly wither away.
The walk was 2.5 miles or 5,000 steps. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was virtual, and I did it at my local park in West Chester, Ohio. It has a nice pond and two laps around was the perfect 5,000 steps. Here are some cool cloud photos: