Alzheimers – Look for it!

I’m generally not a fan of finding diseases that are easily recognizable, but this one needs warning lights.

About ten years ago, I was visiting my mom at her work, and I’d walked out to the car ahead of her, intending to sit in the car and wait for her to finish up and get off work. I noticed a man pull up in front of the store and park his truck at an odd angle. He got out of the truck and left the door open. He walked into the store, and I watched him as he stopped in front of the building looking at the doors. He stood there a moment as if trying to decide what he was doing there. Then he entered a door near the middle.

Seconds later, I realized his truck was still running. And it was slowly rolling forward.

I jumped out of my van and ran the three car lengths to the truck, reached inside and pulled the gearshift up to park. Then I stepped into the truck and reparked it in a parking space, turning it off, but left the keys in the ignition, and closed the door.

I walked inside the store and looked for the man who had left his truck. I spotted him a few minutes later in an aisle with candy. His cart was filled to the brim with chocolate candy, a Halloween costume for a child, and a bottle of shampoo.

older manI spoke to him, and waited for him to respond.

It took him a full minute, looking straight at me, to decide if he wanted to talk to me or not. When he spoke, he said, “I’m just buying candy for the kids.”

I smiled, “I think you might have enough, there.”

His eyes glazed over slightly and he said, “I like when the kids come by. I used to be a teacher.”

“I remember. I was in your science class. You were a great teacher.” I nodded, “I always liked your class best.”

He said, “I don’t know how to pay for this. I think I left my wallet at home.”

I said, “I’ll tell you what, why don’t we get one bag of chocolate and the shampoo, and I’ll pay for it.”

He said, “Would you do that, for me?” The smile on his face was genuine. He was completely happy with the thought that I would do something for him.

“I sure would,” I smiled back at him. “Let’s get you home?”

He nodded.

On the way out, I handed mom the keys to my van and asked her to follow us. I let him drive and got in the passenger side of the truck. I told him I needed a ride to his house, and he started the truck. He drove out of the parking lot, onto the street, he turned right, then he said, “I don’t know where I live. I can’t find my way home.”

I gave him directions, telling him turn right here, turn left…. Until he pulled into the drive way. I suggested he put the truck in park and turn it off, then I walked with him to the door.

His wife was frantic. She’d called everywhere she could think of to find him, and the police were on their way to help find him. Mom pulled into the drive behind us, and the first police officer arrived shortly after. Inside, he told his wife that I was one of his students, but he couldn’t remember my name.

He handed her the keys and promised not to drive alone again.

Before I left, he asked me again what my name was, and promised to remember me.

He passed away a few months later from that horrid disease, and now I’ve lost an Aunt, and many other friends from that most unreasonably unfair of all diseases where you forget who you are, who your family is, and how to function.

Life isn’t always the blessed existence that most of us find it to be as we live out our days in defiance of all that could go wrong. Life doesn’t always treat us fairly. But nobody ever promised it would.

Every moment of life is a blessing. Every. Single. Moment.

Take nothing for granted.

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