May 31, 2018 – West Bend, WI – The 2018 Amazing Ride for Alzheimer’s will get underway shortly as my niece Audrey, 15, and I push off on a 3-week tour to Whitefish Point, MI and the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum.
Over the past five years the ride has raised nearly $100,000 for music and exercise programs for people who suffer Alzheimer’s. This year our goal is to raise $10,000 for a rickshaw bike at the Samaritan Health Center.
It was my father, who will soon be 94, who got me into bicycling and now suffers a form of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Below is a story I wrote in 2015 about my adventure going to rummage sales with my dad. Please consider supporting this year’s Amazing Ride for Alzheimer’s.
Took my dad to Kewaskum today for its Village-wide rummage sale. My father is 91 and suffers Alzheimer’s. He is mighty fit and farm strong. When he’s dressed up (normally for a funeral for someone younger) people say, “Al looks like he’s ready to start a corporation.”
His appearance is deceiving; my dad is adrift in Alzheimer’s in a well-preserved body. His world resets every three seconds. Memory is definitely an issue with repetitive questions, no sense of a current timeline and you can’t say, “Do you remember this or that” … because, no…. he doesn’t.
I found he responds well to music and exercise. Rummage sales are also good therapy. We always used to go to sales together on Saturday morning.
I find it’s a good opportunity to drift back into his era – because I know he’s never going to be able to step into mine.
At the sales we gravitate to hardware, tools and farm equipment. “What’s this,” I said holding up a carpentry thingamajig. “That’s a planer,” he said.
My dad was a Mr. Fix It in his prime. “How about that,” I said. “It’s a horse collar you’d put it over the back of the horses neck……” And there he goes …. it’s more words than we’ve heard in a week.
“Did you have horses when you were growing up,” I ask. “Well, yes. I’d have to get up in the morning, milk the cows, load the milk into the wagon and take it to the cheese factory in St. Cloud.”
I’ve heard the stories a million times. But now he’s in his element. It’s kind of amazing really, because otherwise he says nothing.
A couple of things about the disease – my dad doesn’t initiate conversation and when we walk from sale to sale he follows about five paces behind. I’m told that’s normal for someone with Alzheimer’s.
At each sale I hear the same comment “high prices.” It’s a hard thing to grasp, this 2015. Maybe my dad is the lucky one – stuck in his era of Happy Days, 15-cent a gallon gas, and when neighbors helped neighbors – because it’s what you did.
Today I found a 45 rpm of Elvis with The King on the sleeve. “How much change do you have in your pocket,” I asked. My dad pulled out 57 cents and handed it over. It was a good old-fashioned rummage, they took it – happy to make a sale.
We normally don’t buy much, but it’s quality time and gives my mom some freedom, even if only a couple hours.
After my small purchase, we stopped at a sale by Kewaskum’s famed Jules Dreher and then head home.
Getting out of the car my dad turned to me. The look in his eyes is very distant. I ask if he was feeling OK and after somewhat of a pause he said, “You owe me 57 cents.”
I consider it a miracle. That was more than a half hour ago…. from a guy who can’t remember three seconds ago. I laughed. It’s a sign – – the rummage therapy works.
I know somebody’s in there…. it’s up to me to reach him.
I think I’ll keep my dad on the hook with that 57 cents… at least for a bit. Selfishly, maybe he’ll stay around a little while longer.