(updated from a piece from 2015)
Years ago, when our children were young and we lived in a duplex, the other half of our house was lived in by an older couple who had immigrated from Iran. They had a huge garden, ornate furniture, incredibly generous hearts, lots of Iranian friends, innumerable cars, and the ability to find us anything we might need. They had connections for every possible situation, from a last-minute bushel of crabs on a Saturday afternoon to mountains of basil for a weekday pesto. And the wife suffered from what her husband referred to as ‘Alzmeyer’s’. “She has The Alzmeyer’s,” he’d say in heavily-accented English.
At first, we weren’t quite sure what he was talking about. She seemed a little scatter-brained, but, other than that, she knew Steve and I and our children. She entertained guests, and she drove a car. Only as time went on did we see the changes: The forgetfulness, the neglected personal hygiene, the tension between husband and wife, the times she would ask us for a ride to the store because her husband wouldn’t let her have the keys, and the request from her for alcohol and sleeping pills. And then came the plea from her husband not to fulfill his wife’s requests.
We were very busy with our three young children. Even sharing a house, we saw less and less of her. And then one day, she was gone. And it seemed just like that: Here one day, gone the next. But it wasn’t. It never is.
Over the past 10 days and over the past 6 years, we’ve lost two remarkable, strong, funny, loving members of our family, both to Alzheimer’s. I’ve learned so much through this journey with them, lessons about love, heartache, commitment, family, and the importance of always being present.
All those years ago, I wish I had known more, known what I know now, known what only time and experience can teach you. I wish we had been more present for our neighbors. I wish I had been more present with my own parents, but alas that is the funny little thing about life. We often discover almost too late the importance of being, for ourselves and those we love.
I know that these two wonderful women are walking the beach somewhere, sharing their lives, their love, their memories, joys and sorrows. I hope as they stroll the endless beaches, they know the lasting love and impact they’ve left behind.