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“I listened to the man in the white lab coat ask if I knew what Alzheimer’s was.

Death by inches, I said.

And you have it, he said.

I’m pretty sure the world stopped at that moment, and then there was a roaring sound, like a freight train barreling through my brain pan. I sat there, frozen, and I remember thinking what a crummy job this poor guy’s got.

I call him Al, for short. We’ve been joined to each other for going on three years now. We’re a popular couple – more of us elders join the ranks every year, Alzheimer’s being the name that we used to use to describe “natural causes.” Or, as my grandmother used to say: “Parts just wear out.” (Maude Murphy’s parts lasted 95 years, and I hope fervently that she has passed along that DNA.)

Al is insidious and relentless, a gutless coward who won’t come out and fight. Instead, he lies in ambush in my brain, and the only way I can put a face on him is to look in the mirror.

Of course. Al loves your brain. It amuses him to watch you flail about, trying to free yourself from his clammy, reptilian embrace.” ~ This was a section of a passage written by Bill Lyon. You can read the rest here: My Alzheimer’s Fight.

June is Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month and today I want to tell you why that story touched me like it did.

A group of people posing for a picture.

This story touched me because my grandmother, Rosemary Abbott, died of Alzheimer’s.

It wasn’t fair…

It isn’t fair.

She biked miles and miles a day… (which is why our team name is Rose Pedals… here are my mom, my uncle & my aunt walking for their mom).
A group of people posing for the camera.

She played tennis, she went to the gym every day (sometimes more than once a day), she ate right, she read, she relaxed at night with a small glass of wine… did everything that you do to prevent getting diseases like this one.

Turns out that everyone who has a brain is at risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Who knew, right? I used to think that it was caused by something specific… now I know that is yet another misconception. Harmful misconceptions like these just keep people from seeking an Alzheimer’s diagnosis and reduce access to needed resources, clinical trials and support services. Alzheimer’s cannot be prevented, but I like to think that she kept it away as long as she did by living her healthy lifestyle.

A baby lying on a woman\'s shoulder.

I can remember the first time that she called me to tell me:

“Becky… I hate to have to tell you this. I have Alzheimer’s disease. Do you understand what this means?”

I remember the second time that she called me:

“Becky… I hate to have to tell you this. I have Alzheimer’s disease. Do you understand what this means?”

When she called me a third time in two days to tell me:

“Becky… I hate to have to tell you this. I have Alzheimer’s disease. Do you understand what this means?”

I knew that we were headed down a very long, twisted, untraveled road. Untraveled for our family. Twisted in that we had good days and bad days. Long… too long… a day is too long with this disease.

Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States, yet the only cause of death among the top 10 in the U.S. that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed. More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease (although only 1/2 know that they have it), and by 2050 that number is projected to reach as many as 16 million.

Alzheimer’s disease is not normal aging. It is hard to know that this fatal and progressive disease that attacks the brain, killing nerve cells and tissue, affecting an individual’s ability to remember, think and plan was considered to be normal by so many people, when we knew the truth. Although age is the greatest known risk factor, Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging. Additionally, more than two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease are women. Like my grandmother ♥…

A woman holding a baby on a porch swing.

She had been such an amazing wife and such a caring mother to her four children. She had been a dear friend to me for as long as I’d been able to realize that your grandmother can be your friend. She went from “my grandma” to a person that I loved talking to daily, loved sharing pictures with and love seeing.

She lived at the ocean and loved it there (if you ever wonder where my love for Hilton Head came from… now you know). I remember my mom calling to tell me that she was lost. If I remember it correctly, it was my Uncle that found out that she had been lost on a walk. She had walked those paths for over 20 years and when she got lost, we knew.


She was never the same after my grandfather died of cancer. She never felt secure again. It was as if he took her with him when he passed away. Together from the time that they were young, she didn’t know a life without him and she didn’t want to be in one where he didn’t exist. She wanted to be with him and almost as if the Alzheimer’s had waited until he left to rear its ugly head. Maybe he covered for her for years and we didn’t know?

When he died and we went to his funeral, she saw a picture of a dashing young man, in a black & white photo, and said to me “Who is that handsome man?”

My reply: “Grandma… that’s PapPap.”

I should have known. Maybe a part of me did… but didn’t want it to be true.

It wasn’t fair.

It isn’t fair.

A woman sitting on a chair holding a sleeping baby.


It isn’t fair to put her life story into those few years at the end. How she forgot my name and the names of all of my children. I won’t go into the details of how terrible it became…. for herself and her family. How she would replay the details of her still birth fifty years prior. How she would think that every hospital was jail and every car trip was taking her to Mexico. How she didn’t remember that I was her granddaughter instead of her daughter. How she would introduce me as “Sandy” to her nursing staff. How she was scared to be alone, but wasn’t happy when she was with anyone, because the ones that she truly wanted were already gone.

The ones that she truly wanted to see were her husband or her mother: The ones that you run to when you are scared… the ones that she asked for daily. When she said she wanted to be “home” she meant that she wanted her old life back. So did we.

It wasn’t fair.

It isn’t fair.

These details weren’t her life. They were a small portion of a beautiful life and she wasn’t going to let it ruin her legacy. She passed away only a few years after being diagnosed. It was a blessing, really, to not let it go on for 20 years. A blessing to leave and flee back to the arms of my grandfather. A blessing to have her watching over our children.

A blessing to know her better than Al did.

Every year, my family and I will raise money for a cure Alzheimer’s Disease. Every year, we will put on our Purple Shirts (the color for Alzheimer’s Disease) and we will walk in remembrance. Every year, we will fight to find a cure. Every year, we will pray that we don’t end up with it one day. Every day, we will be thankful that we had Rosemary Abbott in our lives for such a long time, happily living her dream life before the thief, known as Alzheimer’s, took her away.

Let’s aim for The Longest Day

The Longest Day to Uncover the Truth about Alzheimer’s: The Longest Day is a sunrise-to-sunset team event to raise funds to fuel the care, support and research efforts of the Alzheimer’s Association. Held on the summer solstice — Monday, June 20, 2016 — teams across the globe honor those facing Alzheimer’s disease with strength, heart and endurance. Join the Alzheimer’s Association in wearing purple, the movement’s signature color, and share photos with the hashtag #ENDALZ. Look for mine on Twitter & Instagram. Learn more about going purple here.

A woman holding a sign with text beside her.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Alzheimer’s Association. The opinions and text are all mine.

Hi there!

I’m Becky, a former elementary school teacher turned certified child development therapist and blogger. I work at home with my husband and together we are raising (and partially homeschooling) our four children in the Carolinas. I love diet coke, ice cream, and spending time with my family.

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1 Comment

  1. This really means a lot to me and I hope some day they do find a cure for Alzheimer’s. I lost an Aunt to Alzheimer’s, my grandma to cancer and dementia, and have a great aunt who has dementia too. It scares me so much for when I am older and scares me that my dad will get it too. I currently work in a assisted living place with dementia and Alzheimer’s patients and see the struggles they go through each day.