By Cindy Widner Wall
Chair, Alzheimer’s Association, Georgia Chapter Board of Directors
My Father, Coy Widner, taught me life lessons most Fathers teach their little girls. Mine taught me to be assertive but kind; be independent but have healthy relationships; have a hard work ethic but put family first; and face a challenge head on. Meeting him you meet the strong and dependable retired military officer. You meet my Hero.
As someone living with Alzheimer’s you meet my Daddy who is social, charming, and intelligent. As Daddy, he taught me other precious lessons. When he came to live with me, I had to learn other lessons quickly knowing that Alzheimer’s does not allow you to be a slow learner. My first lesson as one of the 11 million unpaid caregivers was Alzheimer’s has no cure, worsens over time and will be a personal journey.
My lessons continued as I learned to have patience to listen when Daddy would repeat a story and not assume that there is not a new detail or message that may have not been a part of the first time. To have patience that dinner will take longer and require reminders to eat. I still eat slower than most people. To have patience to explain why he could not sit in the car for a quick trip to the grocery store, but then have him want to walk down most every isle to look.
My lessons continue today to cherish and live in the moment. I had to learn to slow down my hectic pace and appreciate the time right now. With Daddy I learned to enjoy the conversations even as my heart breaks in the knowledge that he will not remember this precious time.
And a lesson I did not do very well was to rely on others. My Father taught me to be independent, my Daddy was teaching me the part of having healthy relationships. I was so focused on Daddy that when someone asked what they could do to help me, I just did not know. I learned again that healthy relationships are letting other people help me.
My Father taught me to face a challenge head on and as a caregiver for Daddy living with Alzheimer’s this is a challenge no one should face alone. With the help of The Alzheimer’s Association, I find the encouragement to find purpose and work to end Alzheimer’s.
Daddy is no longer with us, but Daddy is still my Hero.