I am driving down a side street, wondering if turning or going straight would be the faster route. The Honda ahead moves over to make a turn and I pull along side. The driver leans out the window and yells. While I can’t make out the words, his meaning and gestures are clear. I roll down my window and explain myself, with the day I was having I knew what to expect. The driver, ready for a fight, listens and melts. He is now on my side. “Go, go” he says, waving me forward.
The girl in the bagel shop, the youth in dreadlocks at the picnic table, the parks workers who stopped running their machines to listen. The police, the Missing Persons Detective. The man from Ghana who promised me I’d find him. The couple living 20 miles west of town who did find him. Everyone I met listened and responded to me with kindness.
A friend of mine is working on the problem of ideological intolerance and alienation. It makes me tired and hopeless just thinking of all the ill-will among us. And then, when I really am feeling down, random strangers lift me up.
Almost 22 million people in the U.S. either have Alzheimer’s or provide unpaid care to friends or family with Alzheimer’s disease. Most of us know someone effected. When the teenager working in the bagel shop hears I’m looking for my husband she feels love for her grandmother. “Give me your number, if he comes in I’ll give him a bagel and call you.”
I was tailgating that Honda as I made my way to meet the police; Rick had been found. After walking on hilly trails for more than eight hours without food, water or a park bench my husband Rick walked onto Barry’s country property. People don’t ever wander out Barry’s way, so he went out to talk. He invited Rick in for some water and a peanut butter sandwich. Rick thought he should get going, maybe climb that hill over there, he needed to get back. Barry had been a caregiver and knew how to talk to Rick and keep him busy as we drove out.
Alzheimer’s is awful, I often feel robbed. Robbed of my husband, my career, my identify. Repeatedly in these last 6 years Alzheimer’s has shown me how great people are. Not just helping find Rick, his wallet, phone, shoes and climbing gear, but helping make a meaningful life. A life filled with respect, community and humanity.
Alzheimer’s Disease reminds us we are all in this world together. Every day it shows me how kind people are, and renews my faith in humanity.