Several weeks ago, my children decided to participate in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s event in Grapevine.
My father, their beloved Pawpaw, died in 2009 after a 10 year battle with the disease.
They were very close to him and witnessed all the stages of Alzheimer’s, right up to the very end. So when they told me of their intentions, I was quite proud.
I also felt a little guilty. After my father’s death, I never felt led to raise awareness or funds for the Alzheimer’s cause. I guess I thought it was too late to do my father any good, so what was the point?
And anyway, I could never be described as any sort of advocate. I’ve never felt led to volunteer for any cause at all.
I think I’m a very good person with a huge heart and wealth of compassion for others. However, I’m also inherently tired, lazy and selfish.
I blame it on all the years — and sleepless nights — I spent raising my four children, working full-time and going to school. I know that’s no excuse, but back then, I had little time for anything else.
After my divorce in 2006, I turned most of my attention to me. My world revolved around me, rightfully and most necessarily so, for the next few years until I met my husband and married again. I’m still pretty tired and lazy, but I’m a lot less selfish now.
The week before Walk to End Alzheimer’s, my daughter sent me a text asking the name of the song we played at my father’s funeral.
They were trying to come up with a team name. I instantly suggested “Fast Eddie” — the nickname my brother called our dad in teasing moments.
Later, sitting at my desk at work, I thought about Fast Eddie.
All the years I had with him and the years I’ve spent without him flashed before my eyes. A wave of bittersweet nostalgia passed over me, and when it was gone, an unfamiliar feeling remained: altruism. The Walk to End Alzheimer’s was suddenly something I wanted to do, too.
My husband and I drove to Grapevine last weekend for the walk. But I started questioning our decision to participate as we sat for three hours in a traffic jam on I-35. I really wanted to take the first exit (there were none, by the way), make a U-turn and go back home, but my husband wouldn’t do it. Sometimes he knows what’s best for me, even when I don’t.
The children, all gathered with the grandkids at my son’s house, waited up for us that night. When we arrived at 1 a.m., they greeted us warmly and showed off the bright purple Walk to End Alzheimer’s team shirts they were wearing.
The shirts said “I wear purple for someone I love” on the front and “Fast Eddies” on the back. My exhaustion and road lag instantly disappeared, replaced by an overflowing heart. I was so very glad we hadn’t given up and gone home.
Early the next morning, 14 members of the Fast Eddies team walked with 400 other selfless people around Grapevine Lake in memory of and on behalf of folks touched by Alzheimer’s. We had a great time, raised some money for the cause and got free ice cream at the end.
We hope to raise even more money next year, and the next, and the next. With our help and others, that devastating disease will eventually be eradicated and families will no longer be touched by it.
That’s what selflessness is all about, after all.
Now I get it.
Contact Kristi Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7548