(Barb, also known as GranB, and her grandson Kipton)
My husband and I had three social events recently. My husband Dan ‘s cousin’s son got married this summer in Saint Paul, Minnesota. We went to the wedding. The second social event involved a friend and family outing in Door County. The third was celebrating my cousin’s husband’s 70th birthday. And then there was a recent lunch with a girl friend from a Bible Study Group that I used to belong to when we lived in Delafield.
The outdoor wedding was a bit tiring. It was a long drive to Minnesota. Dan and his brother did all of the driving. We stayed at a nice hotel in Saint Paul. The wedding ceremony and dinner was at an outdoor venue. It was a long drive, and that, combined with the hot weather experienced at the wedding venue, was a lot to handle for someone with Alzheimer’s disease.
We also recently vacationed in beautiful Door County. We drove to the Door. Our son and his family were with my husband and me. We also met friends and their families in the Door. Everyone seemed to be having a good time connecting…. except for me. I felt left out. Everyone seemed to ignore me. I felt very alone. I asked myself, “Were my friends afraid to talk to someone with Alzheimer’s disease?” Did they think they would catch the disease? Dan even noticed that our old friends were not embracing me at all. So I started enjoying myself in the pool with my youngest grandson, Kipton, who was learning to swim. I started teaching him to swim and relax in the water with his grandma who he calls GranB . That’s me. One of our guy friends happened to be at the pool with his son. He traveled all the way from Australia for this reunion. He saw me in the pool teaching my youngest grandson how to swim. It was so nice to run into a friend from Custer High School. My husband Dan was also a friend of his at UW- Oshkosh.
As the vacation group was getting ready to part ways, I asked myself again,” Why did my old friends treat me like an outsider?” I may have Alzheimer’s disease, but I am Still Barb. Later, on our way home, I thought about friendships in general and how important it is to have them, and to be invited to things – weddings, parties, and lunch dates. People with Alzheimer’s need to stay engaged and keep their self-esteem. The next day we attended our early-stage Alzheimer’s support group meeting at the Alzheimer’s Association office. And it reminded me of the incredible new friends we have met on this Alzheimer’s journey.
~Barbara Cheek Johnson is a journalist living with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease~