As Halloween takes its last bow, we say goodbye to the jack-o’-lanterns, ghosts, witches and costumed trick or treaters that have both “scared” us and endeared us over the last month. I just put away the leftover Trick or Treat candy and my witch costume and now I am beginning to decorate and plan my family’s Thanksgiving Day feast.
Hosting Thanksgiving dinner in our home has been an annual tradition for my husband Dan and me. Preparing the meal is a large task in and of itself. Purchasing the big bird, along with ingredients for the stuffing, sides and desert must be done first. Next is rinsing the cavity, stuffing, and then seasoning and basting as the turkey is roasting. My favorite part of this process is the aroma that stirs up my appetite.
Every one of the guests contribute by bringing a side dish or dessert like pumpkin, apple, or cherry pie, lemon bars, brownies or cookies in the shape of pumpkins or leaves.
Now that I have Alzheimer’s disease I appreciate receiving help from my “staff” including our son Michael and daughter- in- law, Kelly, our daughter Julie and son- in-law Joe, my nephew Todd and his girl friend Annie, and my niece Marin and her husband Dave, and their daughters.
My husband Dan will take over this year as head chef. He will help me with putting the turkey in the oven, basting, taking it out of the oven and carving. He has always carved the turkey and says the prayer of Thanksgiving before the feast. Everyone seems to pitch in when it’s time to clear the plates and load the dishwasher and clean and dry the large pans by hand. I appreciate all the helping hands.
I realize since my diagnosis with Alzheimer’s disease that my stamina is much shorter now. I feel the need to rest more often to regain my energy. As the saying goes, I am not exactly the same person I was before the disease. Reduced stamina also affects the majority of the human race. It is just basically an aging process – getting older. I call it my “new normal”.
I am grateful especially at Thanksgiving time for basic good health, good doctors, family and friends and the relationships that both my husband and I have developed in our Alzheimer’s group. These caring relationships are like family and I am grateful to have them and the Alzheimer’s Association to give us support, encouragement and guidance as we travel this journey together. It is so important to be able to cope day each day, living with the disease, knowing that we have people who care about our well being.
Before I close, I want to share a story that Dan and I experienced recently. We celebrated our 44th wedding anniversary a few days ago. We had dinner with two couples from our Alzheimer’s group at the Country Springs Hotel in Waukesha. Dan and I then went on to a symphony orchestra concert at the Performing Arts Center in Milwaukee. I was so focused on watching the musicians magically play their instruments. The grand climax featured a well known violinist. He was so talented that the minute he began playing, my heart stopped beating. He was absolutely wonderful. I began to tear up when I heard his story. He was burned in a terrible house fire. He recovered after receiving painful plastic surgery, and now lives and plays more beautifully than ever. He returned to the lime light to share his beautiful music with us.
Experiencing his music and knowing his story helps me accept my Alzheimer’s diagnosis and live with this disease. Yes, I am grateful! Live brave and strong as long as you possibly can. You owe it to yourself and your loved ones. Be yourself – Just do it!
~ Barbara Cheek Johnson is a journalist living with early-stage Alzheimer’s ~