Every 68 seconds, someone develops Alzheimer's disease. This disease doesn't play favorites and finds people from anywhere on the planet. There are currently 5.4 million people suffering from it (just in the US!) and that number is expected to quadruple to as many as 16 million by 2050. I also read recently that 1 out of 2 people over the age of 85 will suffer from Alzheimer's, especially as baby boomers age and people live longer.
Somehow, we need to figure out why this is happening. I'd read once that in Colonial times, people routinely died from lead poisoning from the lead in the pewter they used in plates and utensils. The cause was a mystery until much later. I hope we're not inadvertently poisoning ourselves in a similar way, from some other environmental toxin.
This is such an ugly disease. In remembrance of my mother, I decided to post the eulogy I wrote for her, which my husband read at her memorial. I'd written this way back in 2004, when we thought the end was near. Little did we know. She had only entered into Stage 2. The worst was yet to come. She died in May of this year. Because she looked like Judy Garland in her youth, I used phrases from Somewhere Over the Rainbow, from the Wizard of Oz, to mark the stages of her life.
There’s No Place Like Home
Dorothy grew up in Lake Forest, Illinois, thirty miles north of Chicago, along the Gold Coast of Lake Michigan. Lake Forest is the home of hundreds of country estates housing Chicago’s commercial, professional and cultural leadership, and the greatest concentration of American country estates to be found between the east and west coasts.
Although not one of the wealthiest men in the area, Dorothy’s father owned a paint and wallpaper business that catered to the town’s grand families. Dorothy grew up hearing the names of her father’s famous customers—Adlai Stevenson (who twice ran for president), A.B. Dick (copy machines) , Cudahy (meat), Morton (salt)—to name a few.
Dorothy could trace her heritage on her father’s side all the way back to John Cary, Plymouth Pilgrim. Though he did not come to America on the Mayflower, he arrived on only a decade later.
On Dorothy’s mother’s side, the Myers’s were German Catholic immigrants who came to America at the turn of the twentieth century.
Like many families in those days, Dorothy’s parents had a good number of children, but only four of them grew to adulthood.Dorothy grew up to be a beautiful, outgoing young woman who happened to look a lot like Judy Garland. Once when Dorothy walked through the doors of the Aragon, a nightclub in Chicago, the emcee said to the guests, “Ladies and Gentlemen: Judy Garland Has Just Walked In.”
Dorothy turned 21 on August 15, 1945, which was also V-J Day. For people who don’t know what that means, it was “Victory over Japan” day. The war was over, and the whole world celebrated. She liked to joke that the whole world was also celebrating her coming of age.
She worked at the Great Lakes Naval Air Station in Great Lakes, eight miles north of Lake Forest. She had the honor of being the 1000th girl hired as a clerk typist to help discharge soldiers after the war. Apparently, each additional clerk typist hired enabled the center to increase the rate of discharge by 21 each day.
Toto, We’re Not in Kansas Anymore
On Friday, July 13, 1946, Dorothy married Walter, in Seattle. She was working at the Auburn Depot as a messenger girl where Walter, also known as “Bud” was a warehouse foreman. Dorothy liked to say, again jokingly, that they met when Bud almost ran over her with a forklift. Bud doesn’t remember it quite that way.
On their wedding, though one year after the war had ended, food was still being rationed. To buy sugar for the frosting on her wedding cake, Dorothy collected ration coupons from her many friends.
Fourteen months after their wedding, Frederick was born. Five years after that, Catherine came on the scene. Cathy was six months old when Dorothy’s parents gave Dorothy and Bud money for a down payment on a new home.
The family lived at 317 Chicago Blvd in Pacific, Washington for seven years. While in Pacific, Dorothy became a cake decorator, an Avon Lady, babysitter and a Tri-Chem Liquid Embroidery distributor.
When the Auburn Depot closed, the family moved to Utah. While in Utah, Dorothy worked as a key-punch operator. That was in 1960, when computers were massive—the size of a room. Data going into them was first key-punched on a manila card about the size of a legal envelope. Dorothy was fast on the key punch, but she soon discovered she was pregnant again. Carol was born in Ogden.
Dorothy wasn’t fond of Utah. In those days, discrimination against non-Mormons was absolutely everywhere. When G.S.A. opened in Auburn and offered Bud a job, the choice was easy. Two years to the day after leaving Auburn, the family rolled back into town. Dorothy and Bud bought their third brand-new home in ten years.
During the next couple of decades, Dorothy would become very involved with her church and the Auburn Hospital Auxiliary. She and Bud were in a pinochle club that met once a month. Twice a month, they played pinochle with an elderly couple and always had them over for dinner.
When Bud retired at 55, they took to the road in their fifth-wheel, spending the winter months in southern California each year for several years. They also crossed the mountains and parked their fifth-wheel in Cathy’s driveway for a couple of weeks each year.
You can imagine that someone who was such a great wife, mother, and friend was also a fantastic grandmother. Dorothy loved nothing so much as making birthdays and holidays, especially Christmas, positively grand. She spared no effort in decorating packages, but kept it economical by making tags and decorations from previous years’ Christmas cards.
One year she claimed to have baked seventy-two dozen cookies. Each and every one of her Spritz cookies were lovingly frosted and sprinkled.
Each year, she would add another piece to the Christmas village she built. After buying the raw pieces, she would paint and decorate them. It was a Victorian village, complete with all the “gingerbread” that comes with the style and it was her pride and joy. It also looked a lot like Lake Forest, the town she grew up in.
In 1996, Dorothy and Bud celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. It was also the marked beginning of Dorothy’s long struggle with Alzheimer’s.
Somewhere Over the Rainbow
At first, when Dorothy could still communicate with her family, she would talk about wanting to go home. But where was home? She didn’t know where it was anymore, even when she was sitting in her own home. She couldn’t find a familiar room, her familiar bed. She spent a lot of time remembering her parents, insisting that they were still alive and she had recently talked with them. They’d been gone for over 45 years
Finally, Dorothy has found home again. She has found her home with her Savior Jesus.
She has also been reunited with her parents, brothers and sisters. In heaven, she has found the land that she heard of, once in a lullaby . . .
Cue Music: Somewhere over the Rainbow (Eva Cassidy version).