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Blue Flowers at the Walk to End Alzheimer’s

October 1, 2012
Ryan, Adrian, Toria, Dora, Timber and me at the Walk to End Alzheimer's

Timber, Ryan, my friend Adriana and I attended the Walk to End Alzheimer’s on Saturday at Atlantic Station. I arose twice in the middle of the night to soak and then simmer a pot of fresh pinto beans, and out of grogginess reset my cell phone alarm clock for an hour later than I should have. Luckily, Timber somehow triggered our burglar alarm at 7 a.m. when she opened the guest bedroom door. Otherwise I would have overslept and made us late.

While I know that the Atlanta teams collectively raised more than $400,000 for the event, I have no idea how many walkers attended. However, Central Park (the area in Atlantic Station where everyone congregated) remained packed during the opening ceremony, which included charmingly cheesy choreographed warm-up exercises set to music. At the back of the crowd, Timber, Adriana and I flailed, jogged in place and fanned our arms in cooperation, nearly knocking complimentary granola bars from half-asleep participants’ hands.

The flower pinwheel colors signified the walker's relationship to Alzheimer's disease.

As part of check-in we received flower pinwheels of different colors that describe our relationship to Alzheimer’s disease. Blue signifies that the walker has Alzheimer’s disease; purple, that the walker has lost someone to Alzheimer’s disease; yellow, that the walker cares for or supports someone with Alzheimer’s disease; and orange, that the walker doesn’t know anyone with Alzheimer’s disease but believes in the cause. While we marched down a slope on 20th Street, the image of men, women and children raising spinning multicolored flowers over their heads in the wind could have brought me to tears — but fortunately I’m on medication.

“What are you wearing to the race?” Timber had asked me beforehand.

“Timber, this isn’t a RACE. It’s a WALK,” I corrected her. “I shouldn’t run anyway. I get really competitive.”

“Why is everyone walking so slow???” we audibly asked during the event.

We remained beside a brown marbled dachshund throughout the majority of the route. We even stopped to watch it pee at the base of a crepe myrtle. Sadly, we eventually got separated, bringing my attention to a beautiful Husky.

“I want to lie down naked with it and take a nap,” my voice carried. The Husky’s owner sped up and hustled away.

Informational posters sprinkled the sidewalks. I didn’t realize that someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease every 69 seconds, and that African-American and Hispanic populations have a higher risk of developing AD. While my personal universe darkened after Daddy received an AD diagnosis, the disease affects a frightening multitude of people. Yet AD sufferers and their caregivers often feel isolated from society.

Sigma Kappa: Making Alzheimer's a distant memory since 1984.

Timber even noticed the miniscule number of walkers holding blue flowers. I spotted one elderly black man clutching a blue flower and scooting through the crowd while holding his caregiver’s hand. A handful of toddlers waved stems with whirling blue petals, too, perhaps passed along from their older relatives to keep them occupied. Alzheimer’s patients experience social anxiety, and in the late stages of the disease no longer can walk. So it makes sense that purple, yellow and orange pinwheels overpowered the tiny percentage of blue. My parents agreed to accompany us at first, but they ended up scheduling a vacation that bled into the weekend. I wonder how Daddy would have handled the noise and crowd.

Alzheimer’s is a depressing disease, but the Walk to End Alzheimer’s was a surprisingly upbeat event. I’m not the only one who is pissed off and envisions a world without Alzheimer’s.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. October 1, 2012 10:45 pm

    Also, for those in the early stages of disease, it seems the stigma that accompanies Alzheimer’s might prevent them from carrying the blue flower. I’m sure it’s difficult to cope with changes in cognitive function, especially if you’ve always been independent and intelligent. I’m sure memory deficits can shake a person’s confidence.

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