Alzheimer’s is cruel. It has been experienced by so many families that a writer does not have to go to pains to explain it. We all know what it does but no one knows how to stop it.
Alzheimer’s and Valentine’s may not seem a natural combination, but it is if you love someone with the disease.
Laura Anderson Mercer has been my friend since we sat next to each other in a newsroom in the early 1980s. She was an executive at a public relations agency when she was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s before she was 50. For Valentine’s Day, her husband, Greg, wrote a letter to Laura that was published Sunday in The Charlotte Observer.
Greg sent me the link and tears came to my eyes as I read it. I started to type a comment below the column but picked up the phone instead. I hadn’t spoke to Laura and Greg since a visit last spring.
It is a delight to have long-term friends who are still so much in love.
Laura was glad to hear that I had seen the column and updated me on her daughter’s wedding plans. Greg said that he has been told that he has a mature version of the ability to “make the young girls cry” that Barry Manilow sang about. Instead, Greg said, he can write essays that “make middle aged women cry.” That he can. I’ve seen him do it before.
Laura and Greg work to support Alzheimer’s research and Laura is in a promising clinical trial of a drug that’s designed to help rejuvenate brain cells. They were honorary co-chairs of last year’s Charlotte Memory Walk and they regularly speak to groups about early onset Alzheimer’s. Laura knows it’s important for her to stay physically active. A few years ago, I chased her down a beach until I nearly collapsed. Last spring, she took me to a challenging water aerobics lesson at the Charlotte YMCA and insisted I stay up front with her during the session, instead of chatting with the less vigorous group in the back.
Happy Valentines Day to Laura and Greg, to my father and everyone else whose lives are touched by Alzheimer’s.