Water's Widow

In the densely wooded grounds of a gracious estate, lived an accomplished dowager- a woman chronicled by her skills and talents.  She was capable in her earlier life, but now the estate that once aided the dowager’s independence caged her instead.
Each morning she walked through the overgrown foliage and below the thick boughs of the century old trees to reach the tepid lake’s edge. In her youth the water rippled and flowed as the surface reflected blue skies, but through the years the water dulled and brought with it an unrelenting fog.
In search of a clear skies beyond her limited, blurred sight, the dowager climbed into a rowboat docked along her boathouse each day. She rowed for hours and only came to shore for the midday meal and when the light began to fail. Family members assumed her love of the land, but more importantly, her love of the water motivated such a routine, but the dowager found no joy in rowing. You see, her talents and skills were lost in the fog many years ago, so she rowed out of a compulsory need to find the clarity that would bring back her former aptitude.

When family members inevitably prompted her with questions over mealtimes, asking about her time on the water and her walks through the woods, the dowager could never find the words to explain the terrible burden rowing had become. The intangible qualities that once filled her personhood- her talents, her skills, her congenial spirit- had abandoned her and left only a shell. Often the dowager chose silence instead of attempting to choose the right words in response.

Without ceasing, she made her trek through the woods and boarded her rowboat daily.  Some days the dowager would row to the middle of the lake and witness a clearing in the fog. Hopeful, she would remain in lucidity, relishing her small triumph as long as possible before sundown required her return to shore.  Most unfortunately, those favorable days were followed by days of impenetrable fog.

The dowager spent years rowing and eventually forgot what she was searching for on the water altogether.  Her family encouraged her to continue to row, because in their ignorance, they believed rowing defined her. 

One morning, the dowager headed toward the boathouse as usual and began her habitual practice of rowing from shore to shore over and over again. It had been ages since she last saw blue sky peek through the fog.  It had been ages since she remembered to look for blue sky.  It had been longer still since she had had a glimpse of her former life.  She didn’t return for the midday meal that day. The dull hunger pains couldn’t compete with the fog’s force. The dowager rowed and she rowed and was completely engulfed by the fog.

The dowager never landed another shore.  She was not only lost to herself, but she was now lost to the world as well. 

More than five million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease
Every 67 seconds someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.

In 2013, 15.5 million caregivers provided an estimated 17.7 billion hours of unpaid care valued at more than $220 billion.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most expensive health condition in the nation.

Not only are women more likely to have Alzheimer's, they are also more likely to be caregivers of those with Alzheimer's.

In her 60s, a woman's estimated lifetime risk for developing Alzheimer's is 1 in 6. For breast cancer it is 1 in 11.

In 2013 my mom was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s Disease. Growing up she attended every sporting event, sewed all our special occasion clothes (including but not limited to prom dresses, wedding dresses, and Easter dresses), she worked behind the scenes of musicals and plays, she gardened, she read, she cross-stitched, and she played the guitar. My mom no longer does these things; she is no longer the same woman who raised me. That is the cost of this disease.

Find out how you can support Alzheimer’s Disease research at www.alz.org.

Photo credits: Rebecca Reale