Jun 212015

June 21 is my mom’s 80th birthday, but she doesn’t know that. She doesn’t know what day it is anymore. She doesn’t even know what a birthday is. My mom has late-stage Alzheimer’s.

Today, on her birthday, I am climbing a mountain in her honor by participating in the Alzheimer’s Association’s annual event The Longest Day. Along with 10 friends, I’m climbing Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain in the continental U.S., to raise money so that the Association can continue to provide support for people living with this disease. The climb will take 16-17 hours to complete and is certainly the longest hike I have ever undertaken. Every step is for Mom.JOHNBTLD

We started this hike in the darkness at 3 a.m. and we are still on our way to the top. As I take each step up this incredible 14,500-foot mountain, I am remembering all of the steps it took to get to this moment: all the training hikes and gym workouts, all the fundraising, and all of the long, seemingly impossible days of my mother’s disease.  All along the way, The Alzheimer’s Association was an invaluable resource for advice, referrals and strategies for handling my mom’s illness and decline.
JOHNTLDMy mom’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis was devastating news for the whole family, but especially devastating for her. She always loved learning, reading and discussing current events. The first in her family to go to a four-year college, she worked for Planned Parenthood and as a lobbyist for the Oregon Legislature. The last job she held was as an editor for a bilingual newspaper. At the same time, she was studying to become an ESL teacher.

johnmomThen she started forgetting things; appointments, bills, daily tasks. She lost her purse over and over again. She couldn’t read books anymore, since by the time she would get to the end, she had already forgotten the beginning.

She ended up losing her job due to her frequent mistakes. She lost friends because she would forget to call. She forgot to pay her taxes and her rent. She was ashamed of her symptoms, and became really good at hiding them by writing everything down in a notebook and carrying it with her everywhere. But then she started losing the notebook, too.

Mom forgot the day, the month and the year. She even started imagining she was living in the past. Eventually she forgot her own name and her family, including me.johnfriends

Every step of the way, The Alzheimer’s Association was there with the advice and resources I needed. Now I am seeking to give back so that others facing this awful disease can be supported. I’m climbing because it’s my mom’s birthday, and because I can’t celebrate with her anymore. Participating in The Longest Day seems a fitting tribute to her 80 years of life.  My team and I have raised over $15,000 and know that it will help a lot of people dealing with this disease.JohnGroupTLD

It feels empowering to be able to give back and to honor my mom in this way on her birthday, The Longest Day.

About the Author: John Binninger and his friends that make up The Whitney Summiters are participating in Alzheimer’s Association The Longest Day®. Click here to visit John’s team page.

  12 Responses to “I Climb Mount Whitney on Mom’s 80th Birthday, The Longest Day”

  1. I recently celebrated my 80th birthday, and I was so lucky to have my children, grandchildren and my great grandson with me, we had a lovely day just nine close family, and your story touched me, and made me realise how very very lucky I am .What a lovely thing you have done
    for your Mother.

  2. Good for you and your team. Your mom is very proud of you even though she can't tell you that she is.

  3. Bravo for you and your team! I have lived through AD with both of my parents. I am now 71 and I am having more symptoms than
    I care to list. I live with my best friend of 25 yearss and I know it is increasingly hard on her, and a grief for both of us, but one day, it won't grieve me anymore and her grief will be a lonely one. I really hate that! I am happy that you have friends and support in your journey. God bless you for the love you have for your mom, even though she has forgotten how much she loved and treasured you…but you hve not forgotten, so you love her today by climbing! Have a great climb!

  4. Thank you for all your hard work raising monies for this awful disease. My mother is also in late stage Alzheimer's and she barely recognizes me. Horrific ending to a very loving life. I saw her today and your blog lifted me up. Thank you

  5. Thank you for all your efforts raising monies for this horrific disease. My mother is also in late stage Alzheimer's. She barely recognizes me now. I saw her today and your blog just now lifted me up. Thank you

  6. God bless you for all you are doing, I lost my precious mother over three years ago to Alzheimer's Disease and I miss her all the time, the words I hear over and over in my heart and head is that God is good no matter what we face in our lives. I will always remember that and I will always remember her. Please cherish any sweet moment you have with your mom, my support and prayers are with you.

  7. I'm dealing with an 85 year old husband with Alzheimers. It's the hardest job that I have ever held.

  8. My Mom just turned 80 also. She sounds to be in the same late stage as your Mother. What a wonderful tribute honoring your Mother. Thank you so much for putting so much time, effort and compassion to raising so much money to hopefully help prevent or find a cure for this terrible disease. *hugs*

  9. Dear John
    My mother has late stage Alzheimer's too. I hope you had a good hike up Mount Whitney. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and celebrating your mother's life and your journey as her son. Rachel

  10. Dear John: My husband was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's at the age of 57. I know we have a long road ahead but I know that our faith in the Lord will get us through it. Thank you for taking the time to contribute to all of our loved ones facing this horrible illness.

  11. You're an amazing person and am so inspired by your efforts and love you have for your Mom. Like you, my mom is the last stages. I wrote her cookbook, 'Every Recipe has a Story' and published it, with proceeds going to the Alzheimer's Association. I think as their child we're seeking out waysfor ways to honor them; which also helps us heal. My thoughts are with you! Your Mother is extremely proud of you and may God Bless you!

  12. Dear John,
    What a wonderful way to honor your mom on her 80th birthday! I'm sure you and your team had a great journey climbing up and down Mount Whitney. So glad your fundraising efforts brought in so much needed funds. Keep it up!

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