Jun 212013
 

toddpI’m an actor from San Francisco who came home for Christmas and stayed.  My Mom is in Stage 4 of Alzheimer’s. My Dad is in denial, but he is getting better.

I went to the Alzheimer’s Association and they gave me lots of support, ideas and the skills to move ahead.  They also asked me to do The Longest Day, a 16-hour event to raise funds for Alzheimer’s support, care and research.

I chose theatre.  What was I thinking????

I was worried about my choice, but then I watched “Madagascar 3.” That’s right.  You heard me.  “Madagascar 3.” And I got all teary and emotional…but not when you would expect. It happened when they PUT ON A SHOW in a crazy, grandiose Cirque d’ Soleil way. I wept…..openly. And then I knew I had made the right choice.
directors_chair
So, at 5 a.m. this morning, I got up to prepare for the day of theatre ahead of me.

Thank goodness my pal Ian Smith in the United Kingdom did a comedy radio show in the wee hours. But, now it’s my turn. I’ve got to get down to the Mill Coffee Shop in the Haymarket of Lincoln, Nebraska, to meet my co-hostess Jessica West Bower for our morning talk show “Mornings Are a Drag.”  Drag Queens are always late so I might be vamping a bit there.  Then off to the Tada Theatre across the way for a day of show tunes and Chopin, sonnets, soliloquies and schtick.   I have all ages signed up to perform for 16 hours and it will be open to the public. It is going to be an amazing day of making memories – memories that seem more important than ever before.

One of my friends, Brendan Kelly, who is a fellow actor, stated in his donation comment box, “In support of live theatre everywhere and the healing the arts provide.”  And that is why I am doing this:  My mom gave me the support when I boldly stated I wanted to be an actor ,and it’s only fair I give back. The thought of keeping someone and their family from going through this would bring me so much joy and what better way to celebrate than by doing what has always given me the greatest joy in my life—performing.

About the blog author: Todd Pickering is participating in Alzheimer’s Association The Longest Day®, a sunrise-to-sunset event on June 21, 2013, to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research. 


Jun 202013
 

TLD_Homepage_BlogFeature_Bernie (1)The porters pack my tent and soon there is a line of headlamps ahead, trailing the lead guide. It will be an extraordinarily long night.  One that I am embarking upon as part of The Longest Day, an Alzheimer’s Association event that involves thousands of participants throughout the world who are passionate about finding a cure for Alzheimer’s and providing assistance to all those who have this illness.

Family heartbreak inspires action
As a boy, I overheard stories of how Grandmom was placed in an asylum because Grandpa couldn’t take care of her. She would wander away (sometimes in the middle of the night, sometimes with few clothes) down the street, challenging every compassionate act provided by Grandpa.

Many years later, the symptoms of this merciless disease became evident as my mother would demonstrate unusual behavior, make strange comments, and frighten us with her driving, lack of personal hygiene, financial mismanagement and delusions. The remaining family wrestled with how to keep mom safe in her own home, providing her with ready cooked meals, access to emergency care, therapeutic help and community services. Yet, in the back of our minds and contrary to the hope in our heart, we knew we were losing. Mom was eventually placed in an assisted living after we tried keeping her in our homes. The house was sold and finances ran low.

As I looked into her far away eyes, sensing the heaviness of my own, I was struck by her willingness to be lead anywhere in a simple, child-like manner. Trusting everyone, believing anything, this child-mother of mine seemed at peace in the face of not even recognizing who I am.

Reaching out and raising funds
During the course of my fundraising, I reached out to everyone I knew and could remember— high school classmates, military companions, colleagues from different careers, clients I work for, family, friends and total strangers.

I wore my The Longest Day t-shirt everywhere, encouraging conversation. I solicited help from family and friends, and promoted my goal in social media, the newspaper and at community colleges.  I told my story on a handout and on a donation form. I had handouts wherever I went. I even took time to sit in a shopping mall on a community services day.

Most importantly, I offered people a chance to honor and memorialize their loved ones by promising to take their name to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro and leaving a steel tube that would last for eons on the top of the mountain.

At the top, honoring loved ones lost to Alzheimer’sSONY DSC
As I hike for the next seven hours towards the summit, I not only remember my mother and grandmother, but also the 47
other names I have printed on a scroll. I speak aloud their name and let the breeze carry it from the mountain top. I will be at the summit soon, and I will bury this scroll within a tube under some rocks in a hollow, out of sight. There it will stay for hundreds of years, in memory and honor of our loved ones, just that much closer to the heart and hands of God.

I love you, Mom.

About the blog author: Bernie Buckley  is coupling his interest of hiking with “doing something with a purpose.” His team “Climb 4 Alzheimer’s” honors his mom who had Alzheimer’s. He is trekking up Mt. Kilimanjaro, and his siblings are climbing mountains where they live. They are all helping to raise awareness and funds in Alzheimer’s Association The Longest Day®, a sunrise-to-sunset event to honor those living with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers.


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