The fact that my dad even knows who Matt is feels quite incredible. My dad was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease 11 years ago, and my husband Matt came into our lives just three years ago.
What makes my heart soar is how they’ve become best buddies. My dad still lives at home with my mom, his soulmate turned full-time caregiver. While he cannot be left alone, dress himself, buckle his seatbelt, or even open the door, when Matt is around, his former self shines through. The two are downright squirrely together!
When Matt and I got engaged, we decided to have a small ceremony, because we were worried about how my dad would handle a large crowd. While wedding planning, Matt’s only requests included a canoe full of beer and a food truck parked in the driveway.
The only “must” on my list was for my dad to walk me down the aisle, and that I would wear red Converse chucks since my dad also rocked a pair when he married my mom 33 years earlier. We invited 80 guests to the ceremony. Locked arm-in-arm with my dad – with the biggest smile I’ve ever had in my life – I remember hearing my cue: “A Thousand Years” by The Piano Guys. This was it. The big moment. The chapel doors opened, and I locked eyes with the most handsome groom I’ve ever seen in my life. But then I felt my dad start to tense up.
Even though there was a sea of familiar faces smiling brightly at us, my dad didn’t recognize a single face. “Dad,” I said with my biggest, reassuring smile, “do you see Matt down there?” I pointed down the aisle. “Today’s my wedding day; you just need to walk me down this aisle, and give me away to Matt. We’ve got this.”
Ever so slowly he began to shuffle down the aisle on our way to my groom. At this point, everyone was crying and smiling. The song may have repeated, but I can’t be sure. When we got to the front of the church, I gave my dad a huge hug; we had made it!
With lots of happy tears in her eyes, my mom joined us to help my dad to his seat. Slowly, with a wink, I said: “Do you see mom? You’re going to go sit next to her while I marry this kid.” Choking back tears, my dad said, “I love you. I just love you so much!”
The day was about as close to perfect as they come. Alzheimer’s disease has taught me so much about living life to the fullest and cherishing the time I have with my family. Matt is such a special part of our family now, and I know my dad would have chosen no one else to be by our side as we battle this terrible disease.
Recently, my dad asked if I was “still hanging out with that astronaut guy.” I replied, “Dad, do you mean Matt? He’s a pilot, but yes, he’s my husband, so he’s stuck with me!” My dad comes to hang out with Matt and I every Thursday, even sleeping over, to give my mom a much-needed break.
The memories I made on that milestone that was our wedding day continue to fuel my fight to find a cure … but our “Thursdate” adventures are pretty darn special too. Happy Father's Day, Dad.
Since the posting of this blog, Chloe Misner's father lost his battle with Alzheimer's, passing away in May 2018.
About the Author: As a member of the Minnesota-North Dakota chapter’s young professionals group and Blondes vs. Brunettes and as an Alzheimer’s Congressional Team member, Chloe Misner has been a powerful motivator for her peers in the fight to end Alzheimer’s.