For many, Mother's Day is a time to remember the amazing women who have helped to shape our lives. For Charleston author Dr. Troy Hall, the love and lessons that he learned from his mother, affectionately known as Fanny, continue to influence his life and how he approaches leadership.
When Dr. Hall was just twelve years old, he learned that his mother was gravely ill with cancer. She was able to fight through that battle, and his family was gifted with many priceless years before she faced a diagnosis of Parkinson's and dementia at age 78.
"Mom began to forget things, which we thought were typical of someone aging. It was occasional in the beginning and got progressively worse," said Dr. Hall. "As time went on she could not remember where she was, what she was just saying, and often she would start one sentence and finish it with another."
At first, Dr. Troy's father assumed most of the the care for Fanny, becoming her primary caregiver, as spouses do in many families. "Dad did the best he could for the longest time. Finally, one day we came to the realization that mom's dementia had outwitted, outmatched, and outplayed him," Dr. Hall recalled. "He wanted the best for her. I called him one Saturday afternoon and talked about them coming to live with us. He was initially resistant thinking it would be a burden."
"Vickie, my wife, took the phone from me and she talked with dad. When he told her they did not want to be a burden, Vickie said in a very calm and soothing voice, 'Slim, it was my idea.' That sealed the deal, and they moved in with us a month later. I know it was hard for dad to give up his total independence, but he loved mom so much he would do anything for her."
As Fanny's dementia continued to progress, they acknowledged that even more help was needed. The nursing aides they found became like family to them during Fanny's decade-long journey through dementia.
"It's just sad to see how dementia robs people of their memories," said Dr. Hall. "So, I decided to write a book to put those memories back and to document the impact Fanny had on my life, which in turn has impacted our two children and six grandchildren."
Some of the most notable memories that Dr. Hall put to paper are the life lessons that he learned from Fanny over the years.
"For me, the best lesson my mom taught me was that my character is defined by choice and not circumstance. We were poor by circumstance and not choice. She taught me to believe in myself and realize I could do anything I put my mind to," said Dr. Hall. "Be happy in what you choose to do. If you want to be a janitor then be the best floor sweeper around. And for Fanny, that meant getting into the corners, because anyone can sweep the middle of the floor."
We'd like to thank Dr. Troy for sharing his family's experience with us, as well as this important lesson. Today, on Mother's Day, we celebrate, honor and remember all the moms who have taught us so much.
Moms, your heart, grit and unwavering strength are an inspiration to us all. And for those to whom today is a reminder of loss, may you find strength and comfort the priceless lessons and memories of those you love. Together, we will continue our work to #ENDALZ in their honor.
Dr. Troy Hall is a committed donor, volunteer and Walk to End Alzheimer's supporter in Charleston, SC. His book, FANNY RULES: A Mother's Leadership Lessons That Never Grow Old, centers on a lifetime of principles learned from his mother, Fanny.
The Alzheimer's Association leads the way to end Alzheimer's and all other dementia — by accelerating global research, driving risk reduction and early detection, and maximizing quality care and support. Our vision is a world without Alzheimer's and all other dementia.™ For more information, visit www.alz.org or call the 24/7 Helpline at 800.272.3900.