Every family has one, though called by different names: the family historian, scribe or griot. They are the ones who know the facts and fictions of the family. In my family, it was my Uncle Cecil.
Cecil Warren was his full name, but was affectionately called Cee by all. When wanting to know anything about the family, I only had to ask Uncle Cee. I enjoyed listening to him recite the family history. You could see the light in his eyes as he remembered happy events. You could also see the tears as he recounted the sad ones, especially when he talked about losing his only sister, my Aunt Dorothy, better known as Dot. I sometimes wrote down the family history that he told me. Other times, I was neglectful, thinking I had the youth of my mind on my side. I also believed Uncle Cee would be around to tell the history for a long time. How naïve could I have been? No, death did not rob me of my Uncle Cee and his stories. It was another thief that came and robbed him of his ability to tell them. That thief was Alzheimer's.
Prior to the theft, Uncle Cee was a strong and active man. He was over 6 feet tall and muscular. He farmed tobacco, or "bacca" as we Southerners called it. He worked from sun up to sun down, ensuring all his crops were taken care of. Of course, there were some things that he couldn't control. In those instances, he prayed a lot. Working a farm was not easy, but it was work he loved. The payments came slowly as tobacco usually sold in the fall. You could work hard from spring through summer and not see a profit until November. But again, for Uncle Cee, he wouldn't change his way of life for anything.
I can't remember when he was robbed. I only know that he had to go to a nursing home because my Aunt Vernell couldn't take care of him based on his size and hers. We would visit him and still carry on the usual conversations. Then one day, things were different. I was going toward him and he was smiling; there was the same light in his eyes. When I asked him if he knew me he replied, "I can't remember your name, but I remember I love you." My heart raced. My uncle had been robbed, but I took consolation in knowing that he remembered loving me. From then on, the conversations were never the same but he continued to smile in love. They say that when you get older the true you comes out. I worry that one day I will be a cranky old lady but that is another story. The true Uncle Cee was gentle and filled with love. Alzheimer's did not rob him of himself.
According to New Life Outlook, every 68 seconds someone develops Alzheimer's in the United States. It is the sixth leading cause of death. More than 5 million Americans are living with this disease and that number will increase as the population continues to age. The emotional and financial costs are enormous. Most important, there is no cure. But, progress is being made. According to BrightFocus funded research, recent studies with cell therapy in mice has shown to protect against Alzheimer's disease. Also, progress is being made toward a blood test for preclinical Alzheimer's disease. Researchers have conducted a new study they say can predict with greater than 90 percent accuracy whether a healthy person will develop mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer's within three years.
These studies and many others show promise toward early identification and a cure for this disease. We have hope and it is closer than we think. But hope needs a helping hand on all fronts. Help to fund the continued research for a cure. Give caregivers a break as this disease takes a physical and emotional toll on everyone. Take the time to record the family histories that can be passed to others, especially young children who may not understand what is happening. One day, the storyteller will be gone. Videotape them with the loved one. Keep a diary of the time spent with the person so that one day these stories can be read back when words can no longer be spoken. Take lot of pictures doing the things the person loves so that the light of recognition may shine. And always remember to show love, for one day someone close may not remember your name, but hopefully they will remember they love you. Thank you Uncle Cee for remembering that you love me.