Walking up to the finish line
Kate and Lyle have been our next door neighbors for many, many years and they have taken me in as one of their own 'granddaughters' since I was a little girl. I would get so excited to see Lyle's green pickup turn the corner around supper time so I could hollar at him through the kitchen window or give a little wave if it was too cold to open it up. I loved the days when mom would have off from work and Kate would invite us over to their house for coffee and cookies.
This couple has showered me with love, hugs, kisses, and attention throughout my life and I am forever grateful for each of them. When I would lay out in the backyard, Lyle would sneak around the side of the house with his water hose and spray me down when I least expected it. Well, little did he know that I was ready one day when he thought he was being a Sneaky Pete - I soaked him and his bib overalls with our own hose and once he took off, I ran around the other way and got him with the water bottle (this is obviously before Super Soakers or he would have really gotten it!)
Now Kate was all about work ethic - Lyle is too, don't get me wrong, but Kate would put me to work if I told her that I was 'bored'. (Yeah, you would think that I would learn my lesson and stop saying it around her, but I'm not that smart.)
Anyway, I can remember sitting on their back step snapping green beans (and hating life) wishing my mom would tell me to come home. Never happened - I think it was a ploy on both parts - mom wanted me out of the house and her hair and Kate didn't want to snap the five gallon bucket by herself. We would have great conversations about her life when she was young and she would always make me feel important by asking questions about me, school, and whatever else I wanted to talk about. I would get in trouble for eating too many peas out of the pod when helping her (again), she would have me water her flowers, pick raspberries off of the bush, and help her pick up sticks in the yard. Seriously, worst job ever...
However, Kate made a mean batch of chocolate chip cookies and had the best laugh ever - straight from the belly and full of life! Lyle and Kate were great dancers and I loved watching them glide around the dance floor holding each other, smiling, and being surrounded by their friends and loved ones. I remember asking Lyle not long ago how they stayed married for the last 68 years and he told me one of his secrets is to not dwell on the last argument or falling out because it won't do any good to keep dredging it up - just move on, don't go to bed mad at one another, and alway agree with what the woman says! :)
These two people have been an inspiration to me on so many levels - they would walk with Todd and I to church and Sunday school (when we felt like going) and let us sit with them after class was over. They have never missed sending me a birthday card to let me know that they were thinking of me, they attended school functions that Kim, Kelli, and Kerry were also involved with, but somehow would make me feel like they were there just for me! They were at the door for me to tell me about the passing of my great grandma Ar when my parents weren't able to be there and they held me while I cried. They have attended the annual backyard parties since they began seven years ago, and have always made me feel special in every way that grandparents do!
Needless to say, when Kate came over to tell us that she had 'that Alzheimer's thing' a few years ago, we were all quite shocked. How could this be? This is Kate - vibrant, full of life, loves her husband, kids, grandkids, and great grandkids more than anybody I know - what will happen? Will she remember me? When will we know that she really, really has it?
I tell you what - this is an ugly disease. The Kate that I knew and grew up with isn't there anymore... luckily for her, Lyle kept her at home for as long as he could and did so much for her before having to take her to the nursing home so she could get the proper care she needed. What a tough decision it was for him and the whole family and we can only imagine how hard it would be. He visits her every evening, has a little cup of ice cream, holds her hand, and leaves at the same time every night. Unconditional love, I'm telling you...
Before I moved to California, I wanted to go tell Kate that I would be moving away and that was the hardest ten minutes that I had. She did not know who I was, but wanted me to take her with me! I knew it was going to be hard, but you can never really prepare yourself enough. Her daughter, Joyce, had flown in from Ohio and Lyle was there before Joyce was flying home, so we sort of overlapped our visits.
I watched Lyle set her down in her chair, help her blow her nose, and give her a kiss goodbye. Joyce, bless her heart, has been back to Iowa to visit many times throughout the last couple of years to visit her mom, keep Lyle company, and help out along with her brother, Duane, and his whole family who live there. To see a family ban together is an amazing thing to witness and even though it would be easy to give up and say that ''she wouldn't know if I am there or not'' is not an option for them. Their faith has helped to hold them up, their friends, and extended family have let it be known how much Lyle and Kate mean to them in their own special ways and this is why I write.
This family has meant the world to me and I wanted to let you know that a little 3 mile walk to support the Alzheimer's effort isn't going to bring her awareness back, but I had a great time walking FOR Kate and thinking about how much she has meant to me and always will.
Lyle and family: I love each of you so much and will continue to pray for Kate and your own strength through this process. I know you each have your own special memories of her as I do, too. When I think about her, a smile comes to my face and always will. I am glad God has given me the opportunity to have neighbor grandparents like you and again, I'll be forever grateful for each of you. Thank you for treating me like your own granddaughter and loving me - I love you both so much!
Marcie & Kate