By: Linda Larsen-King
During my most recent visit with my mom, she blurted out “I lost my mind.” Her comment took me by surprise. What does that mean to her? Does she really know that she “lost” her thought functions to Alzheimer’s? I just don’t get it, and probably never will. What does she know? Am I just hoping she understood what I said when she called me sweetheart during the same visit? Was the endearment of “sweetheart” even for me, or, was it just a word that randomly shuffled through her mind at that moment of time? I don’t know and will never know. One thing I do hope is that in the future, we will know what causes Alzheimer’s, the prevention of Alzheimer’s and the treatment of Alzheimer’s. We need to know how to End Alzheimer’s. This is my story. My name is Linda Larsen-King and along with my brothers, Bart and Gary Larsen, we are victims of Alzheimer’s.
My parents were strong and hard working people. Determined, they chipped an irrigated farm out of the Columbia Basin desert, north of Pasco. The road to the property of sagebrush was merely dirt tracks. Extremely poor, dad followed his dream of making it as a crop farmer. Mom supported his dream by toiling right alongside of him all while taking care of three kids. As children, we were expected to get off the school bus, grab a snack and get out in the fields. The tasks varied by what ever needed to be done at that time. It didn’t matter if you didn’t know how to do it the first time, Dad taught us how. Dad and Mom’s thousand acre farm is now a profitable asparagus operation managed by brothers, Bart and Gary.
My parents had outstanding morals and reeked of honesty. They were well liked and had a warm circle of friends. Though they always had their noses to the grindstone, they still enjoyed socializing with people near to their hearts whether family, friends or strangers they met. Later in life, they had a vacation home in Yuma, Arizona surrounded by those same lifelong friends.
It was in Yuma that Mom started to see changes in Dad’s activities and health. First, un-explainable, but thought-to-be related to a heart condition. After selling their Arizona home, Dad’s health declined further and signs of Alzheimer’s appeared. The diagnosis was a new term for us: a very unsettling medical condition that we knew nothing about. With the help of my brothers, mom exhaustively cared for Dad by herself. It was only until the family strongly suggested additional help that she accepted an at home health care-aid. Unfortunately, Dad became non-verbal as his disease progressed. He was unable to walk or feed himself. Sadly, he passed on Christmas Eve in 2012. It is always heartbreaking when one passes, but in Dad’s case, and many other families, the term sadly becomes relief. It is just so hard to witness the long dragging demise of Alzheimer’s.
Early on after dad’s death, I repeated to myself, “There must be something I can do,” over and over. A few years later, my mom starting showing odd behaviors. My family was quicker to suspect Alzheimer’s. I knew it was time to actually do something now. My searches turned up the Walk to End Alzheimer’s. I didn’t think very long about it, because the cause was perfect. Prior to October 2017, I set up Larsen Farm’s Walk Team in honor of my parents, Wayne and Nelda Larsen.
The first year our campaign was promoted through Facebook pleas to support the research of this ghastly disease. Thanks to family and friends, Larsen Farms proudly raised nearly $3,800. That amount exceeded our expectations and took us by surprise. As mom’s disease worsened, the family felt hopeless. She was living in a memory care community. Emotionally, we were drained. In 2018, we wanted to walk, but none of us did any promotions to raise funds. We were just too hurt by watching Mom deteriorate. For me, it was all I could do to show up for the inspiring program and Walk with others who were also in painful stages of Alzheimer’s. Again, whether one has Alzheimer’s or not, it’s effects are felt deep in the heart of many, even though it centers in the brains of our loved ones.
Painful as it is to say, I do not think mom will live another year. Even more jarring for me to admit: I hope she does not suffer any longer. She was put in Hospice care. The reality was that we needed to make her final arrangements. I asked my brothers, “Should mom die, how do you feel about directing people to donate money to our Walk Team in lieu of flowers?” This simple question sparked our quest to raise more funds for Alzheimer’s in 2019.
As we cleared mom’s bed from her room for a hospital bed provided by hospice, we barely said a word to one another. Afterward I got in my car to return home and my phone rang. It was my brother Gary. I was scared that something happened to mom already. Instead he said, “Hey, I’ve got this idea to raise money for our team. You know how purple is the color for Alzheimer’s?” “Yes”, I said. “I thought I would donate all the sales of my purple asparagus for the remainder of the season. Tell me what you think.” His idea was brilliant, to say the least! I couldn’t wait to get home to resurrect the Larsen Farm’s Walk Team website.
Meanwhile, Gary’s mind just kept racing with new ideas to promote the sale of the purple asparagus. Though used before by others, The Power of Purple became our war cry. Since the farm is inconvenient as a pick up site, Gary recruited the Richland Alzheimer’s Association office to be a point of sale so the asparagus was closer to those wanting to donate. Additionally, the Richland office set up a booth during a concert in the park to sell our fresh produce. We slammed Facebook again with our cause. I set up a table at Fieldstone Memory Care, where mom was living, to sell to the visiting families and I was serving as a pick up site in town. Brought to tears throughout the day; I was touched by the stories of the Fieldstone families and the generosity of our friends who stopped by to purchase the purple asparagus. Currently, our Power of Purple campaign raised $8,457. Since we exceeded our Walk team goal of $5000, our new target is $10,000. The purple asparagus carries a powerful, regal message of Let’s Stop Alzheimer’s Now!
Simply, the reason we walk is to represent all those generous people who united in our fight against Alzheimer’s because they themselves, like us, are affected or may be affected in the future. Unfortunately, but thankfully, we are not alone in the heartbreak of Alzheimer’s.
The Larsen Farms team will be Walking at the Tri-Cities Walk to End Alzheimer’s 2019. Learn more about the Walk to End Alzheimer’s here.
Held annually in more than 600 communities nationwide, the Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s® is the world’s largest event to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research. This inspiring event calls on participants of all ages and abilities to join the fight against the disease! Find your Walk and start your team at alzwa.org/walk.
Walk to End Alzheimer’s season is almost here, and we have an exciting opportunity for you!
Thanks to a generous donor family, any donation of $100 or more to Walk teams in Washington State and Northern Idaho will be matched 1:1 up to a maximum of $50,000 through August 31st.*
Double your impact and ensure this exciting challenge is met! Together, we’ll put an end to Alzheimer’s.
Now is the time to start your team and to make a donation. Then, spread the word! Let your networks know about this phenomenal opportunity to double their impact. Tell your friends and colleagues. Post an update on Facebook or Twitter. Shout it from the rooftops!
You can be a part of this Challenge, but only until August 31st. Join us now at alz.org/walk.
*Please note: Match amount will be donated directly to the Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s and will not appear on individual Walk team pages or in the Walk participant’s totals.