By Becky Smith
My name is Becky Smith (aka “Ponytail Girl” as my dad called me). My dad, Henry Leroy Wood, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in the early 2000s. My two brothers, Rick and Scott, as well as my mother Jan, have shared with me some memories and the reasons why we have chosen to participate in the North Central Washington Walk to End Alzheimer’s as Leroy’s Team.
The Walk is very important to us and we have participated since 2013. We feel it’s important to not only fund research, but to educate and raise awareness. One of the things my mother shared with me was that, when Dad was diagnosed with dementia, she felt alone. She didn’t know anyone who had been diagnosed before and had no idea what to expect. My brothers became the caregivers as time went on. Our eldest brother, Rick, was always there from the beginning to the end. As a family, we never want another person to have to experience what we did. We also feel it’s important to bring the families together. The Walk brings together people who can relate and understand what other families dealing with dementia are going through.
My dad was a very happy, caring and helpful gentleman. He had a contagious sense of humor and was always looking for ways to cheer his family up. His grandkids fondly remember at Christmastime his prank of hiding an onion in their stockings. They would all enjoy a good laugh.
Rick remembers, after a horrifying encounter that resulted in being shot in the head, that during the many medical procedures that followed, my dad never left his side. Dad ensured that Rick was loved and well taken care of. Rick also remembers his strength and how Dad would be there by his side, every time he would wake up. Dad would help him focus on healing and the family that loved him.
Even after he was in the midst of his own struggle with Alzheimer’s, I remember the last thing my dad told me. He said that I “would go through a lot of deep water,” but to “remember I would be ok” like the verse in the bible (Isaiah 43:2). Later, I would find out he was speaking the truth (Isaiah 43:2). A few years later in 2017, I was diagnosed with and overcame a rare form of cancer. Those verses continued to comfort me — a reminder of what Dad held in his heart.
Scott’s fondest memories are of dad always fixing things, working on cars. Dad and Scott would prank my oldest brother and spray paint his cars. Dad was the go-to guy if anything ever broke down and ensured that his family was provided for — so many amazing qualities in a truly amazing man!
This is why when Dad was diagnosed, it was so obvious to us that something was wrong. He no longer remembered things like how to tie a fish hook, the difference between a flat or Philip’s screwdriver and just little details to things that were so obvious to him before. The things you would normally ask him about he forgot. Now, he was the one embarrassed to ask for help. He loved people and suddenly couldn’t remember their names.
Everything changed and all we wanted to do was to slow down time so we could get him back to who he was before. This is why we Walk. We may not have been able to save Dad’s life, but in his memory and honor, we fight for those who are going through the same struggle and for the future of a world free of Alzheimer’s.
We would like to thank Jan Wood, the Becky and Rusty Smith family, the Rick and Tricia Wood family and the Scott Wood Family. Our dad is survived also by seven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren, all who absolutely adored him.
The world may look a little different right now, but one thing hasn’t changed: our commitment to ending Alzheimer’s. This year, the Walk to End Alzheimer’s is everywhere — on every street, trail and treadmill. We’re moving forward to end Alzheimer’s. Join the fight at alzwa.org/walk