Good Evening -- I am very pleased and blessed to be here tonight to tell you a bit about my Mom, Mary Trela. Mom and Dad raised nine of us – and as the baby, or Caboose, as my Mom called me – I think I have served my role as Mom’s favorite pretty darn well these last 25 years! It is, therefore, my honor to tell you about how Mom’s ongoing battle with Alzheimer’s disease has impacted me so that you understand how much I appreciate your support.
Mom was diagnosed my junior year of college in 2007 at the age of 57. Only 5% of those with Alzheimer’s are diagnosed before 65. You can imagine then, how alone I felt because no one my age had a parent who was no longer able to speak her mind, cook dinner, or drive to deliver communion to the homebound on Sundays.
My whole life I could always count on her love, support, and enthusiastic smiles. But for more than 3 years, when I couldn't bear to even tell my best friends about Mom - I almost felt Mom was at fault for her condition! Then, I did not understand that Alzheimer’s doesn't play favorites.
I still struggle with some harsh realities of the cruel nature of Alzheimer’s as a 25-year old man:
· Alzheimer’s melted away my afternoons watching TV and eating ice cream with Mom.
· Alzheimer’s prevented my Mom from knowing how proud I was to treat Mom and Dad to dinner after my first paycheck.
· Alzheimer’s has cut in on my Mother-Son dance at my wedding next summer.
· Alzheimer’s will have robbed my children the chance to know and love her.
I’m fortunate that I came to realize how precious some of these little moments were – though I fear, I, like many affected by this disease – only come to these realizations when it’s too late in the game.
I’m actually looking forward to the day when we eventually meet each other in heaven. I’ll swing by to pick up some butter scotch ice cream for her. Then we’ll go on a long walk talking, laughing, and smiling.
Mom and her buddy – back together again – without the cloud of dementia selfishly stealing the moments this time.
I cannot thank you all tonight enough for your support of the Alzheimer’s Association and the free programs and services they provide to those affected by the disease. I am confident that the Alzheimer’s Association’s research efforts we support nationally, and right here in Cleveland, WILL ONE DAY bring my vision of heaven down to earth.
Our efforts together TODAY will allow a 50-something Mom to reclaim her future before Alzheimer’s steals her mind and body much too early. TOGETHER, we can make sure that this Mom can age gracefully – comfortably enjoying the fruits of her labor and love – because she can be there -- smiling, laughing and radiating happiness -- as her own little “Caboose” grows up, start his career, marries his high school sweetheart, and begins the rest of his life – all with Mom along for the ride!
I would like to also take a brief moment to recognize my dad, Jim Trela. Dad – you and Mom have been married for 42 years – and your love, support, and unselfish caregiving of your ailing wife these last six years is both humbling and remarkable. As a newly engaged man, I am so fortunate that you have set the standard for what ought to come afterwards when a man agrees to love his spouse by saying, “For better or for worse; and in sickness and in health.” While the memories fade – your love for Mom endures. Thank you, Dad.