If you know me well, you certainly know that today is not my 75th birthday! But it’s still a very special day in November!! Today marks the 75th presentation I’ve given on my book, Being My Mom’s Mom!!!
It’s exhilarating just to write that fact down! The only reason I know how many I’ve speaking engagements I’ve done is because of a question I was asked yesterday. I had driven an hour to Leesburg, VA to give a presentation as part of a very appropriately titled Alzheimer’s and Dementia workshop called “The Road Ahead”. At the end of my presentation, the woman who invited me to speak told me what a fabulous job I’d done, as the audience of 55 people was still cheering wildly. In the very next breath, she asked me if all the presentations I’ve been giving was “getting old” (she hired me on the spot after seeing me at another workshop last year).
I had to think for a minute about her question. How ironic, I thought… She was asking me if talking about an epidemic for which there is no cure that primarily affects older people was “getting old”. I thought about saying “hell no, it’s not getting old” but didn’t want to get testy just as a long line was forming for me to sign books. So I simply said “nope, it’s not getting old. I hope to keep talking about this disease until there’s a cure!” She added, “well you’re certainly the right person because I’ve never met anyone with your energy and enthusiasm! I’ve seen you speak before of course but all of your presentations are awesome and they’re all different, a mark of an exceptional speaker”. As I began signing books, a woman in the line asked me how many presentations I’d given since my book was published. I paused and said “I honestly don’t know”. So, being curious to find the answer, when I got home last night I pulled out the book of programs and photos of all the places where I spoken and discovered that I’d done 74 presentations in 19 months as of yesterday. I was very surprised, and very pleased!!
So today, I was beyond excited to be giving my 75th presentation to a group that was going to include a member of my family!! Our nephew Damon Byrd, a social worker extraordinaire at the DC Government office of Adult Protective Services, invited me to speak at their Joint Cluster Meeting as part of National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. Damon was the best host ever, coming outside to meet me and paying for my parking, carrying my bags, and introducing me to every single person who walked by the entire time I was there!! I not only had an Awesome time, there was even an unexpected surprise for me that was the icing on the cake!
When I walked into the conference room Damon immediately introduced me to his boss Clarence Craig, who got up from his seat to shake my hand. As he came toward me, I said out loud “I know you!!”. It took us less than 10 seconds to realize we attended Catholic University together!! Wow!! We not only remembered the classes we had together, but he even remembered where I sat in the classes!! Clearly Clarence doesn’t have ANY dementia issues, given that we haven’t seen each other since graduating from college 34 years ago!!! AND He’s been at his current job for 29 of his post college years!! How amazing!!!
As I signed a book for Clarence, we hugged and shared our mutual admiration for each other and the work we’ve done on behalf of others who may not be able to speak for or take care of themselves. The mission of Adult Protective Services is tough!! They provide protective services to reduce or eliminate the risk of abuse, neglect, self-neglect and exploitation of those 18 years and older.
During my presentation it became clear to me that many of the adults they serve are older adults with dementia. It’s yet another reason for me to continue to speak out about this disease and push for more funding for research to find a cure. Dementia is bad enough when there is a support system in place to care for a loved one, but it can be even more devastating when a person with dementia has no appropriate person to provide care for them. Several people told me that my presentation had “motivated them” to do several things within their own families. I’m happy about that. But truthfully, being with them today and hearing about some of the things they’ve experienced as part of the tough work they do, motivated me as well. I love my Mom to the moon and back, and who knows, there may even be 750 more presentations in me to bring more awareness to and hopefully a cure for this horrible disease! So, nope this isn’t “getting old” I’m just getting started!!