Doesn't everyone enjoy getting old fashion snail mail? A real handwritten letter? I know I do. I have always been a letter writer.
When we were in elementary school, we were encouraged to have pen pals. Part of our class assignments was writing letters and having them graded before they were sent. Some of these pen pal relationships lasted for years. My brother actually married his pen pal, and they were married for over forty years until he passed away a few years ago.
What does this have to do with Alzheimer's? Writing makes memories.
As someone who was diagnosed at a young age, I have tried to take advantage of writing letters to my friends and family. I've tried to let them know how I feel, because, in time, I won't be able to do that.
If you care for someone who can no longer write a letter, perhaps relatives or friends could write letters to them, and you could read them. We don't know what really can be comprehended, but maybe something familiar will spark a memory or two in your loved one.
It all started nearly 39 years ago
When my son was born almost 39 years ago, I wrote him a letter the day I had him and I was still in the hospital. I didn't know at the time when I would ever give it to him, but I knew he would get it someday. I was rather emotional that day, so it was pretty sappy.
Then, every year on his birthday, I would write him another letter. I would highlight what "firsts" he accomplished, funny stories, and add a few photos. I looked forward to writing that letter all year long. I kept that up every year. I kept the letters in the safety deposit box with his name and the date. He never knew I was doing this.
Then, when I was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, these letters became so important to me.
Preserving our memories together
I wanted something of me that he could remember and go back and read when we could no longer communicate. I had a hard time deciding when I was going to give the letters to him.
At first, I thought it was when he turned 18. Then I decided it was when he graduated from college. Then I decided it was the night before he got married.
I gathered them into a chest and asked for some alone time the night before his wedding. I explained what was in the box and told him that he could read them whenever he wanted even if it was ten or twenty years from now. The only thing I asked of him was that when he read them, he would tell me that he had. We both shed some tears that night, but I hope that night is one of the last things I will forget.
Love letters to my son
That was in 2008. In 2017, I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer. That scared us all. My son finally read the letters. Now I am coming up on five years of being cancer-free. I wish I could say that about Alzheimer's. But, I helped to make some memories through those love letters to my son. Maybe you can help share memories with your loved ones.
Are you a male caregiver to a loved one with Alzheimer's disease?