We have a special relationship with our neighbor. For years he has looked out for us and teased us in the process. He’ll come over and let us know when our garage door is open and he’ll also come over when I’m building something on the garage and tell me I’m doing it completely wrong. I tease him, he teases me. He and his wife love my kids and have watch them grow up.

At the beginning of last year, he walked into our house through the garage unexpectedly – the door was open because we were trying to rush out the door to a meeting. He was adamant he needed to talk to Hallie and see how her tennis match was – but she didn’t have a tennis match. He was being so funny and acting slightly out of character – but not too far out of character. He sat down at the piano and tickled the ivories for a minute before he ushered himself out the door. Clearly, he had a few drinks that night and we didn’t think much of it.

Almost a month later, his wife informed us of his diagnosis of alzheimers – our last couple encounters with him made much more sense. He hadn’t been drinking – he was losing his mind. We anticipated a slow decline but his decline was noticeable after every visit and it has been heartbreaking to watch.

The last couple months have been rough – especially for his wife as she tries to care for him when his memory is gone, but he’s still very physically fit and active. He’s escaped to our house more times than we can count and we walk him back home when he’s ready. Our kids are fully aware of his condition and they just smile as he tries to string together a sentence of nonsense.

He showed up on Christmas eve unannounced and after texting his wife to let her know where he was, we just sat down with him and enjoyed his company. He was energetic as he described the importance of this or that to our kids. When he decided it was time to go home I asked if he would take a picture with my kids and he happily obliged. I treasure this photo.

Tonight we were at Steve’s brothers house when we got a call from his wife – he had escaped again and she hoped he was at our house. Unfortunately he wasn’t. We rushed home and found her in a puddle of tears – he was no where to be found and they had searched for a while.

We set out looking for him as well and by some miracle Hunter and Steve found him in the neighborhood south of us. One of the homeowners saw him and thought he was a threat and called the police on him. They had him on the sidewalk trying to get information out of him which they quickly realized was not going to get them very far. He had taken off his ID bracelet and without that, he had no identity.

Steve and Hunter were able to take him home to a distraught wife. A wife who has given everything to take care of him the last year and is exhausted. She had already made arrangements for him to enter a living facility this week but the idea of him living anywhere but home was hard. But tonight’s episode put into reality his condition and his capabilities – she needs help and he needs 24/7 monitoring with his active lifestyle.

We are so sad to say goodbye to our neighbor and friend – we’ll visit him of course, but I’ll miss walking across the street for a quick visit to check in on him. There are times when I see glimpses of our old friend (because his sassy personality is still in tact) and memories of his love for our family come flooding back and then he asks who I am and I remember he is a shell of who he was.

Although Steve has several uncles who have suffered from this disease – we didn’t live close and didn’t witness the decline. Our neighbor has opened our eyes to the brutal world of Alzheimer’s and the pain and heartache loved ones experience as the mind slowly (or not so slowly) deteriorates and my heart sincerely goes out to all those affected by it.