Last year’s Alzheimer’s Walk was a stroll through the past for Mark Perry.
Mark Perry (left) will walk for his mother, Ann (right), in the 2011 Walk to End Alzheimer’s before all her memories fade away. Perry’s mother and grandfather, Roscoe Brown, both struggled with the disease. (Photo submitted.)
“For many there, it was a great day of beautiful weather and lots of socializing with friends,” he explained. “I think the experience is different for everyone depending on their own personal circumstances.”
Perry’s own circumstances stem from his mother’s struggles with Alzheimer’s disease. Ann Perry is one of 5 million Americans with Alzheimer’s.
She was diagnosed five years ago and has slowly lost herself in the intervening years.
Last year’s walk started at the NHC corporate office and wound around the Square. This year’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s will take place Sat., Sept. 24 at the Embassy Suites Hotel on Medical Center Parkway. Funds raised will benefit the Alzheimers Association.
Last year, Perry was struck by the memories of his mother’s youth that could be found on the walk around downtown Murfreesboro.
“It was very odd to push my mom’s wheelchair in front of City Tile, which used to also be the location of Roscoe Brown’s Heat and Air,” Perry said, adding his mother is the daughter of Roscoe Brown, who also struggled with Alzheimer’s.
“That building is actually the place that I remember most as his business and where he worked along with my dad (Charlie Perry),” Perry said.
Perry spent his youth there first as a child, then as a young adult working as a gopher and eventually as an assistant to his grandfather.
“It was there at that building on the right hand side of City Tile that he sat in his later years for hours as his Alzheimer’s pulled him away from us and someone would have to give him a ride to work and back home every day,” Perry said.
He was struck by the cycle of life as he passed the City Tile building and started thinking of all the memories his mother had there.
“So there we were, years later with our mom, passing in front of that old building,” Perry said. “We were pushing her in a wheelchair while Alzheimer’s was slowly pulling her away from us.”
After passing the old Roscoe Brown building they crossed paths Ann had set as a teenager and adult around the Square.
“We passed where she and her friends would hang out on Friday nights on the Square, get a malted and talk the night away,” he said. “This circle around the Square was very much a walk around her history and memories long forgotten.”
It’s a walk Perry won’t soon forget. In fact, he is walking again this year for his mother and her team, The Memory Joggers, which can be found at thememoryjoggers.com or donate in person at the City Café.
“Families of those with Alzheimer’s often feel helpless as there is nothing they can do to ‘fix’ the problem,” he said. “The Memory Walk for us is something that we can do.”
In addition to raising funds for the team, Perry is also sponsoring “Remember Tonight,” a benefit concert from 6-9 p.m. Fri., Sept. 16 at Bluesboro, 114 N Church St. Admission is $15 at the door.
Headlining the show is the James Brothers featuring Tim James writer of Toby Keith’s No. 1 single “My List” and the 2010 Billboard Country Song of the Year nominated “All I Ask For Anymore.” Blues songstress Heidi Burson will be a special guest.
James, a Middle Tennessee native, has had songs featured in film and television and also has had songs recorded by platinum recording acts like Trace Adkins, Darius Rucker, Chris Young and Montgomery Gentry.
But his crowning achievement so far is penning Toby Keith’s No. 1 single “My List.”
The song outlines a man’s honey-do list and the importance of taking the time to remember the little things, like spending time with his wife and children, and not focusing too much time on work.
This was a lesson Perry’s dad, Charlie, took to heart when his wife’s memory was failing.
Last year Ann had gotten to the point where she no longer recognized her husband of more than 50 years.
She knew her husband and the strange man in her house had the same name, but she had forgotten they were the same person.
“She no longer recognized dad but talked to him on the phone regularly and wondered why he never came home,” Perry said.
Ann would then get angry that this strange man slept in her house every night.
“She would call my dad on the phone and complain about him,” Perry said. “She would say, ‘I wish you would tell that old gray-headed man to move out.’”
Charlie would try to convince her he and this other Charlie were the same man but she would reply with, “My husband is dark headed, a lot younger and a whole lot better looking than you.”
Then she would call Perry and tell him about “that old fat man that won’t leave.”
Her attitude about the “old fat man” changed one day when Charlie was taking her for a ride through the Rutherford County countryside.
“One day as they were driving along the countryside, my mom asked my dad to pull the car over off the side of the road,” Perry said.
She looked at Charlie and said, “I need to tell you something. You know, I am married to Charlie. I have married the wrong man. I should have married you.”
Even with her memory loss, Ann had fallen in love with her husband all over again.
“There could have been no better Godsend to my dad who was so often at his wits end, and never complained, than to have heard these true heartfelt words from the woman he loved,” Perry said. MP
Walk to End Alzheimer’s
Saturday, Sept. 24
Embassy Suites, 1200 Conference Center Blvd., Murfreesboro
Registration begins at 7:00 AM and the Walk will begin at 8:15 AM.
For more information contact Kelly Burgess at the Mid South Alzheimer’s Association firstname.lastname@example.org, 615-292-4938 ext. 16