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top: Jose Maria Guerra, U.S. Army Air Corps 1943 bottom: Jose Maria Guerra, Roundup 1996 .7-4111111…romareorewowebou.. FEATURE Alzheimer’s Almanac Chronicling the long good-bye in Laredo BY MARIA EUGENIA GUERRA AND MELISSA LEANDRA GUERRA “When my father was first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, our initial impulse was to protect his dignity and help him navigate a world that was becoming increasingly difficult for him to understand,” Alzheimer’s support group in Laredo, my sister Melissa and I clung to each other as we learned everything we could about the disease from other families, from my father’s physician, from the STAR Chapter in San Antonio, and on the Internet. As we talked to other caregivers, we found experiences that paralleled our own and some that did not. There was information that we could all be sharing and so we decided to write the Alzheimer’s Almanac.’ The columns, alternately written by Meg and Melissa Guerra, appear in LareDOS, the newspaper that Meg publishes on the border \(See, “All the News that Fits Laredo,” February 18, other’s Day. In my mother’s kitchen I am engulfed by tenderness for both my parents. My youngest sister and I are busy at what we try to do most Sunday mornings. While I make breakfast, she fills a plastic box compartmentalized by days of the week with a week’s worth of medications, one for my mother and one for my father. My sister is a good bet for a chore that must be thorough and absolutely correct. I am a better cook. It’s the one morning a week we don’t discuss business, hers or mine. It’s the morning we might run to the grocery or the hardware store to get something our mother has said she needs. It’s the morning we drive around with our hearts in our throats for having witnessed yet another slide in the cruel ravage of my father’s mind by Alzheimer’s, a disease that has changed him and in so doing has changed us. While I cut cantaloupe, strawberries, and bananas and my sister puts the right meds in the right slots, my father has come into the kitchen to be part of the preparations. He flattens and folds the plastic bags from the grocery store with an enormous sense of purpose. Even though I am using the sink, he cleans every bit of it, bringing the stainless steel to a high shine. He is oblivious that I am using it still. I wash the dishes and utensils I have used and ask if he would like to dry them. 4 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 11/21/03