Love. It’s evident in the words, actions and bond that Jack and Sherry Seeh share.
If anything, their love has grown stronger since 2018 when Jack was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
He had been experiencing some trouble remembering words, but at first brushed it off as part of getting older. One day, he was reading an article about Alzheimer’s and the realization hit him: “Wow, that’s why I’m forgetting those words. That’s why I can’t remember things that I used to. It’s not just getting old. Then we went and had it tested (and received confirmation of Alzheimer’s disease).”
The Clarkston couple’s positive approach to their new reality is evident in all that they do, including their participation this year in the annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s. The event, originally scheduled for Saturday, was postponed to Oct. 4 because of air quality concerns.
Craig Clohessy: What did you think and how did you feel when you were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease?
Jack Seeh: I wasn’t afraid. I didn’t want to be foolish, and I didn’t want to be seen by: “What happened to this guy who was really smart and now isn’t?” So I made some, what’s the word when you say you’re going to promise something?
CC: Made a resolution?
JS: Yes, that I was not going to allow it to change me other than there’s always change, but I’m not going to be angry about it. I’m going to go to the people that I know that will accept me when I tell them what I have, because they’re smart people. ... I got off all of the boards I was on because I couldn’t get up to stand, and I was good at that. So that was the hard part. The easy part was I will be in charge of whether I’m going to be happy or not. That’s what we’ve been doing. Does that make sense?
CC: It does. And that gets us into the second question — how has your life changed?
Sherry Seeh: Well, we’re approaching everything that’s happening now and the future more proactively. Sometimes you know people get diagnosed with a disease and they don’t know how to prepare for the future, because they don’t know what the future will be. With Alzheimer’s, everybody is different, but you know that things are going to start taking place, and so from my standpoint, I needed to learn as much as I could about the disease and about caregiving and how to approach things that might come up.
Defuse is a big word to me in all of this; how to approach things if he gets confused and how to kind of take him away from a situation where he’s frustrated and divert his attention elsewhere.
I got involved right away going to caregiver support groups. I really think that’s important. That would be the big thing I’d stress. ... It just made me think about what happens in the future and, you know, how I can help him have a better quality of life — both of us.
But we also took that opportunity to kind of seize the day. Some people die unexpectedly, and, of course, we’re all going to pass away sometime. But now we know that our time, our clock, is ticking, so we need to be out and traveling and seeing people and refreshing old friendships, except for COVID hasn’t helped with that.
JS: We have become closer than ever. ... I’m a pretty smart guy. And I still have parts of me that can do things that I’m not supposed to do at this level so far, at least that’s what they tell me. I learned something really early when Sherry was starting to do this for me because I was starting to get like, “Oh yeah, this really sucks. And I remember, I said, “Honey, what time are we leaving today?” She said 2 o’clock. And literally less than a minute later I said, “What time are we leaving?” She said, 2 o’clock. And about 30 minutes later I said, “What time are we leaving?” She said, 2 o’clock. Not once did she say, “I told you 2 o’clock.” I was just smart enough to know that’s a difference. I know that she went out of her way to say it nicely, because what I have tends to make you get, what’s the right word?
JS: Yeah, agitated.
CC: Jack, you and Sherry participate in Alzheimer’s research studies. You believe it’s important for those afflicted and their families to participate in research when possible. Why is that?
JS: Well, we think it’s something that down the road will make a difference for other people. It isn’t going to change my life or Sherry’s life, but we’re going to give them all that we can.
CC: You two will be taking part in the now rescheduled Quad Cities Walk to End Alzheimer’s with your team, Hit the Road (Jack) for Alzheimer’s. Share more about the event.
SS: The Walk for Alzheimer’s is a national event held every year. Not every city across the nation has it on the same day; they kind of stagger the dates. With COVID it’s a little bit tougher. This year, the walk is a little bit different because people will be doing it wherever they’re at. They may not go on a group walk like they used to with all the different teams. We have a team, and we are going to walk. There’s about 15 of us.
What the Alzheimer’s Association is asking people to do is walk in your neighborhood with your dog or do something in your kitchen, do some cooking, something active. It doesn’t have to be a traditional walk. But that’s what we’re participating in.
We really just jumped into this when (Jack) was asked to carry the flower, the forget-me-not flower, which is the flower of Alzheimer’s, and that stands for a person who is afflicted with the disease. It’s really kind of hard to find a person who has Alzheimer’s who is in a position to be able to walk, frankly, and go with their family.
We hope to raise awareness and in the process we are raising some money for the charity.
CC: What else will happen?
SS: The schedule of events for the Quad Cities includes from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. (Oct. 4) (an opening and “Promise Garden” ceremony) up at Rogers Toyota (along Thain Road). At the corner will be a garden that the Alzheimer’s Association people from Spokane will be putting out. It’s (plastic) flowers ... to honor people with Alzheimer’s. The blue (flower) is for someone afflicted, yellow is for caregivers, purple is for someone who lost a loved one and orange is to someone who cares and feels affected. There’s also a film that will be shown at 9:30 a.m. on the Walk for Alzheimer’s website. It’s a virtual film and Jack will be featured in that. And then at 10 o’clock we’re going to walk.
Clohessy is managing editor of the Lewiston Tribune. He may be contacted at email@example.com or (208) 848-2251.
Name: Jack Seeh
Family: Wife, Sherry; no children.
Education: “After three years serving in the U.S. Army in Special Ops, I received a degree in finance, accounting and real estate from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo/Cal Poly Pomona.”
Work history: Forty-plus years in insurance industry in positions of operations management and regional chief financial officer; lived and worked in Southern California, New York, San Francisco and traveled internationally. Retired from Marsh & McLennan.
Hobbies/interests: Texas Hold ‘em tournament poker; used to play golf and read.
Do you have any hidden talents, or is there anything else that might surprise people about you?: “Not so much now, but prior to Alzheimer’s I was always a wordsmith and had the ability to calculate numbers in my head. When working in New York, I was one of the first people who used a personal computer at work.”
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Quad Cities Walk to End Alzheimer’s.
WHEN: Oct. 4.
SCHEDULE OF EVENTS:
9 a.m.-1 p.m.: Promise Garden (drive-by only) at Rogers Toyota, 2203 16th Ave., Lewiston.
9:30 a.m.: Online opening ceremony.
10 a.m.: Walk in the location of your choice.
HOW TO JOIN A TEAM OR DONATE: Go to alz.org/walk or call (800) 272-3900.