Category Archives: Alzheimers

Journey of a Thousand Goodbyes

Journey of a Thousand Goodbyes

          My father passed away last week. He was a captive of Dementia or Alzheimer’s for several years and in passing over that journey has ended and another begun. Herman F. Marshall was born July 19, 1929 in Manchester, New Hampshire. His story is our family memory now and I’m reading the things he wrote to save his memories, now they become part of my memories. There is a notebook collection of the people, places and things that were special and everyday in his life.

                I can’t say all the things I feel, or process all the emotions yet. I did spend the duration of Hurricane Irene’s heavy rains scanning in these old photo and re-establishing a mental image of my Dad from before the time when age and illness waged war on his body.    

     This may have been a last family photo, Charles Marshall my Dad’s father died when Dad was only 18 months old. There was no collection of stories and anecdotes, just a few old photos. I can see from this one how much my Dad adored his older sister Ginny, as he did his whole life!   How my Grandmother managed  raising her two children on her own, well she was strong she had to be.

      My father was a photographer and one thing I could tell from the box of old family photos I brought home from his house was the interest must have started when he was little. Considering the hard times and single parenting they still managed to get a lot of photos of my Dad as a boy. He had never shared some of these, so there are surprises along the way as I scan my way through the box.                        

Summers were spent in Rye and Hampton Beach New Hampshire. Someone had a nice pony, this is one of the photos I had never seen but makes me understand more why he was so excited when we got my first pony.Little could he have guessed how much impact that pony would have on the rest of my life.

Here he is with his sister after 8th grade graduation. Pretty dapper dresser even then! He was always one for a suit and tie when he was going somewhere. When he worked for the newspaper as a photographer he was always in a suit with a white starched shirt. I finally got him to wear a colored shirt when I was a teen. It was very conservative though.
1945 and 16 year old Herman takes on a growth spurt propelling him to his mature height of 6 feet.
WWII and someone had to help build a highway across Alaska’s expanse and off he went just 17 and enlisted with his mothers signature. Another adventure that included chasing a moose down the AlCan highway as they worked on it.
After the army it was photo school in Boston and landing the job at the Hartford Courant as staff photographer. He met my mother there and the rest as they say is history!
We added this photo to an album when they celebrated their 50th Anniversary.
Herman and Jessie Marshall
Look at that I’ve got my cowboy boots on!
Dad is gone but the memories are fresh and alive. I have scanned the photos and posted the blog to share them with family and friends so the story doesn’t end there is always another chapter.  On Sept.27, 2011 I will be one of the speakers at Eastern Connecticut University when the Psychology dept. hosts a program on Alzheimer’s Awareness. I want to share  some of my father’s journey with the students and community. We need a cure and better treatments, we need understanding, we need to save the memories now!  Alzheimer’s is the Journey of 1000 Goodbyes as each skill and memory slip past the shroud and disappear. The parting is slow and long as the bright and vivacious, person we know slowly recedes into a mist of confusion. Like any fog it occasionally lifts for a captured moment and memory. I knew my Dad spent many hours with his memories, they played like a long Saturday picture show from his childhood until the credits rolled.