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Snapshots of Dementia: To the Man in the Red Pickup

Posted by on August 11, 2020 in Dementia, Uncategorized | 20 comments

Dear Man in the Red Pickup,

Photo by Neonbrand on Unsplash

I know you were angry yesterday morning as you hurried to work. Maybe you were late, and the older couple walking along your route didn’t help.

I too have experienced frustration when a biker or pedestrian slowed my progress. It’s no fun, especially when you need to reach your destination on time.

And of course, it didn’t help that this road had no sidewalks. What was this couple doing out there anyway?

Because I work in a world of words, I often see information as the answer to everything. Still, I realize you may not be interested in information. But since I remained silent while you screamed and swore at my husband, I thought I’d offer more of the story—albeit a little late.

You see, there’s at least one thing you couldn’t have known about him: He has an early-onset dementia called FTD (frontotemporal degeneration) that prevents him from making wise, quick decisions. So when you tried to teach him a lesson by staying firmly in your lane yesterday, and he didn’t move, he wasn’t being stubborn—at least, not in the way you or I might be. He simply isn’t able to process a concept such as “A truck is coming. It may not stop or move over. I should get out of the way” fast enough to do what you expected.

I realize you saw his behavior as arrogant and rude. But this is far from the truth. Until about two years ago, he was a pastor who loved (and still loves) God and people. Even at his best, he would have thought you should respect him as a pedestrian, but I doubt he would have challenged you by remaining in your lane. Now, he just can’t think fast enough to move over, even when I tell him to (which I did as you approached us). So even though you told him, “Next time, I won’t stop,” I’m not sure he has the mental ability to change his behavior.

My husband’s dementia also causes obsessions. One of his current ones is walking, and so the two of us walk at least 3.5 miles every morning and nearly that far every evening when he’s not too tired (his dementia also causes exhaustion). Several months ago, our family made the decision not to let him walk alone anymore. Although he knows about the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing, he can’t follow the steps needed to carry out those restrictions on his own. His lack of logic also means that more than once, I’ve had to pull him back from crossing a street as a car headed right toward him.

Why do we walk on that road where you met us? As you know, few streets in our area have sidewalks, and that route happens to be my husband’s favorite. We go early in the morning (we leave at 6:30 or 6:45 a.m.) when traffic is light. Yes, we could walk at the local rec center, but until now, I’ve felt safe on the roads. I had already told him that when school started back, we might have to readjust our route. He has lost so many freedoms (he cannot work or drive anymore) that I didn’t want to take away one more thing. But of course I will do that—just as I took away his car keys—rather than see him injured.

I confess: I don’t really understand why you didn’t move over. That’s what I do when I’m driving and someone is walking or biking on or near my lane. The other person’s safety matters more to me than my need to be right. I’m not sure you agree.

I would ask you to consider, though: What if instead of Tom and me, it had been your parents or grandparents walking along that road? Would you have treated them the same way? And what about the teenage boy, a passenger in the truck behind you? He sat with his window open, taking in everything you said and did. I taught my children that we can often learn good lessons from a bad example; I hope this young man was able to learn yesterday that bullying is wrong, no matter when or how it occurs.

In reality, sir, I’m the one you should have yelled at. I’m not only my husband’s wife; I’m his caregiver. I’m responsible for everything in our lives: earning a living, taking care of our home and finances, planning and preparing meals, decision-making, driving, supervising his medications—everything. So when he didn’t move out of the way, it was my fault, not his. I know I should have pushed or shoved him instead of just speaking to him.

I didn’t mention his problems to you yesterday because I saw how angry you were, and I knew it wouldn’t help. But just so you know, this incident traumatized both of us. I was still shaking and fighting back tears when we returned home and I had to start work.

But in a way, sir, I should thank you. You’ve helped me do my “job” of caregiving better.

Because now, I realize: There are other people out there just like you.

Yours sincerely,

The Woman at the Side of the Road

I learned long ago that there are multiple sides to every story. I truly do see this awful experience as a “messenger for good” in my life to help me take better care of Tom.

I also have cards that indicate the “person I’m with has dementia. Please be patient.” I keep them in my purse, which I don’t take with me on these walks. I will keep at least one in my pocket now!

If you have a friend or family member who has or may have dementia and something similar has happened to you, feel free to share in the comments here. Your story matters, and so do you.


  1. My heart has no words…I’m so very sorry my friend. So very sad. So wrong. You remain in my prayers. May the Lord continue to bless and strengthen you for each moment. Love you deeply & dearly.

    • Hugs and prayers for my Knees and her expanded family!

  2. My heart hurts…continuing prayers, beloved.

    • Same for you! Many hugs and multiplied prayers.

  3. Oh my goodness, Marti! That had to be very frightening for you both. So thankful that apparently you weren’t physically injured, but I am sure your heart took quite a pounding in more ways than one. I am also sorry that now even another freedom that you and Tom have will have to be altered. Praying for that man in the red truck to wake up and realize he almost caused a real tragedy, but I am sure he doesn’t see it that way. (((hugs))) to you. I am hurting for you.

  4. I am hoping he was just having a bad morning, but he certainly changed our day. And gave me a needed wake-up call! Prayers and love, always.

  5. I hate hearing about incidents such as these. So often each party has some challenge going on, as you pointed out. I live how you’ve shared this still with a Christian heart. Knowing you, that doesn’t surprise me in the least.

    What you’ve done is reminded all of us to slow down, take a break, pause for thought about others and be cothers-focused” rather than “self-focused”.

    Thank you for sharing your journey! Love and miss you and Tom!

    • Thank you, Chris. I went from shocked and sad to angry and then realized the Lord had a big lesson for me. Personality plays into this as well. I’ve become much more assertive in some ways but still need to step it up in others. God be my strength!

  6. Marti, I am so glad you and Tom are okay. This incident, due to lack of patience exhibited by the red truck driver, did inspire a well-worded post to teach us. A member of my Sunday School group friend was just diagnosed with Picks Disease. Is that similar to what Tom has? I know Picks effects the frontal lobe. Prayers for you and Tom.

    • That’s EXACTLY what he has although it may be a different type. “Pick’s Disease” is the old-school name. I’m so sorry for your friend and will be praying. I can give you some resources if any are needed. HUGS!

  7. I’m so sorry this happened to you , friends!
    Love and hugs to you both.

    • Thank you so much. You’re always a blessing!

  8. Praying for you an Tom!

    • Thank you so much! Hugs!

  9. Thank you for your gracious words. But as a runner and a coach of runners, I am so angry at this man. I’ll try to chill before I come down.

    • You do that (chill). Thank you for reading, caring and praying!

  10. So sorry you and Tom had this traumatic experience. Thank you for sharing your letter to the driver in the red truck. If you reach just one insensitive or careless driver you may have saved someone’s life, I know those who are caregivers to loved ones will be blessed knowing they are not alone in their journey when they read these informative and sensitive words that come from your heart, Love and prayers to you! Joan

    • Thank you so much. I know you always understand! Love and prayers back!

  11. We live in a “me” world. Only God can change hearts. Prayers for this person to come to know Him fully. Prayers for you and Tom as you meet new challenges every day. Love you.

    • I’m so sorry I missed seeing this, Millie. You’re so right, and I agree. I am praying for this man too. The fact that he became so angry showed me something else must have been wrong. Love back!

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