Dementia Diaries: A Journey With Dementia: Mom’s Eulogy

I mentioned in a previous post that Mom had started talking about what she’d want at her funeral years before she was diagnosed. She named a family friend from church, Dave Robinson, as a good person to give a eulogy. He had given the eulogy for our good friend, Travis Alexander. I think it may have been after that when she mentioned how well spoken Dave was and how he’d be great at this. We asked Dave if he’d do the job and he was very humbled and honored (and I think very surprised) by our request. We couldn’t have asked a better man to do the job. He came and sat with our family for an evening while we talked and shared stories of Mom, he taking notes on his laptop. He combined his words from our interviews with my writing and we also found a precious letter written from my mom to my dad, which he used at the end.

I haven’t ever mentioned this before…I guess because I’m unsure if I can really succeed with it and I don’t want to embarrass myself, but I actually started writing a book of our journey, starting at the very beginning of when Mom and Dad met. I started writing about a year ago and made it to about 50 pages, but I took a break when life got a little too crazy. I sent all that I had written over to Dave, just to help him fill in the gaps of anything he wanted to mention in his eulogy. He ended up cutting and pasting some of it, preserving the way I told the story. I love that he combined some of my mom’s own words, taken from the letter and also from her journal that we had recently found. It turned out to be a beautiful eulogy and some family members, as well as friends who were unable to attend her funeral, have asked for a copy. So here it is! I hope you enjoy reading about my beautiful mother.

Deana Rae Alves

Deana Rae Alves was born Deana Rae Harrington to Beverley and Frederick Harrington on May 11, 1961 at Riverside Community Hospital. She was supposed to be Dean Raymond so that the room situation would work out at home, but, surprise, it was a girl and Dean Raymond was now to be Deana Rae. Deana was the youngest of 5 children after Michael, Ellen, Claudia and Jeff. She grew up right here in Glen Avon with many fond memories of her childhood on Gordon Way. She used to like to pick up gum off the street and recalled many rides and walks to the liquor store to buy penny candy, frozen milk shakes and sodas. There was a store called Bramletts where she would go to buy gifts for her family. Deana recalled having two great talents as a kid: choking on food and spilling her milk at dinner. She fondly remembered always having cats running around the house and loved her special dog named fudgy. She attended Glen Avon Elementary as well as Jurupa Junior High School. She was a good student with perfect attendance landing her name on a school plaque…she also became the school spelling bee champion.

One childhood story that stood out to her is shared in her own words: “I believe it was the spring of 1970, only a few days before my ninth birthday. My big sister, Ellen, took me to the Riverside Plaza to shop for a present for my brother Jeff and myself (Jeff’s birthday was exactly one week before mine and he was going to be eleven). I remember we picked two shiny sirens for our bicycles. Oh, the excitement I felt at the moment. I couldn’t wait to show Jeff and hook them up to our bikes. At last he finished the installation and off we raced, each one taking turns being cops and robbers. We live on an L shaped, dead-end street which had just enough of a grade to build up some good speed. The wind raced through my hair as I pushed the button on my siren and was yelling “pull over!” The last thing I remember was looking down at the blurry asphalt. I was down. I didn’t feel the pain as the street shaved the right side off my face. Jeff looked over his shoulder as I went down and prepared to transform from robber to ambulance driver, thinking I was just faking, but, as he neared the scene he realized I wasn’t moving. Someone picked me up and took me inside, bloody face, shaking and tried to comfort me. Ellen was scared and that scared me. Dad raced through the intersection, honked his horn and didn’t stop. He quizzed me in the truck holding up fingers and asking me my name. When we got to the hospital, the emergency room nurse said it wasn’t an emergency and we would have to go to walk in. There was a 2 hour wait and Dad blew his stack yelling at the nurse and screaming for a doctor, “my daughter had an accident and doesn’t know up from down and you tell me I have to wait 2 hours??!!” The doctor came out, looked around, accepted me in, cleaned my face, did x-rays and gave me a shot.”

At age 13, she moved across town to Overland Street in Riverside. Her Dad had just remarried a woman named Edie. Moving into Edie’s house meant having three new step-brothers and a step sister. It was her step-siblings who dragged her across the street to introduce her to the gang (affectionately called the Overland Street Gang). This mischievous group of neighborhood kids met secretly behind the bushes, out of their parent’s view, as they passed around cigarettes. Deana would have never thought about touching a cigarette, but, in an effort to fit in and be “cool”, she accepted the cigarette and drew it to her lips. She tried to make it seem like she knew what she was doing, but, it was evident by her lack of inhaling the tobacco that she knew very little about smoking. As the kids talked and laughed lightheartedly, 13 year old Deana couldn’t help herself from glancing up at the boy standing across from her who introduced himself as “Buddy”. She recognized him as the boy who lived next door; she’d noticed him before. He was one year her senior, but a couple of inches shorter. Still, there was something about that short Italian boy, his olive skin, his shaggy dark hair and his light hazel eyes that drew her to him. He was quite the contrast of her own pale, freckled skin, red hair and blue eyes. Their eyes met a couple of times and it seemed like their comments to each other may have even been a little flirtatious, but, she knew a boy like him would never look twice at a girl like her. “Boys don’t like freckle-faced redheads”, she’d told herself. Little did she know, but he had a thing for redheads. Later on in life, he would tell her that he loved her freckles…that he always wanted to connect the dots.

Throughout the next couple of weeks after their first meeting, Deana would hang around outside, catching glimpses of him but never daring to initiate a full conversation with him. Sometimes she would sit on the curb and watch him play football in the street where he would take off his shirt puffing out his bare olive-skinned chest. Every now and then they would coincidentally meet in the backyard where Buddy bred rabbits. Other times he would be working in the garage and she would see him there. He pretended to be focused on whatever job he was doing but he always knew she was there and always kept cool. One day when he was hanging out in the garage with his friend DJ and having grease on his hands, Deana approached the driveway. He glanced over at her and turned to DJ saying, “Don’t just stand there, get the lady a seat”. She was both flattered and impressed with that gesture. He called her a lady. It was the first time that she felt a boy ever noticed her and treated her like the young lady that she was becoming. If she wasn’t smitten before then, she was most definitely smitten from that moment on. They spent the next couple of hours talking about everything getting to know each other better.

On July 3rd, Deana and her brother Jeff were hanging out in their backyard when Bud saw them outside and came over to join them. They engaged in some light conversation, which led to them flirting when suddenly Jeff blurted out,

“Why don’t you just kiss him already? You know you like him!”

Deana turned five different shades of red but Bud wore a grin on his face. Jeff had confirmed his hopes that the freckled faced girl-next door was crushing on him. It wasn’t long after Jeff went into the house that Bud pulled her in, wrapping his arms around her waist and kissed her, Deana kissed him back…their first kiss. Later that day, Buddy slid the homemade copper ring that he wore off his finger and onto hers asking, “Will you go steady with me?”

Over the next couple of years, their relationship continued to bloom. They spent their fair share of time making out. They would make out over the fence, in the fort, you name it they made out there. They were crazy for each other. One day, they were making out pretty heavy in the garage. Bud had her pressed up against the washing machine. The pressure must have been just too much on Deana because all of a sudden she let one slip out against the washer. The sound reverberated and she was absolutely mortified, but, Bud, in only the way he could spin things, simply laughed and told her “Hey, everyone farts.”

Later in life, Bud would share these stories with his own young kids in front of Deana. She would stand by and blush when he’d share them. He never let her forget the washing machine incident and she never stopped blushing over it.

No teenage romance goes without some drama…there were times of breakup. During one such breakup, they were outside hanging out and still flirting with each other. Somehow the conversation amongst their friends had taken a turn and Deana made the comment to Bud: “Maybe for a man, but not for a boy” Well, Bud was not about to take that shot to his ego in front of his friends. He chased her around the yard, tackled her to the ground and she landed on her shoulder. She let out a painful scream and stood up, turning her back to hide her tears as she ran back into her house. Soon Deana’s father emerged from the house yelling at him: If you ever touch my daughter again I’ll kick your ****” Deana appeared a couple of days later with a brace on her shoulder. Bud felt terrible and Deana never let him forget about it. Later on in life, when they would have a small disagreement, Bud would say to Deana: “Keep that up and I’ll give you a matching collar bone” 🙂

During her junior year, Deana found religion. Her brother Jeff had started going back to the LDS church of their childhood and began teaching her once again about things. She took to it and was baptized while still living on Overland next to Bud. As time rolled on, Deana would have to move with her father who got a divorce once again. She would have to finish out her senior year at Corona High School instead of Arlington HS. Now in the Church and away from Bud, she became more involved, attending church regularly with other LDS kids. Upon graduation, she met and became serious with a man named Eddie, also known as Fat Taco Eddie. They had talks about getting married, but, despite the blooming relationship, she was still calling Bud on the phone and having long conversations. Things ended abruptly with Eddie when she found out he wasn’t being totally honest with her. Later in life in the 90s, Deana ran into Fat Taco (Eddie) at the Hostess discount store. She was wearing a tight spandex outfit and Fat Taco had a really, really big wife…Deana walked out of there proudly saying to herself, “I got the good end of the stick.”

Deana continued to call and talk to Bud, but she didn’t want a relationship with him anymore because of his drinking and smoking. Bud still had feelings for her but he wasn’t ready to give up that lifestyle. Still, they saw each other now and then and continued their phone conversations. It wasn’t long before religion started to come up in their conversations. Deana would share scriptures with him and teach him things about the church she had joined. She told him about one of the fundamental beliefs of the religion; that families were meant to be together forever. This idea piqued his interest, having been the child of a broken home. One night in September of 1980, after a long night of pondering, Bud woke up and decided he was done with it. He was done with the drinking and the smoking; he was done with that lifestyle. He quit it all cold turkey and never looked back.

Not long after, Deana called again. In the course of their conversation, Bud told her that he had quit drinking and smoking and explained that he was changing his life; he didn’t want to end up like his parents. Deana replied, “I’ll be right over”. She showed up on the doorstep and they had a “heart to heart”. They talked a lot about life, they envisioned their future; their hopes and dreams. Pretty soon, the conversation included the words “one day when we’re married”. There was no formal proposal, they made the decision that they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together and never looked back.

Things moved swiftly, and on November 16, 1980, Bud was baptized by his soon to be brother-in-law Jeff. It was a beautiful day for all…he had left behind the lifestyle of partying and was excited to move forward with Deana on their new forever journey together.

Things were falling into place and it was an exciting time for the young couple. Unfortunately, a wrench was thrown into their wedding plans when Bud was let go from his job at the transmission shop just six weeks before the wedding. Over lunch the next day, they began discussing their plans. They realized now they wouldn’t have the funds to put on the lavish affair they had originally been planning. The invitations had not been sent out yet, so, it was decided…forego their original plans and bump up the wedding to only two weeks away. February 28, 1981 was the day. The ceremony was small; only family and close friends were invited into the Church’s small Relief Society room. The Chapel was already reserved for another event but it didn’t matter to them. The people who mattered could all fit into that small room. They each had their best friends by their side at the altar; Jana as the maid-of-honor and Kenny as the best man. No entourage of bridesmaids and groomsmen followed; they were content with only the two friends. The ceremony was followed by a small and simple reception and then they were off to a short weekend honeymoon to Disneyland staying at the nearby Hilton hotel.

The early years of their marriage brought about very humble beginnings. Both worked hard to make ends meet. Deana worked at TG&Y…she was the breadwinner for the first couple of months. Bud spent the first month looking for work and found odd jobs. By May, he had landed a job with the phone company. After living with Bud’s mom for the first month, they were able to get a small one bedroom apartment of their own. It was furnished with secondhand furniture…they were poor, but they were happy.

Very soon after they were married, Deana discovered she was pregnant. She was just 19 years old and Bud was 20. They were young, naive and could barely make ends meet. They felt a little bit stressed about how they would support a baby. Deana was sick and throwing up, struggling to get to work each day.

One afternoon in June, Bud received a phone call at work from Deana, she had just finished with her routine prenatal appointment at the doctor’s office….she said, “I have something to tell you, We’re having twins! Bud nearly fell over in his seat. Panic sunk in; how could they afford two babies when they were barely scraping by to take care of themselves?

On a bright, sunny day in early October, Deana started having contractions, she labored for hours…this was a difficult labor. Soon it was apparent that one of the babies was in distress. They would have to perform an emergency c section and Bud was not allowed to come into the delivery room. As they wheeled her away, leaving him alone, he worried about his wife…would she be ok? Would the kids be ok? In this worried state, all his anxieties and fears slid down his cheeks in tears as he prayed to God that He would watch over his new wife and his babies. God heard his prayers and soon the doctors came to report two healthy babies, a boy and a girl, Joe and Cassandra…they marveled at the little babies in their arms. It was October 7, 1981

Life was a little rocky for the new little family. Within one year, Bud and Deana had become engaged, dealt with unemployment, gotten married and had two babies. Deana’s Mom fortunately lived just down the street from their apartment. Grandma was patient and nurturing. Deana’s relationship with her mother grew a lot during this time of her life. Eleven months later on September 11, 1982, Bud & Deana would take their two little children to the Los Angeles LDS Temple, kneel around an altar and be sealed together as a family for time and all eternity. This was a highlight of their lives…a joyous occasion never to be forgotten.

The summer of 1983 brought another round of stress for the family. Bud received a notice that they were phasing out his job at the phone company. After giving birth to the twins, Deana had to give up her job at TG&Y to take care of the babies. That very night, when Bud arrived home from work after finding out the bad news, Deana gave him a bit of good news. “Nancy Ballantyne called today and said they are looking to hire some more guys at Continental and she and George are wondering if you’d want to come work for them”. Bud didn’t know anything about tile at the time, but, with the dark cloud looming overhead about his upcoming joblessness, this news was a ray of sunshine. He was a hard worker and a quick learner. He accepted the job and ended up working there for twenty years before branching out on his own and starting his own company.

A year after this new job, Deana gave birth to another baby girl, Christina on July 10, 1984. She was another unexpected pregnancy and, by this time, the twins were three years old. This birth was much more smooth and pleasant. Deana was much more relaxed and Bud was allowed to witness the birth this time.

With the family growing and Bud’s job succeeding, they soon outgrew their apartment and moved into a small three bedroom, rental home. Later on one night, while sitting at the dinner table, Deana told Bud that she had toured a home earlier that day…they had begun the search to buy a home and Deana felt like she had located “the one”. It was a modest 1200 s.f. home with four bedrooms, two bathrooms a living room and kitchen. The back yard wasn’t huge but it would accommodate the kids nicely. Soon, the trip was made to view the house on Candlelight as a family. It needed a lot of work, but, Deana saw potential in it. Bud was not thrilled but Deana was, but he figured they would fix it up, stay in it for a year or so before they sold and upgraded to another house. Thirty years later, it is still the place called home.

Deana was the epitome of a homemaker and a good mother, she took great care of her home and the kids. She always had dinner on the table at night…very rarely eating out. She loved to bake and would make each child a cake, including Joe and Cassandra their own cakes on their shared birthday. She loved holidays and would spend time baking goodies to hand out to family and neighbors, her most famous goodie being her English toffee. She was a room mother for each of her children and present at all their events…she even became a supervisor at their school and was known as the “nice supervisor”. When it came to cleaning, Deana ran a tight ship. She took great pride in her home and every child was expected to do their part. She had a rotating chore schedule during the week and Saturdays were reserved for deep cleaning. She would blast songs from favorites like Queen dancing around with a broom sometimes grabbing the kids and making them dance with her trying to liven things up during the boring cleaning. Deana loved tending to her garden, with Bud gone many Saturdays working, she enjoyed mowing the lawns, pruning the flowers and working in the vegetable garden.

She was a penny pincher – didn’t shop for anything unless it was on sale. She would save money all year long from the family budget along with recycling for family vacations and Christmas presents. The kids would go to pic n save with the recycling money to buy Christmas presents for each other.

She was a very good driver….she was only in one little fender bender accident…in Corona at a stop light. The kids were fighting in the back seat, she let off the brake and tapped the guy in front of her. Also when she was very young she clipped a big rig.

Deana was a young Mom and grew up herself right along side her family…learning as all parents do through the ups and downs of daily life.

She would wake the kids up by singing “oh what a beautiful morning” and then saying “rise and shine”. If they didn’t get up, she would squirt them in the face with a water bottle (oh how they hated that). On one occasion, when Christina was talking back in front of her Aunt, Deana reflexively swung her hand around accidentally hitting Christina on the lip just right catching a tooth and busting open her lip…she was horrified. On another occasion, she broke a wooden spoon on Joe’s butt. She would use a wooden spoon on him because it would hurt her to use her hand. That spoon remained in the kitchen for years to come. She would play Nintendo Dr. Mario with Joe and also enjoy her time in Scouts with him. She would cherish the time Joe took her on a date to the Museum of Tolerance when he was 20. Deana would always feed Joe’s ego telling him how handsome he was and that the only person more handsome than him was his Dad. She hated when Bud would teach Joe “code words” while on the job…these code words were about girls and it just bugged her…the boys just loved bugging her.

She loved old black and white movies and musicals…loved to watch the Turner Classic Movie Channel. She loved movies like the Sound of Music, the Ten Commandment and West Side Story. She would sing the songs and then try to make her own corny songs out of them. Her All-Time favorite was An Affair to Remember, she always cried at the ending.

Never once did the kids see their parents fight…just little occasional disagreements.
Every day Dad kissed Mom goodbye in the morning and then kissed her when he got home from work. Sometimes he would grab her butt and make out in the kitchen. When the kids would say “oooo” Mom would say back “at least you know your parents love each other”.

Deana started taking night classes while the kids were in school and went for an early childhood degree because she wanted to be a school teacher. She didn’t make it to a bachelors to be a kindergarten teacher but did get her early childhood associates degree and worked in the head start program. She gained many friends while working as a head start teacher.

Deana made sure that her family was raised in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. She would make sure everyone was always up each Sunday and at Church in this very building, the 44th St. building (that her father helped to build). She and Bud participated in the church by accepting callings. Bishop Frank Vargas remembers when she was called to be the Young Women’s President, she felt very inadequate but went on to be a wonderful leader that all the young women loved.

Time marched on and the kids all married bringing beautiful in-laws and grandchildren onto the scene. Time and aging also brought an unexpected twist into her life. On March 7, 2012, Deana was diagnosed with Semantic Dementia – A Rare Kind of Dementia under the Frontal Temporal Lobe…this coming after an exhausting two years of going to all kinds of specialists trying to figure things out.

The next five years would be a difficult and challenging time. Watching Deana fade away slowly over time was painful, it was not fair. Why was she of all people struck with this robber of all things normal? She was too young to have something like this strike her. Christina said it best recently in a heart wrenching post:

“This morning at 6:40 am, my mommy took her last breath after being comatose for 3 days. She was 56 years old. Dementia is a monster that began robbing me of my mother piece by piece before she was even 50 years old. Nobody can know how horrendous it is to watch your loved one deteriorate before your eyes until you witness it yourself. Life isn’t fair and makes no sense at times, but Heavenly Father never promised it would be. Stolen from us was a loving mother and grandmother, devoted wife, exceptional preschool teacher, and compassionate friend. Mama, I miss you more than words can express. You didn’t deserve this premature ending. I will carry you in my heart now and forever.”

Deana Rae Alves passed away on July 29th 2017 in the presence of all of her family in her own home…the little home on Candlelight.

Deana’s short life was full and rewarding wrapped inside a romance many of us only dream of…in her own words:

“I recall when we first saw each other. I was thirteen and your were fourteen. I don’t think we were even introduced, you were just there. Sitting on the grass in your oversized jacket, puffing on a cigarette. The young hoodlum! For some strange reason I felt like I was supposed to impress you by acting like a silly, flirtatious girl. I think I succeeded only in making a fool of myself.

A few months later, I became the girl next door. Every day filled with anxiety, hoping to see you smile at me as I got home from school. I hoped my step-brothers would bring you around so I could see you, never thinking you would like me too.

Soon we began to talk to each other. I would watch you work on lawnmower engines in your garage. too embarrassed to let you know I was crazy about you for fear you would think I was ugly and didn’t like me. Fact it-it’s not easy growing up read-haired and freckled!

I remember one time as I watched you in your garage you turned to D.J. and said, “Don’t just stand there, pull up a seat for the lady!” Wow! Was my fourteen year old heart a flutter. Then came the moment of truth. My brother Jeff blurted out, “Why don’t you just tell him you like him.” I wanted to crawl in a hole and die!

What a rocky romance. For two years, off and on, off and on. It finally ended in the summer of ’77. We buried our feelings for each other over the next three years. Occasionally they would resurface only for me to run away from them.

Our lives were quite different. Even though I had strong feelings for you I never saw you as the marrying kind. Sure, we kidded around about it when we were young, but, who really thought we would get married one day.

I dated other guys and went back to church while you smoked and partied. Then one day you gave it all up and there I was, ready to be serious with you.

Through all our arguments and bad times I never regretted the day I said, “I do”. We have both grown and matured but we’ve always been able to compromise, which is why our love grows stronger. You have been a wonderful husband. Loving, giving and supportive. Here are a few lines you dedicated to me:

If the sun refused to shine, I would still be loving you. When mountains crumble to the sea, there will still be you and me. And so today my world it smiles. Your hand in mine, we walk the miles. Thanks to you it will be done, for you to me are the only one! All my love eternally, your wife, Deana.

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