Last night my stepfather, Joe Winterhawk, passed away. He was a victim of early onset Alzheimer’s, and it took eight, long tragic years of terrible decline to finally end. In his younger days he was a WSU frat boy, then a nuclear physicist. He loved to sail with my mom on their Columbia 42. He loved good food and wine. His customary toast was "To the Good Life." In the last year he was reduced to wearing diapers and being unable to speak, feed himself or recognize his family.
When Joe started dating my mother I was a rude and snotty 11 year old brat. Joe never was nasty in return. Instead, he always saw the good in me. When I grew up I realized that he made my mom happy, and that’s all that mattered.
If your dad is still around give him a big hug. If he’s far away, give him a call. If he lives close by, take him out for a cheeseburger and have a nice long talk. Thank him for loving and supporting you and teaching you how to get along in this world.
Thank you to the good people at Bessie Burton Sullivan Skilled Nursing Center and Mercer Island Care Center for taking care of Joe in his final year and a half. The people who do this work are saintly beyond belief.