COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — In just over a week, Columbus will walk to end Alzheimer’s. Around 220,000 Ohioans are living with it and 400,000 family members are caregivers.
One is Maryann Miller, a central Ohio native who became the first female air force reservist in history to achieve the rank of four-star general. Miller walked from that “non-traditional” role for women to take on a new role that is very traditionally female: caregiver.
“I got in the car and drove all the way home an eight hour drive from Scott Air Force Base to pull up in the driveway and thought wonder what tomorrow is going to be? Because I’m not going to have any of this,” said Miller. “I’m not going to have airmen wondering what direction do we go next? What’s next? What’s the mission?”
Miller came home to a new mission, to take care of her dad. She felt a responsibility as her five siblings all have families and Miller is single. At first, Miller found taking care of her dad to be a sacrifice.
“And I thought, ‘My gosh, how selfish can I be?’ My dad gave his whole life for all of us. Six, six kids. Great mom. Great family. So how selfish can I be?” said Miller.
The former general gained new perspective after her former command chief sent her a poem. She said she read it in the middle of the night and “it just all came together.”
Called the “Alzheimer’s Poem,” it reads, “Do not ask me to remember. Do not try to make me understand. Let me rest and know you’re with me. Kiss my cheek and hold my hand. I’m confused beyond your concept. I am sad and sick and lost. All I know is that I need you to be with me at all cost..”
Miller said its a simple poem with a vital message.
“That was a seminal moment that just turned turn my heart around. I talked about touching the heart. It touched my heart,” said Miller. “I mean, I love my dad, as much as you can love a human being. But there was that tension of I could be. I could be out there making another trip for the air force. I could be this I could be that it could be that. Or it’s like, this is the boat, I’ve put you in, stay in it. This is where I have you stay here. This is where I need you. This is where your father needs you. So I am now so happy.”
The walk is Sept. 25, beginning from the Columbus Commons. View more information and donate here.