Updated: Oct 6, 2020
Impossible to pick an appropriate starting point to talk about such a wonderful human! But here goes...
I've never in my life met a person that was as authentic as Dwane. He radiated kindness and love. I first met him and his beautiful Juanita (Nita) in 2006 when I went with Darin to visit them in Moloka'i, HI. Their home was a special place, special because it was theirs, it was as welcoming as they were.
This visit was my first time in Hawai'i and it was nothing like I expected. Going to this specific Island was truly stepping off the grid. Dwane and Nita showed us around town and welcomed me into the family without hesitation. The beaches were pristine and empty! The weather was perfect. The hosts were remarkable. Over the years they visited us and we visited them, they were always loving and kind and fun. They adored their granddaughter Willow.
Unfortunately Nita developed cancer, she was a warrior in her fight against it. She thought of others during her battle and did what she could to insure Dwane would be ok once she was gone. On May 10, 2015 Nita left this earth. RIP beautiful lady!
Dwane stayed in Moloka’i for about 2 more years, we all knew it was best for him to move but we also knew he had to agree... eventually he agreed to move in with us. Fran (an absolute ANGEL) went to Moloka’i and traveled with him back to California. I'd love to say he settled in right away... not the case. Initially he was hyper focused on 'going back home'. Darin and I begged, bartered and pleaded with him to stay, finally we just said "Ok, we'll take you home". Lo and behold, he decided to stay with us, just out of the blue and right before Willow's UCLA graduation.
Dwane was in early to middle stages of Alzheimer's and the degree of grace and dignity that he displayed throughout his battle was awe-inspiring.
The treats and gifts of love we received from him on a daily basis were overwhelming. He had his routine and we happily joined it. Life for us changed drastically for the better. Darin resigned from a management position and transitioned back to being just another team member at work in order to be more available for his dad. Early on we knew Dwane shouldn't be home alone, so yet again an ANGEL presented herself, her name is Michelle. She came every day while Darin and I were at work, she and Dwane became BFF's immediately. Here is a picture of Dwane before he decided to leave Moloka'i:
In just a few months, my own family had some unfortunate medical issues, ultimately my step-mom Betty passed, leaving my Dad alone - hours from family and support. This lead to my decision to leave my career behind in order to be more available to Dwane and able to frequently visit and care for my father.
Now let's talk routine! Like I mentioned, Dwane had his and we adapted. Early morning, rise and shine! Walk the mile and half around the neighborhood spreading Aloha... Breakfast was a tiny fruit tray with half an english muffin smeared with peanut butter and honey. Lunch was timely and consisted of 9 wheat thins topped with 'I can't Believe It's Not Butter' spray, one drop of mustard, slice of cheese, a slice of pickle and a Kalamata Olive. Lunch was consumed on the back patio while reading a book from our local library. Entitlement time was 5pm, this was his glass of red wine, followed by him blowing the Conch shell at 5:30 and dinner at 6pm. We all sat and watched Wheel of Fortune Monday through Friday and occasionally played dominos in the evening and on weekends. Lights out at 9pm! Ultimately we supplemented his diet with as much as we could get in him to help maintain muscles and the strength to walk. Alzheimer's is unpredictable and you really never know what will change from day to day.
Dwane accompanied us on our maiden voyage in our converted Sprinter van, we attended a family event in Sacramento, Chelsea's graduation... Routine was maintained to the best of our ability, here is a video of Dwane and the Conch shell on the road...
Our journey with Dwane was filled with amazing memories and life lessons on love and kindness. This journey ended too soon on June 20, 2020 when Dwane rejoined his beautiful Juanita. RIP Pops! We love you.
This picture was during a day trip to downtown San Diego
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