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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Gray Matters: A happy story

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Now and then good things happen and are reported in the media, but doesn't it seem that bad things are far more prevalent? With disaster, madness and mayhem all around us, I felt absolutely compelled to share this happy story with you when it recently came my way.

As with most of my tales, this one goes back a long way. I got to know George and Mary, brother and sister, when we were in high school. Though our farms were fairly close, we didn't go to the same school, so it was through our church groups that we first met.

When the three of us went together to the University, we became real pals. Our dads took turns transporting us to Iowa City -- one parent, three students, and all of our possessions, in one car. Anyone seeing today's kids heading off for college will accuse me of serious memory loss!

We kept in touch on campus and spent a lot of time together at home during summer vacation. I always claimed George was the "brother I never had." Though we started college together, I graduated first because he went into the Army Air Force and became a pilot when WW II broke out. Mary, two years younger, left at the same time for war work in St. Louis.

At war's end, both returned to the University, finished their educations and found spouses. He went to work for a major aviation company in Cleveland, retiring from their executive ranks years later. His sister settled in southeast Iowa where she still lives, the widow of a highly successful farmer.

The three of us and our mates maintained some contact through those busy middle years, but after retirement, when George and wife, Jean, moved to Phoenix, we were together more often.

A few years ago some changes began. George started having some alarming problems. Eventually, there came an Alzheimer's diagnosis and to everyone's distress, he was institutionalized. Next I learned he'd been selected to participate in a study of an innovative treatment for that dreaded affliction. In time it developed that he was the only one in the program, or in studies nation-wide, who experienced a reversal of the devastating symptoms. Therein lies my happy story.

When I answered the phone one day not long ago, a woman's voice asked if this were Margaret Dorr. I assented and she said, "Here's someone who wants to talk to you!" I recognized George's voice immediately. He told me he'd seen my Letter to the Editor in a recent Iowa Alumni Magazine, and wanted to share some recollections from that far-off time. This he did most accurately. Next I inquired about his family and he gave me a detailed account, including the fact that he and Jean, with their son's help, had returned to Iowa recently for a family reunion. Then he asked about my kids. In other words, it was the kind of delightful conversation we would have carried on years ago, concluding with a promise to call again soon.

I know that many specialists feel Alzheimer's can only be positively diagnosed posthumously, so there is room for a misdiagnosis, but in any case, my friend has recovered from a seriously debilitating dementia. This near miracle really made for the happy story I wanted all of you to hear, especially in these days when happy stories seem so very hard to come by.