GOLDEN, Colo. — Family of anyone suffering from dementia will tell you: memory is more valuable than any type of currency.
And if memory were currency, Dr. Robert Marshall was a rich man.
“He was one of the primary folks with the Denver Cardiology group,” his daughter Marla Marshall Haley told us.
Marshall’s family told us he was one of the sharpest minds in his field, training dozens of other doctors.
He was healthy; a runner who ate right.
Then after he retired, something changed.
“He started to sort of fail maybe 10 or 12 years ago,” Haley said. “He started getting lost coming from these restaurants he’d go to every night.”
Diagnosed with dementia years ago, Marshall now lives in a home for patients with various levels of memory disorders. His disease has progressed to the point where he often struggles to remember words and phrases.
“For being such a brilliant person – I think it’s really hard for me to see him now,” Haley said. “But he’s still happy and he can still crack a joke.”
“When I was in high school … he’d wake me up before school and go running,” his youngest daughter, Lisa Marshall, remembers. “We went to classical music concerts together…we just shared a bond and that’s not gone… you know we still have that.”
“He has about a 10-second memory,” Haley said. She said if she gets up to use the restroom and come back, her father often doesn’t remember she had been there.
But memory is an amazing thing.
When Lisa Marshall was preparing for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s this weekend at City Park, she was going through old boxes to find a photo of her father for her fundraising page. She came upon an old record with a note inside.
The note said the record was a song her dad recorded in 1956. It went on to say that all these years later, Dr. Marshall had sent it away to have CDs made, so his children would have a memory of him.
“Unfortunately, no one knows where the CDs actually ended up because he started to fail right after that and we’ve never found them,” Haley said.
Haley found a record player and recorded the old song on her phone. She plays it back for her father at the memory care facility.
“He remembers the words and you can see something in his head that he’s trying so hard to remember the rest of the words,” she said.
“Just sort of a nostalgia…. Something that was very important to me at the time,” Marshall said when asked what he feels when he listens to that song.
“It turned out better than I ever thought it would,” he said.
As a matter of fact, during the course of our 15-minute interview, Marshall kept bringing up the song.
“That’s the amazing thing about music…it just blows my mind… that he can forget everything else,” Lisa said.
Even after she found the record, she still hasn’t listened to it or heard her father sing it.
“I’ll listen to it when the time is right,” she said as she fought back tears.
She had an important message for the hundreds of thousands of families going through the same thing.
“Alzheimer’s is not the end,” she said. “And as much as it feels like when your loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s that you’ve lost them… they’re not gone.”
The Walk to End Alzheimer’s is Saturday in Denver’s City Park. Marshall and his family will be walking. If you’d like to donate to his family’s team and help raise money to research this horrible disease, click here.