90-Year-Old Golfer Helps Wife Living With Alzheimer's

Posted at 8:25 PM, Nov 23, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-23 22:08:01-05

A Nashville man has been living out a real-life story of the popular movie, The Notebook, as he visits his wife, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease, in the nursing home every day 

Jim Straka is a dedicated golfer.

The Nashville man walks his own bag 18 holes every morning and only missed 11 days last year because of wintry weather.

But what’s perhaps most remarkable is his age.

Jim Straka is 90 years old.

“You know I get up in the morning and I can hardly wait to get here,” he said.

Jim, who wears knickers and plays with a wooden putter, usually shoots in the 80s.

“My handicap is so high I have to park in the handicap parking,” Jim joked.

The seasoned golfer plays with three other gentlemen who hold Jim in a high regard for what he does both on and off the course.

After each three-hour round of golf, Jim loads up his Cadillac sedan and drives ten minutes to a West Nashville nursing home.

“Did you win today,” a woman at the front desk asked Jim. “Did you beat the young guys?”

“No, no,” Jim replied. “But I had fun.”

Jim sports a smile and a good sense of humor everywhere he goes.

At the nursing home, Jim makes it a personal goal to stay particularly upbeat for his late-morning visits with the love of his life.

Betty Straka, 92, has been married to Jim for almost 20 years.

The two met on the dance floor and got married in December 1999. He said they fit as much in their marriage as most couples fit in 75 years.

But Betty doesn’t remember the details like Jim.

She was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2012 and has suffered 30 mini-strokes.

“There’s only one attitude: Accept what you can’t change and be happy with what you’ve got left. What else are you gonna do?”

Every morning just before lunchtime, Jim picks up Betty from her room and leads her in her wheelchair to the first floor sunroom where they watch the birds feeding outside.

He pours her a cup of her favorite smoothie recipe which he makes fresh at home every morning.

“There’s no such thing as a bad day,” Jim said. “Some are just better than others. She’s doing real good today. We got her laughing.”

Jim has found that singing a simple song can help trigger Betty’s memory.

She chimes in every few words in a song that ends with the couple looking into each other’s eyes and singing “I’m in love with you.”

Betty struggles to vocalize her love for her husband. That’s why Jim carries a letter in his glove box that Betty wrote him years ago.

“This is a letter, honey, that you wrote me a long time ago,” Jim explained to Betty before reading it to her.

After hearing the words she once forever inked on paper, Betty reached out her hand to touch her husband’s face.

It’s a touch that keeps Jim coming back to the nursing home every day. Because even if he misses that rare day on the golf course, his daily visit with Betty is one appointment he’ll never miss.