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Edith, Darrell Royal fight Alzheimer's, hope to raise money

Associated Press Modified: October 31, 2012 at 3:03 pm •  Published: October 31, 2012

"There's a lot of discussion. What the earth looked like from space, how'd you eat in space, how'd you go to the bathroom?" Edith Royal said. "Charlie says, 'There's three pages in the manual written about that. You can read it. I'm not talking about it.' It's funny."

Duke remembers the party.

"It was a fun time and that was a great evening," Duke said this week. "After my flight, we used to see (Royal) quite often. I sure enjoyed his company and his love of country music and golf."

The Royals also had given Duke a Texas flag to take to the moon. They had previously loaned the flag to the LBJ Presidential Library and it will be part of the auction. Duke had tried to do a "Hook'em Horns" hand signal for a photograph on the moon but couldn't make it work in his space suit.

The 88-year-old Darrell recently fell and cracked a vertebra, and he will likely start using a wheelchair full time.

"He's in the falling stage now," said Edith Royal, who is 87. "He can't stand alone."

Watching the disease's progress has taken a physical and emotional toll on her. She is often reminded to take care of herself while taking care of her husband. The assisted living center regularly warns residents that the stress of the care giving can kill the caretaker.

"I've seen that happen" among her neighbors, she said. "Until you suffer with it in your own family ... You just live in a state of grief."

Laughter helps. Royal still manages to pull out the one-liners that made him a favorite with fans and reporters.

"The other day, he said, 'Edith, I have to go to Hollis. Uncle Otis died.' I said, "No, Darrell, Uncle Otis didn't die.' He said, 'Well, Uncle Otis will be glad to hear that.' You have to see the humor it in it sometimes," Edith Royal said.

Sometimes Royal asks to speak to their daughter Marian and son David. Marian died in 1973 after her car was hit by a university bus. David was killed in in a motorcycle accident in 1982. The Royals have another son, Mack.

Edith Royal tries to keep to a frantic pace that keeps her from slowing down. She recently collaborated on a book, "DKR, The Royal Scrapbook", and about a month ago had an operation to remove a lump from one of her breasts. Doctors told her the operation was a success and she won't need chemotherapy or radiation.

"I've been through a lot in my life," she said with a sigh. "Maybe when this is all over I can lie down and rest for a while."

That's when she points to the wall and a framed wooden engraving of a plow and wagon on a farm.

She was just a country girl grinding out a living with her family's cotton when she met Royal in high school. Both worked hard to build a better life, crisscrossing the country with head coaching stops in Mississippi, Canada and Washington state before they landed in Austin and never left.

"I come from that, pulling that wagon," she said of her roots. "I hope it made my heart strong."