Some of you might be lucky enough to remember your grandma bouncing you on her lap when you were young. Maybe you are more fortunate and can still see her today to talk about politics or compare thoughts about the Super Bowl half time show or even belly laugh as you line her face up with the newest deformed Snapchat filters.
For my brother and me, we remember the old smell of the nursing home and being afraid of someone else's grandparent wandering the florescent halls of that nursing home. What resonates with me the most was the look in Mommo's eyes. I had met her several times, but each time I showed up she had no idea who I, nor my brother was. Worse, she couldn't remember who my mom was either. Sometimes she would call her Tracy or Colleen, my mom's sisters' name. My mom talked to her as you would talk to a baby, slow and deliberate. Even this tactic would fail most of the time as Mommo would respond with a quizzical look or ask how my mom's boyfriend from high school is doing as if they were still together.
I was young, but I understood when my mom explain what Alzheimer's Disease was and that Mommo suffered from it. Alzheimer's is a type of dementia that effects memory, thinking and behavior. Symptom's develop slowly, but worsen over time eventually interfering with the ability to conduct daily tasks. Mommo's inability to remember us or thinking my mom was someone else was my first experience with this disease. While I understood her memory was no longer reliable, I did not grasp the multitude of the disease at such a young age. She was not in the nursing home because she couldn't remember us, but because she couldn't remember to take care of herself.
Now, recollecting those times, I can't stop thinking about Mommo's eyes. I was a shy kid so I didn't stare long, but I can remember looking up into her eyes and not feeling a connection with her. She was not going to ask how school or baseball was or tease me about girls. Nor did I, shy or not, have anything to say to her. Mommo was physically fine and if it were not for her having Alzheimer's we could have taken walks and I could have asked her about being a nurse in World War II when she met Poppo. I could ask her how she managed to raise 8 kids in the middle of the 20th century. We could have developed a relationship that grandparents and grandchildren share. Unfortunately Alzheimer's took that away from both of us.
When Mommo passed away I will never forget sleeping in her house after her funeral. My brother and I tried to fall asleep in the downstairs room while my mom and her 7 brothers and sisters were up all night celebrating her life. They drank and roared with laughter while they shared memories of their mother until the sun rose. It is this reason I chose the Alzheimer's Association. So we don't have to lose the ones we love to another debilitating disease. So we can preserve and share the memories and experiences that shape us into the people we are. So we can grow old with our loved ones by our side and remember their faces until our final days. For Mommo.
With your help, Alzheimer's Association can provide more care, support, research and raise awareness for this disease.
Day 1 of my trip is planned for June 20th, the summer solstice. This aligns perfectly with Alzheimer's Association's, "The Longest Day" program. During which I will attempt to ride from my starting point at Coney Island to as far as my legs will take me in one day. I want you to join my team too! Bring your bike, any bike, and ride with me as I make my way through Brooklyn, Manhattan and all the way to New Jersey. Bike for as little or as long as you'd like (There is a nice, safe bike lane on Ocean Parkway that spans approximately 5 miles that starts my trip). As the date nears closer, times and car pools will be provided.
But it won't stop there! As I continue my trek across the country I also want to continue to raise money for the Alzheimer's Association. My goal of $10,000 is based on $2 per every mile on my route (rounded up). I am aiming high because I believe in the support everyone will provide Alzheimer's Association from now to The Longest Day to the end of my trip.
Please help me reach my goal by following the link below to donate and please share with everyone. I hope to see you June 20th!