Today, I’m joining the fight against Alzheimer’s by running around a high school track with my best friend. I’ll run for an hour, she’ll run for an hour. And we’ll continue like that all day long. We’re doing it because we want to raise awareness, money, and hope that one day we’ll live in a world without Alzheimer’s.
I’m also doing it to honor my grandmother.
My grandma, who we all called Bami, was a high school English teacher and librarian with two masters’ degrees. She was a crossword puzzle whiz and literary enthusiast. Her passion for words and her love of language is something that lived on through my dad, and now through me.
I was in middle school when she got Alzheimer’s. I can remember watching her sort silverware in our kitchen after a family dinner. She would take a utensil out of the dishwasher basket, and sort of furrow her brow before putting it in the drawer. I remember her looking around hesitantly before closing the drawer. Puzzled, I opened the drawer and saw all of the knives, forks, and spoons mixed together. She had lost the ability to sort silverware.
She tried to hide the loss of her every day skills: She still wore a watch, and when asked for the time, she’d say she didn’t have her glasses to read it. In reality, she didn’t know what the numbers on the watch face meant. She couldn’t use cash; she’d ask store clerks to take the right amount from her wallet.
What stands out to me as the true horror of this disease is that she knew what was happening to her. She knew she was losing her mind, and she was terrified.
We chose to run an ultra-marathon relay on this day because we couldn’t think of anything we could do that was harder physically that would honor those suffering with Alzheimer’s. I estimate that I will run more than 15 miles farther than I’ve ever run before, and I’m scared.
But we have a secret weapon:
We asked all of our donors to tell us if they’d lost or were losing a loved one from Alzheimer’s, and we’re carrying those names around with us on the track, one at a time. When it gets painful and we just want to stop running, we’ll be able to look at those names and know that our Longest Day just doesn’t come close to the anguish those victims and their families had to deal with every day.
Kim Maas is participating in Alzheimer’s Association The Longest Day™, a sunrise-to-sunset relay to raise awareness and funds for the fight against Alzheimer’s. Click here to follow Kim and her team, “Team Running to Remember,” during this 16-hour event.