In my mind’s eye, I am about three or four years old, on a fairground carousel, I think it was in New Brighton – that famed St Tropez of the North West. I am wearing a dress, with pictures of yachts, flags in suitably nautical colour scheme, watched by my pops. I am squealing and chirping with delight.
It is now a few years later, I don’t remember which birthday, but I do remember my grandmother, Iye Iye telling me that she received a telephone call from my pops asking to be rescued from my friends! They had all refused to go home, unless my pops gave each one a kiss. He didn’t and they all did go home. That as I recall was probably the last birthday party of mine he ever attended.
Another summer holiday in Brittany, a small place called Nevez, a campsite run by Mme Guefarda. She drove a tractor, served a mean cider, and ran the campsite where I managed to bite my knee – and I am still bearing the scars today. Year after year, we holidayed there, introducing the French holidaymakers to tomato ketchup, and the curiously named ‘tap job’ which was my pops’s favourite ‘torture’ for us kids. Each year without fail, a stream of children would arrive at the tent asking if my pops could go out to play.
A weekend away in Kent, involving us travelling from Liverpool by train, and I was treated by pops to afternoon tea in the dining carriage, en route. I can remember feeling so grown up, being allowed to dine on my own.
Teenage years in Liverpool and the O Level years, when I was by far the most envied girl for one thing alone and that was my pops coming to school and whisking me away for sneaky Chinese lunches.
The other memories are too numerous to mention, and why am I writing this now? Thursday is my running day, but not today, I am visiting my pops in his new home. My pops has Alzheimer’s, a disease that has torn his memories from him, and now has torn him away from his home and family.
His sense of humour is still intact, he still gestures to imaginary objects in the window, to make me look and be fooled. He remembers the famous family ritual of the budgie bounce and practices that on me, with a big grin. His physiotherapist is playing with a soft ball and whilst all the other patients gently return the ball, he rather craftily serves up dummy throws to make the physiotherapist move to catch the ball, wide, high and low. Never throwing the same each time, he takes a wicked delight in his actions, no matter how much I try to change his delivery, he continues to be mischievous.
I miss my run, but I miss my pops more. He can’t really talk to you, conversations are a curious affair of you trying to work out what he means, and answering accordingly, hoping that it makes sense to him. He has his lunch and I note that he still eats very properly, using his napkin on his lap.
I spend about an hour and a half with him, about the same time it takes me to run 11-12km. Normally in that time, when I am running I feel a sense of achievement, of me doing something that makes sense and makes me happy. Today that time is spent with someone who now no longer knows who he is, who I am and what he is doing there.
My running time is occasionally a happy time or an angry time or even a ‘meh’ time, but this time I am not running and it is a sad time. Pops has a tear running down his face, slowly trickling and he wipes it away, I cannot stop the same thing happening to me.
Why write this? It’s not my usual running blog type story, it’s not jokey, but when I run, I can make sense of ‘stuff’. It maybe the stupid stuff, such as what am I going to do in the week, or the big things that are bothering me.
Mr JCR’s uncle recently emailed me to say he had read one of my blog articles when I had my potty mouth on. He pondered on how things change over time, and what is now acceptable wasn’t when he was younger. I think about that now, and I realise my potty mouth is still going to work…
I hate Alzheimers, I hate the fact that the only significant medical research went down a rabbit hole, that pretty much led to nowhere. I hate the fact that millions of families have a loved one stolen from them by a disease that seemingly can’t be fixed, despite the fact that it is going to affect more and more of us.
I effing well hate the fact that this stupid disease is something I can’t fix with running. I can’t fix my pops, I can’t bring him back but I’d love to. But there is one thing I can do, and that is to run when I can for Alzheimers. So I am starting my New Year resolutions early, I am going to sign up for virtual runs for Alzheimers, so when I do run, it may not help my pops, but it will help others.
So Alzheimer’s I am telling you, the combination of me and others, mean your time of devastation is going to come to an end. Fuck you Alzheimers (sorry Alan) – You may have stolen my pop’s memories, but you haven’t stolen mine and you won’t steal my determination to make a difference. Today’s reality of Alzheimer’s is one I am happy to start running from.
Watch this space for my Alzheimer’s running reports.