So there I was at the end of last week’s blog – on my way to the two minute silence for Remembrance Day, to pay my respects.
I went down to the village playing field where they let off a maroon at 11 o’clock. A small group had gathered, waiting quietly expectant. As the rocket exploded into the air, heads bowed and silence fell.
Then from the edge of my vision, a large bearded collie dog, running, lead trailing, right past the assembled group and heading at top speed for the road. I stayed feet frozen to the ground – circling in my mind, the thought: “Respect, or rescue?!” Then, with apologies to Grandad, I was off, running down the pathway to grab the lead and calm the dog, just before the second maroon went off.
It was an unusual way to spend the “silence”, but coming from a family of animal lovers not a bad way to “remember”.
The past has been much in focus over recent days – I took a trip down memory lane, literally running through childhood locations, as if through my own mental picture book.
I was visiting old friends in the area where I grew up. I ran past both my schools, primary and secondary, the hill between them seeming steeper, but shorter than I recall. I ran past our old house, wondering who lives there now, what’s it like inside? Of the shops opposite, only the butcher’s on the corner remains the same – a sausage and mince time capsule.
I ran along the road where moon-faced flasher man caught me – the details of this location etched so clearly on my mind, I could have accurately painted or described it without ever setting foot there again. It holds no fear for me now – he wasn’t there of course, and thanks to the EMDR therapy he’s mostly no longer in my head.
Then on to a good memory, the coastal cliff top, stunning views across the sea, and a steep winding descent to the beach. On impulse I decided to run right down to the shore – a half-mile descent – wheeeeeee, wind flying in my hair, the fresh sea air filling my lungs, remembering hot summer carefree days, playing in the water, fooling around on the sand, eating ice-cream. Then of the course the long climb back – that too a memory, of trudging home damp, sand-covered hair, towels and clothes – tired but happy.
At the top of this beach road are cliff top gardens, the Downs. It’s where my grandmother used to bring me, and my brother and sister, for Sunday tea – a time for sedate strolling. Unlike on my run, me hot and sweaty, bounding along.
I’ve been thinking about memories this weekend too. I was away in the south east, running a marathon and visiting good friends. I’ve been many times over the years, but this time was different – their close-knit family unit no longer as one.
Dave, who’s 60, has PCA, or posterior cortical atrophy, a type of dementia that affects spatial awareness and understanding. He requires full-time care and earlier this year his wife Katie had to make the agonising decision to find him a residential home.
Her life now is divided between bringing up their 15-year-old son, visiting Dave, and working hard to pay the bills. The damning effects of dementia not just on one life, but on three.
We took Dave out on Saturday afternoon – a bright sunny day – to feed the ducks, then tea at Sainsbury’s and shopping. We had a fun time, chucking handfuls of bread to quacking beaks, filling ourselves up on sticky cakes and buns, and me pushing the trolley of groceries racing Katie with Dave, in his wheelchair, to the checkout.
It was as we left Dave back at the home – his room surrounded by trophies and photographs of his past life racing motorbikes – that an overwhelming sense of sadness came over me. A fun time, but not one you’d opt for if you had a choice.
Running my marathon the next day, as the going got tough, I kept this thought in mind – my choice, my own free will to be there putting myself through temporary pain and suffering. I know that if Dave could have, he’d have swapped places with me any day.
It’s remembering people like Dave and how dementia has affected them and those they love, that spurs me on to keep plugging away at my 50 marathons and writing about it. My memory marathons – 34 down, 16 to go.
To support my BRACE fundraising go to www.justgiving.com/Jo-EarlamBRACE