I actually chose my charity before I picked my marathon. I had read about a few people picking a charity after not getting into their selected marathon, but I figured I’m running 26 miles, I should do it for more than just myself. That’s a thing for me. I really feel like in all aspects of my life, I stand on the shoulders of giants. My family and the struggles they battled through to make sure I had a better life is a big deal to me. I’m only one generation from shotgun houses with no central air. Looking over the available charities, one caught my eye. The Alzheimer’s Association. It piqued my attention because it’s a disease that has and still affects my family and for me one that really conjures up some serious rage. It’s a horrible, disgusting affliction in my opinion.
My family members who were affected by this disease are people who I looked up to. I could see them and their effects on every generation of the family. To me, they were examples of perserverance in a time in the south where it was downright dangerous to be a successful — whether real or perceived — African-American. Oh wait! That still exists, but I’ll stick to the subject. And for the most part, they were not successful. They were pretty poor. But they raised my parents. By the time they had us, we were in a two-story, 3,000 square foot home. To jump from a shotgun house to that in one generation is not something I can fathom. Talk about a winning game plan.
The first is my Aunt Cecilia. For most of my life, I only knew her as “ain’t ceesa” — the middle school cook, seamstress and then stay at home mother. As my mother would say about her sewing skills, “she could look at an outfit on a manequin and make the exact same outfit.” When my mom makes this statement, I’m immediately in awe. I remember when I was 10-years-old and my mom made a skirt for me. I needed it for some event for school. She forgot about it until the day before. We got home and she checked my homework and cleared me to go watched TV. After 40 mins of some Discovery Channel (yes my parents encouraged my nerdiness pretty early in life) I was called upstairs to try on a red plaid skirt. You couldn’t tell me that wasn’t magic! She never left to buy it from a store. It wasn’t until 9th grade that I learned more about her life. My mom and her siblings made most of their clothes. During that time, despite growing up nine-deep in a three bedroom home, my mom and her siblings had been teased about being the stuck up kids because of their nice wardrobe.
By 9th grade, I had had my growth spurt, was only two years into public school and was very aggressive towards the people who wanted to tell me that my pointless knowledge about sharks and scholastic book club membership was nerdy and proper english equaled “talking and acting white.” I credit these women, who somehow passed this attitude on to me.
Or my dad’s mother, Velma, always Granny to me. I remember listening to my grandmother talk about her life. She ran an egg farm. Her chickens produced 300 eggs per day. THAT’S A WHOLE LOTTA EGGS. Talk about a business woman and I bet it was all organic, not by design though. Things like this were awesome to me. On top of the fact that she eventually had a total of 11 kids. All of whom, my dad included, turned out pretty well. I still can’t wrap my head around having any kids. Under the best circumstances, it’s not an easy thing. But out of abject poverty, these women shaped a man and women who made me. Despite my shortfalls in life, I know I’m blessed to have them, not just for the support system but also the resilience they built up in me.
The reverance I have for these women is nothing compared to my parents. My mother can’t talk about my Aunt Cecilia without her voice cracking. My dad seems to shut down when it comes my his mother. There has been recent discussion of having to put her in an assisted living home. I don’t know what’s harder — knowing that these great women have to meet their end like this, or seeing my mom and now my dad’s anguish because of their feelings of complete helplessness. No amount of success that these women were an integral part of — my mom’s master’s degree, my dad’s successful business, their three daughters who never had to know the same hardships as they — can stop the fact that they don’t always remember what day it is or who we are. And I have to accept my own helplessness. There’s nothing I can say to ease my dad’s hurt.
After deciding on the Alzheimer’s Association, and checking them out on Charity Tracker, I looked for marathons the organization participated in and one’s that were friendly to first timers. When Runner’s World listed the Chicago Marathon in it’s Marathon Guide, my eyes locked on “superb organization.” Y’all know I get really angry about disorganized races.
So I’m raising money for them. I have to raise at least $1,000 and I have been slacking a bit. Mainly because of my own issues. But every time I’m running I think about these women who made me who I am, I inherited my stubborn ways, and realize nothing I’m dealing with is as bad as what they dealt with in their life or right now. And if running 26.2 miles means one person doesn’t have to watch a loved one suffer from this evil disease, then 26.2 miles is nothing.
If you are able, please donate here. No donation is too small.