My Grandfather had several strokes in 2013. The first few caused him to forget some things and people and the man that I looked up to seemed slightly less godlike than he did before. He recovered well, but then it happened again after a few months and after this one his memory of me became a distant whisper. I could see he felt he should know me and others he met. He would often apologise for not remembering, as though having had a stroke and forgetting was in some way bad manners! His behaviour changed and he looked more frail than I ever thought he could. The once strong man became more a shadow of his former self and the strength that once filled his gaze was replaced by frustration. He removed himself from the house he has been in with my Granmother for years, moved into a nursing home and eventually passed away. This wasn’t the first time I’d seen the effects of strokes though.
When I was younger (probably around 6 or 7) my mother had a stroke at an early age. I don’t want to go into details so much but it wasn’t a pleasant thing to see someone you depend on for your survival become completely hopeless. I didn’t understand what had caused it then, but remembering the symptoms I saw and piecing things together its kind of obvious this is what happened. Right now, you wouldn’t be able to say she had experienced a stroke, but not everyone is that lucky.
I know this challenge is going to be hard physically and mentally in parts, but I’m still going to do it. I have relatives who has survived the hard ships of persecution in WWII for being polish and know that the suffering part is going to be optional.
You think you’ve placed your finger on my motivation and drive to get this challenge completed? Maybe you have, but there’s a little something hidden that is hard to admit, even to myself. Like many and selfish as it may be, I do this as much for me as I do for a charity. I am guilty of neglecting that unspoken duty to visit him when he was ill and getting worse. I grudgingly visited him once after his first stroke, and when morals and doing the right thing where the most important, I put myself first and avoided those meetings. This is why this whole thing, raising money and raising awareness is important to me, but the act of running is my way of recognising the incredible strength that both my grandparents posses, having lost all during WWII’s persecution.
I have no interest in the attention that doing something like this is undoubtedly going to bring. I have no interest in setting records. I know that it will appear that this is a self serving enterprise, and you are right… It is, but not for the reasons that seem apparent at first.
So on the 26th of July, at Land’s End, I will pick up a pebble and I will carry it the length of the country, and on returning home, I’m going to place that pebble on my Grandfather’s headstone. My way of acknowledging everything he did in his life time. It will just be a pebble, but it’ll hold countless memories and like the old custom, let him know that he is not forgotten.
What if something goes wrong or I run out of time? I’m going to keep that pebble and train harder and keep repeating the task until I complete the task at hand and that pebble makes an uninterrupted journey between the two furthest points in the UK.
Thanks for reading such a self serving post, but I guess that is the nature of blogging.
You can donate if you see fit at the link below, with the money raised going to Stroke Association who do incredible work with both sufferers and also their families, along side funding research into treatments and prevention of strokes.