On Thanksgiving Day I ran my 50th and 51st race since starting my mission to complete 100 races in 52 weeks on June 15th. It wasn't until October that I realized based on race cancellations, changes, and additions that I would hit the halfway milestone on Thanksgiving. Not only was it the opportunity to reach the halfway point on a great holiday for which I have so much to be thankful for or to reach and surpass halfway a few weeks prior to 6 months in, but it was much more than that.
For those that haven't heard the story, Thanksgiving of 2004 marked one of the most significant events in my grandmother's battle with Alzheimer's Disease. Every Thanksgiving for as long as I could remember, even when she was no longer was able to cook all of Thanksgiving dinner as she had done for most of my childhood, she always made her famous stuffing. Seriously, it was the best stuffing ever (of course, I may be biased). That Thanksgiving was no different.
Shortly before my grandfather passed away that same summer, they had moved next to my parents. The morning of Thanksgiving my mom and I picked my grandma up and took her to church. Shortly after we returned and dropped her off, the doorbell rang. When my mom opened the door, there was my grandma crying hysterically. When my grandpa had passed away, we sent our family dog, Michael, to live with her and keep her company. He was about 14 years old by that time, so I thought sure he may have passed away while we were at church. However, in between the tears, my grandma started to say "My house is on fire! My house is on fire!"
Both my mom and I were confused and quickly ran over to her house. I reached her house before my mom and upon opening the door was met with black smoke billowing out of the house. Her house was, in fact, on fire. My mom ran back to their house to call 911 as I attempted to keep my grandma away from entering the house. I can still hear her saying "Michael's in there. Brad get Michael out!" For the next 5-10 minutes I crawled in and out of the house, attempting to find our dog, while coming out of the house to get the chance to breathe and keep my grandma away. Eventually, I couldn't take the smoke and heat anymore and walked my grandma back to our house. For the next 10-20 minutes, I did everything I could to comfort her as she cried about her home, our dog, and how upset my grandpa must be with her even though he had passed away. After some time, I had to ask my mom to take my place because I simply wasn't strong enough to sit there and see my grandma in such a state.
The house was a total loss and they eventually found our dog lying behind my grandpa's chair - the same place he would go whenever he was afraid. He was untouched by the flames and the fire chief told us he wouldn't have suffered because the smoke was so toxic he would have passed quickly, even greater proof we were lucky no one was inside. The fire had originated in the kitchen, where my grandma had started to boil water to cook stuffing for Thanksgiving dinner, but forgot about the pot on the stove before leaving for church.
It was that day that we realized the day had come that our family had tried to prepare for, but was never really ready for; it was the day we realized my grandma's battle with Alzheimer's had progressed to the point where she could no longer live on her own. Not only that, but it was just the beginning of days that would be harder and harder until she passed in 2011.
I started this entire mission out of hope instead of the helplessness I felt during that day and my grandma's entire battle. Hope to honor my grandma, hope to find a cure, and hope that someday families watching loved ones battle the disease might not experience the emotional pain of watching their loved ones suffer through this disease. Reaching the halfway point, and surpassing it, on a day that only a few years ago was one of the toughest days on my family felt like a huge victory for me and only strengthened my resolve to push on through the next 49 races.
Here's to hope