My name is Brad Fleenor, and Iam the 2023 Peninsula Walk to End Alzheimer’s Community Engagement Chair. I walk to keep the memory of my grandmother alive. My Mimi was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2008 and from that moment on, my family has been deeply impacted by this disease. One spring day, while I was living outside of Atlanta, I called my Mimi for our weekly chat, and she said how much she missed me and was coming to see me.
This completely caught me off guard. My Mimi, at the age of 74, driving through downtown Atlanta? I thought this must be a joke. Much to my surprise, that weekend, Mimi called me as she was coming through Atlanta stating that she was almost at my house.
Now, this must seem normal to you, but it certainly is out of character for her. Mimi would never drive that far alone. That visit turned into a three-month visit and we had a great time during her extended time with me, from cooking dinner together, to going out and exploring Georgia. Life moves by so quickly, and if we had only connected the dots back then, I believe we would have all chosen to get to spend three months with our vibrant grandmother.
I was the first grandchild, and clearly, I was the FAVORITE, so I thought. Now Iknow all her family was special to her. This was truly her last road trip by herself. Later on, our family moved from the happy times, laughing and celebrating life, to my mom and Dad faithfully taking care of her day in and day out. Having Mimi live with them, assisting her with her daily life activities, was not a choice, it is what they did. We did not have to sacrifice family time, our family was growing, with my sister expecting her first child and Mimi going on all our family trips and vacations, to Massanutten, Virginia Wineries, Charleston, Nags Head and Fort Lauderdale, we sure did have fun and as my mother always says, “we made memories” during these difficult times.
As time went on, the care became too much for my parents to handle, eventually moving Mimi back home to her small town in Liberty, Kentucky, to be near her other children and grandchildren. With my mom and Dad making many trips to Kentucky to visit Mimi, things would never be the same. After a while, Mimi did not know them and now lives in her own world each day.
Why is life so cruel, to take something so precious away from our loving family and rob us of our Mimi? Mimi is still with us in body, however, in spirit she has crossed to the land of memories. I know that she would be very proud of her family.
So, the reason I Walk and volunteer for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s, is very simple, to give hope to those who cannot speak anymore. To be the rock for those who need a shoulder to cry on. And most importantly, to keep the memory of my Mimi alive in my heart!
The Peninsula Walk to End Alzheimer’s committee and volunteers are some of the most dedicated, passionate, and challenge driven individuals that I have ever met, and I hope that you join us for this year’s Walk on Saturday, October 21st at Port Warwick.
Thank you for helping advance Alzheimer's support, care and research.
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