The Bleed Purple 5K for Alzheimer's is for you, Grandpa
For those who may not have noticed, I kind of like my job. Actually, I love my job. The saying goes if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. Although, I think that is a bit of a stretch. I feel like I am as close to being there as it gets.
Never in a million years did I think I would be managing an office of a gym. Never in a million years did I think I would become a personal trainer. Five years ago, I couldn’t lift a toothpick. But here I am…
One of the things I love most about my job is the people I work with. Notice, I didn’t say for. When I took the job at Anytime Fitness in Luling, I knew I was making a great decision. I was going to be working with my buddy Andrew who I have known since high school. It was his sister Jennifer, her husband Ricky and their friend Scott who originally opened.
I interviewed with Jen and I got this vibe from her that this gym was more than just another business and the people who worked here were more than employees. You don’t get that often. Hell, you don’t really get that anywhere.
I love that I walk in and have the freedom to make certain decisions and bring my ideas to the table without judgement and without fear of rejection.
I brought the idea of the Bleed Purple 5K for Alzheimer’s to Jen and Andrew (now part owner as well) about a year and a half ago. One of the things I admire most about our gym is our involvement in the community. Jen, Andrew and Ricky put forth so much effort to others in the community and it tends to rub off on you.
When I told them about my idea for the 5K, there was no “let’s think about it.” There was no “we will see.” The response “let’s do it and make it happen.”
I have grown quite fond of the United Way Bridge Run every year. It is one of my favorite events and one that I look forward to so I figured why not try to bring a race to St. Charles Parish in the winter. Before I ever had the idea for a 5K, I knew I wanted to do something to raise money for Alzheimer’s research.
For those who may not know what Alzheimer’s is…it is a neurodegenerative disease that worsens over time. There is no cure for it yet and it is usually the cause of about 70% of cases of dementia.
- More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s
- Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States
- Alzheimer’s is the only cause of death in the top 10 that can’t be prevented or cured
- Since 2000, deaths from Alzheimer’s have increased by 89%
- 1 in 3 seniors die with Alzheimer’s or another dementia
Studies have shown that Alzheimer’s is believed to be 70% genetic. The reason I want to raise money is because I am a terrified of being diagnosed with this dreadful disease. I watched my grandfather, Ronald Stant, suffer for 2-3 years (at least that we knew) with Alzheimer’s.
While I have sympathy and admiration for anyone battling any disease or cancer as I have seen people close to me go through both. For me personally, I don’t like the idea of waking up and forgetting my wife, my son or the rest of my family and friends.
I also pride myself on the amount of useless quotes, facts and statistics embedded within my brain.
The idea of losing the love for my family and friends and not knowing the world around me makes me cringe. Unfortunately, that is what Alzheimer’s can do to a person. This disease literally makes people forget to eat.
My grandma passed away my senior year of high school due to lung cancer. I figured because of how much she and my grandpa did together and loved each other, my grandpa wouldn’t be far behind. For three more years, he was living his life and doing his thing. However, it didn’t take long for the quality of life to diminish for him.
It was not too much longer after my grandma passed and I was heading to college. I was very fortunate to have my grandparents live so close to me my entire life. They were at my house every day after school so it was like having an extra set of parents…only they could NEVER tell me no. They were always there for me and the rest of my family.
This guy was literally at every single baseball I had. I am not kidding. He NEVER missed one. At least that I can remember. Hell, I used to get annoyed sometimes because he would be there before I even got there sometimes. I would ride with my coach and his son typically and we would get there an hour and fifteen minutes before and there was good old Ron waiting. When I look back on that, he will never know how much it means to me now.
He was ALWAYS there.
I remember in 7th grade NFL Street had just come out and that is all I wanted to do was buy and play that. I did what any sensible 12 year old would do. I told my teacher I wasn’t feeling well and wanted to call home. I called my mom and she said call my grandpa to see if he could come get me. Guess what? Without hesitation, he did. When I asked if we could stop at best buy because there was a game I wanted.
He just looked at me and laughed and said “you’re not sick are you?”
I shook my head and said “nope, not really. I really want this new game.”
To which he laughed and said, “put the damn game in your bag and don’t tell your mother.”
You got it gramps.
I could go on with story after story of things like this that I remember about him. He was a great person to have around. He was the best.
When the time came for me to leave, I made a promise to myself that I would visit my grandpa every single week and I followed through with that. He just lost his wife and the person he cared most about. After all the years of being there for me, it was my turn to return the favor.
Every Sunday I made it a point to visit him. Even if I didn’t come in from Thibodaux, I would make the 45 minute to drive to go visit him if nothing else. So every Sunday for about 30-45 minutes, we would sit and talk. My grandpa didn’t like to sit still for very long so after a while he would eventually say “I love you to death, but it is time for you to get the hell out of my house.” For the record, he said it with love and a smile.
When I first went to school, my grandpa seemed like he was ok. I would visit every weekend and we would talk about school, sports, Mallisa, world events and pretty much anything you can think of. He was still very much with it.
Sports were always our thing. He loved LSU. He loved the Atlanta Braves. He loved the New Orleans Saints. I remember talking to him about guys like Billy Cannon, Chipper Jones, Archie Manning, YA Tittle…those were some of his favorites.
Eventually, those conversations died. Our conversations started becoming very repetitive. I am not sure exactly when or how quick it happened, but it seemed like it happened almost overnight. That is how quick this disease can take hold of someone’s mind. It sucks. It really does.
Our conversations went from all kinds of topics down to just a few. Our Sunday visits, he would tell me about his neighbors (he did not know their names though). He spoke very highly of them. I later found out a story that he left McDonalds fries every morning for the kid who cut his grass, which I thought was awesome.
He would tell me this same story of him in the barracks almost getting beatdown by a higher up in the Marines when he was just following orders.
He would ask how Mallisa was liking her job at hospital (although she wasn’t working there yet).
He would ask about my job with the Nicholls football program. That was pretty much it.
It was like sitting in a time warp. Because for a year and half, I had the same conversation with him every single week. Sitting on the other side of the kitchen table was difficult because this was a man who had opinions about EVERYTHING. I don’t know if I inherited my opinionated personality more from him or my dad. It was tough watching my grandpa lose all the great stories and facts he knew.
His breaking point came when my family evacuated for a hurricane in 2012. For the life of me, I can’t remember which one. But, that is when things began to go downhill.
One of the things you can’t do to someone with Alzheimer’s is take them out of their element and routine. You’re playing a dangerous game if you do. Unfortunately, you can’t leave him here to fend for himself during a storm. My family had evacuated. That was when I think they realized how bad off he was.
When they got back, they brought him home. I don’t remember exactly how long after. It may have been a couple of hours after returning. One of my grandpas old golf buddies found him walking down Ormond Blvd. He was wandering aimlessly because he thought his Jack Russell Terrier, Sam, had died. One of his neighbors saw him leaving and he asked where Sam was. Normally, when he left the house to walk, it was with Sam. He told him that Sam had died. Although, she was still in the house alive and well.
When he was brought to my parents house, they instructed he stay with them. This was a man filled with pride even when he was in his right state of mind so you can imagine what it was like for him to hear that. I remember getting a call later that night that they had to call 911 because he became super combative toward my mom.
After that, he kept being transported from facility to facility because people had no idea what to do with him. It became a huge nightmare for my family. It was maybe a few days after the violence began that he went into a coma. He stayed comatose for maybe a week or two tops and he eventually passed.
All of it happened so damn fast. That is literally the worst part of this.
Despite him forgetting many every day things, one of the things I am most grateful for is knowing that he never forgot me or how much he loved me. He made it a point to tell me that every time I saw him. He would even tell other people. Most people don’t have that with their loved ones.
I was leaving my house to go back to Thibodaux at 3 or 4 am one day and I passed by Circle K and I saw his car. Naturally, I swung it around and pulled into the lot. His car door was wide open, keys were in the ignition and he was inside grabbing milk.
I thought he was going to lose it when he saw me. His ears and eyes perked up. I will never forget what he told the cashier. He proudly proclaimed that I was his grandson and that the cashier was going to see my face on TV one day. He’s going to be one of the best sports broadcasters ever. This was maybe six months before he died. Those words will never leave me. Because of his excitement, he wound up leaving with his milk forgetting to pay for it. I covered it for him and followed him home to make sure he made it ok.
As I sit here writing this from the very living room I used to spend Christmas mornings in opening presents and playing with blocks in, it is just another reminder that my grandparents loved me and would do anything for me. I am constantly reminded of them. The other day I was in the shower and thinking about how much they would have loved Finn. I can’t wait to tell him all of the memories of Mawsie and Pawsie and how his great grandparents afforded us an opportunity to raise him in a house of so many wonderful memories.
The reason I wrote this is to show people how much Alzheimer’s can strip from the person living with it and how much of an impact it can have on those around them. But, to also show that love is a powerful force that is not to be messed with. My grandpa may have forgot to eat on a day to day basis. He may have forgot to turn his car off when going place. He may have forgot the world around him. But, he never forgot to remind me how much he cared about me and how much he loved me.
I just hope that this race can raise more awareness to Alzheimer’s in St. Charles Parish and that we can one day find a cure because I am terrified that I may one day be diagnosed with it. I also don’t want my children or wife to have watch anyone they love go through this. So, let’s attack Alzheimer’s together.
The Bleed Purple 5K for Alzheimer’s takes place Saturday November 18th 8:30 am at Monsanto Park in Luling. Register at Anytime Fitness Luling located at 12225 Highway 90 Suite G or reserve your spot online at eventbrite.com. Message or call me for more information.
Special Thanks To All Our Sponsors:
Staff at Anytime Fitness Luling/Raceland/Houma (Coming Soon)
United Way of St. Charles Parish
Robin’s T Shirts
New Orleans Running Systems
Fishing For Frankie
LeBlanc Wealth Management
Fast Signs/St. Charles Printing
United Way of St. Charles Parish
Honeydoux Cafe and Bakery
To The T Salon
The Broadway Elder Living and Rehabilitation
The GrayHill Realty Team
AM/PM Temporary Services
Planet Beach Luling
El Paso Luling
Winn Dixie Luling