Sunday, 29 January 2012

Let Me Tell You a Story - Part 2: The 2012 Walk for Memories

Yesterday was the 22nd Walk for Memories in Toronto, Canada.  It was my first Walk for Memories, and many special ones were made yesterday.
My Mother's Treasure Team - 2012 Walk for Memories

But before I recount the amazing day we had, let me tell you a story:

My mother was always an activist and advocate,  I'd like to think she taught us well. 

When Davie and I were little, we both remember Mom busily preparing for marches, rallies and events.  She was a member of the Group of 35, young women who tirelessly demonstrated for Soviet Jews to be allowed to emigrate from the USSR.  To read more about their amazing story, please access the following links:  Jewish Agency For Israel - History of Campaign for Soviet Jewry.

I was 6 years old when the campaign went into overdrive.  My memory of that time is a series of flashes or images.  One of them was of demonstrating with Prisoners of Conscience - people dressed in black and white striped uniforms, much like the photo contained in this article about the Montreal 35s (we were the Toronto 35s).  I was the little girl chosen to present a bouquet of flowers to the Captain of a Soviet ship docked in the Toronto Harbour.

I can still see our living room of my childhood home, charged with the energy of my mom and her friends and colleagues before the demonstration, busily reviewing the strategy for that day's events.  I remember feeling PROUD...I got to wear my 'oh so special' green, white and navy floral maxi skirt, and my hair was up in 2 tight pony tails.  Mom rehearsed my part with me over and over (I was nervous).  She explained how important my role was, and how important our demonstration was - we were speaking for those who had been silenced and no longer had a voice.  We were their voice, and we were going to be heard.  We went down to the harbour and waited, and waited, and waited.  The Captain never came out to receive the bouquet I had for him.  I felt so deflated and disappointed as we ventured home, but Mom explained that we made a difference today, and just because the Captain did not come out to greet me did not mean he didn't hear our voices.  That was 37 years ago, and I still remember. 

Eventually the campaign was a success, and our voices were heard.  Thousands upon thousands of Soviet Jews were able to emigrate - to Canada, to America and to Israel (but to name 3).  Ironically, my sister-in-love is originally from Russia.  She moved to Israel and, some years later, to Canada.  I believe in bashert (destiny), and would like to think that this movement helped to ensure that her family had the freedom to move some 15+ years after our demonstrations. you now see, Mom was the one who instilled this need to "be the change you want to see in the world" in her children - thank you Mom.

Walks are not new to us...we Run for the Cure with my friend Anne-Marie and her team, the Pink Butterflies, every year.  But this walk - the Walk for Memories - it was something new.  Alzheimer's has more than "touched" my life.  It has robbed me of my mother and my grandmother.  I have already touched on my backstory in earlier posts, so I won't repeat it here. 

Something changed for me in the past year.  I have started to accept my new normal.  I am learning to appreciate my mother in her new form, though I still hate the disease.  I think that writing about her as she was - pre-AD - has overshowed the negative and pain by bringing all the wonderful stories about her to the forefront. that I can face this disease from a position of regained strength, I can start to fight it...and so begins my next story:

I awoke before the alarm went off at 5:45 a.m. yesterday...I was so excited and eager to go to the Walk.  Our family got ready and off we went, to pick up Dad and Davie.  The energy from my parents' living room all those years ago was back - and I couldn't get downtown fast enough! 

We've arrived - finally!! The stage is behind me

Marilyn!!  I don't think the boa went with my outfit :)

Me and my new buddies!

Sir Elton - fabulous!

Coffee and Candy!  (Hot cocoa actually, but I was going for alliteration)

Poor Becca - so tired...

Candy will wake Becca up!  Me and my angels!

My Mother's Treasure - they are all treasures!

The sea of people behind me!

We arrived at the Brookefield Place and it was buzzing with teams and individual walkers, volunteers and Alzheimer Society dignitaries, and lest we forget the celebrity lookalikes!  Davie's office is in Brookefield Place, so...after we registered My Mother's Treasure Team, we went upstairs and left our coats, etc in his office.  We came down and met Aviva, Joel and Ross, and wandered around, taking it all in.  The opening ceremonies were different than I am used to....maybe because this disease is at my doorstep, pushing it's way into my life.  I listened to Tom Harrington, the event's MC, speak about this disease that has taken his father and now has a hold of his mother.   Then Fiona Reid came on the stage with Art Hindle - holy star power!  Again, she spoke of her mother's battle with the disease, and it sounded much like our own experience.  The message was clear: this disease has no preferred target, regardless of age, gender, skin colour or religion.  No-one is immune.

We did our warm ups and then off we went!  The walk was indoors, through the downtown Toronto underground city known as "the PATH"...which was literally a walk down memory lane for Dad, Davie, Carlo, Sara and I.  Becca was born after our office move which took us off the "PATH".   Our Sara could actually remember certain places that Mom had taken her (and later Becca too), and it was a lot of fun to point these places out to the kids.  This also made the walk pass so fast, almost too fast!  There were bands and cheering volunteers all along the walk, and it was a really fun and inspiring experience. 

By the time we came back we were all feeling a little tired - likely the letdown of knowing the end was near.  As we stood and listened to Tom announce the teams who raised the most money, I looked around the Galleria.  Everyone there had someone they were walking for, an AD sufferer.   Many were wearing shirts with their loved ones' names and faces on them.  One lady had a shirt with a paper pinned to it -- it had 7 people's pictures and names.  Six had passed away, one still with us. And it hit me - we need to keep walking, and talking and raising money to stop this disease... NOW!   There is still time to donate to the cause - the online donation page is open until Monday, February 13, 2012.

Our team was small but mighty this year.  I am hoping that many of you will come down and join us next year, and that we can build an army of AD Warriors (to quote my new friend Rick, the founder of Memory People) and together we can help put an end to this disease!

Oh...lest we forget about the food - Daddy took us all out for a fantastic lunch to a fantastic restaurant Amore - thanks Dad!!  Then we went home and I took a nap!! I never take naps...never!  Then I made dinner, as planned, and it was yummy!  Lasagna, risotto proupettes, rapini and Baba Dora salad - it hit the spot... mmm mmm good!

Until next time, I wish you a wonderful day, filled with family, fun, friends and fantastic food!  B'Tayavon & Buon Appetito!