The stress of changing jobs had taken its toll by Christmas – adding two dress sizes and three stone. Moving home in January this year meant that the increase continued. If you had spoken to 2011 Me, I’d have told you I ate porridge for breakfast and salad or jacket potato for lunch, then once a week I’d treat myself to Chinese takeaway, and the occasional eggy bread and Yazoo on hangover Saturdays.
Moving home introduced me to dinnertime again.
And boy did I enjoy it. The awkward replacing-the-wardrobe-with-bigger-sizes became much more of a necessity. The jowl began to meet the neck. I couldn’t see my toes.
It was a horror.
“I’m going to run the Fleet half-marathon for the Stroke Association,” announces super-fit Little Sis. Hungry Hippo Me eyes up Little Sis… then agrees to do it too.
It was a long time ago that Granny had her first stroke. I was perhaps on the cusp of being too young to understand, because I don’t really remember it ever being talked about. I remember Granny being in hospital, but not much else.
When I was a child, it was Granny who taught me my love of writing. We would play word games and I would pretend to be an English teacher and pose her questions whilst we baked mounds of jam tarts. It was Granny who had me in giggles over wordplay, and who always framed my poems as if they were Keats.
When Granny had her first stroke, everything slowed down. She had a stammer for a while, and I realised that word games wouldn’t be the same. She had to think more carefully about what she wanted to say and certain letters or words would get mixed up. She was the same Granny of course – I still loved her and she still loved me, and she still made a fuss over whatever scraps of writing I presented to her. But certain things were different.
Last summer, so many years on that you had almost been lulled into a false sense of security, it happened again. This time I was old enough to understand. I saw the pain and the fear and the Not Knowing. My granny is strong. There is nothing in this world she won’t take on – and win. She’s fearless, proud, and brave.
But we’re not. I remember Grandad coming to see us whilst Granny was in hospital. Grandad – a big, gruff bear of a man – suddenly seemed… human. Afraid. Tired.
When Granny came out of hospital this time, the sigh of relief was perhaps a little smaller. We knew that this time was the second time. So does that mean there’s a third? And a fourth?
We live with that Not Knowing.
I am so incredibly lucky, with my family and to still have my granny here – safe, and still sound. Of course things are different, but we are learning what’s the same and what’s changed, and we’re learning to adapt. I love my granny no less, and she loves me no less.
The Stroke Association run a group every Wednesday in town for stroke victims. There’s arts and crafts, and conversation sessions to help with speech. They even ran poetry lessons. But come 2013, as with so many charities, their funding is getting cut. This could mean that groups like the one Granny goes to every Wednesday could stop.
Which is why, when Little Sister said she wanted to raise money for the Stroke Association, I didn’t balk at the thought. (It helped that running would inevitably run off the nine months’ worth of chocolate that was sitting around my waist)
So there I was, March of this year, staring down the barrel of 13 miles. Poppaloo grinned and promised to be my task-master. It was okay – the half-marathon was a year away.
Then I made the mistake of having my haircut at the local Toni & Guy (no, not because it was a bad cut – it wasn’t)… where the guy cutting my hair revealed to me that there was a Basingstoke half-marathon… in October.
Oh yeah, I think. That’s a closer goal which I could work towards.
And there you have it.
I’m just about squeezing back in to 2011 Me clothes (woohoo) and I’ve never felt better. Two days to go to my first half-marathon, raising money for the Stroke Association. I can barely sleep, and I have anxiety dreams of not getting past the start line when I do.
But the support and enthusiasm I’ve had along the way has been incredible. I can’t express enough how much it means to see the JustGiving page tick closer and closer to the goal. I can’t express enough how much I adore every single person who has given words of encouragement, donated money, or even just taken the mickey out of me when I’ve arrived back from a run puce-faced and out of breath. However, there are two people in particular that I want to thank.
For being strong, and wonderful and so brave. For believing in my writing, and for never giving up.
For hauling me around for miles and miles and miles; and for putting up with my whinging all the way around. I am so proud to be a part of this family, and even when I finish this race, I won’t be able to give up running with my dad. He’s just aces.
So, thank you to everyone who has offered advice, support and the odd joke. And I’ll see you in two days.