Each week we will be picking three (3) members to spotlight to tell their alzheimer's story and why they are running in this year's New York City marathon. Check in each day or week for new updates on who will be spotlighted and get to know your teammates...(each person is picked at random)
SPOTLIGHT: Gabriela Patel
My grandmother, Maria Gray, was born in 1929 in a small town called, Questocomate in Mexico.
She had eight children who called her by the nickname "Ama" which means "mother" in Spanish.
Growing up, all of us grandchildren also called her Ama, which was fitting since she cared for us like a mother but also didn't like to sound old by being called "abuelita" (grandmother)!
Ama was always cooking something delicious- Mexican rice, albondigas, rice pudding, chiles rellenos- and would always make enough for us to take home or give to the neighbor.
She loved music and when she wasn't playing Mariachi ballads, she was singing or humming her favorite tune.
In 1995, we noticed a change in Ama. She would become forgetful and at times aggressive.
I didn't think anything of it until one weekend when we were driving to Palm Springs and she began accusing us of kidnapping her.
She said we were going to drop her off in the desert because she was old and we didn't love her anymore.
I was shocked to hear Ama speak this way but knew this was the beginning of the end.
The disease quickly took over. When she was bedridden, she would often come in and out of clarity.
One day, there was a Mariachi band playing on TV and she mumbled "turn it up."
Other times, she would fight with my mother, as she changed her clothing, and then suddenly grab her hand and look into her eyes and say, "thank you for everything."
On Christmas Day, 2003, Ama passed away. I believe she is now an angel watching over us.
I have had to postpone my marathon entry until 2010 but will continue to support the Alzheimer's Association in honor of Ama and everyone else that is affected.