The last two weeks could most charitably be described as “intense.”
They didn’t start that way. Early in the fortnight, I stuck to my loose schedule of runs. Shortly before I was to head out for interval day—because we all need an interval day even if we don’t particularly want one—I called my mom. She’d called that morning at 1 a.m. Neither my husband nor I had heard the phone ring, and she hadn’t left a message.
I’d talked to my mom the day before because my 80-year old stepfather was having surgery. Yesterday, all was well. Until it wasn’t. My stepfather, a label that doesn’t convey how special he was to me, died during the night.
Sometimes death pads up on little cat feet, one wee step at a time; you can see death coming. And, sometimes, it leaps out from behind the bushes and blindsides you.
After I hung up the phone and started to make some preliminary travel plans, I went to the gym and ran my intervals. Because I could—and because the full weight of losing such a good man hadn’t settled in yet.
I worked in a long run the next day, too, just an easy six on my favorite out-and-back. It turns out that it is possible to cry and run. It is not, however, advisable.
While I am not a big believer in fate, sometimes even I can admit that the universe has arranged for what I need most to fall in my lap at just the right time. Two college friends—yes, I did make a few life-long friends at my alma mater—were staying at our place that weekend so that their teenage daughter could race a nearby Spartan run, which she finished. Her medal is a glorious sight to behold.
Quinn and family live in one of the more gorgeous parts of coastal Maine, which is saying something. We meet up once or twice a year. No matter how infrequently we physically see each other, she’s the sort of friend who always feels like she’s around. She’s also one of the best huggers I know. Seriously. If you get a hug from Quinn, you stay hugged for a good long time.
She’s also a runner. We managed to work in an easy three on Sunday morning before they had to head back north. Later that afternoon, we drove up to Albany so that I could catch a flight to my mom’s at an unholy hour the next morning. But our run was a wonderful capsule of time, where Quinn and I looped the high school track and talked about nothing and everything.
Between the series of pre-dawn plane rides and endless car rides it takes to get to Lee, the wee North Florida town where my mom lives, and the house full of family and the omnipresent grief, I didn’t manage to get any runs in. While my motto may be “run anyway,” I knew my time and energy would need to be spent elsewhere. I didn’t even bother to bring running shoes.
The road leading to my mom’s, however, makes me want to run on it, despite the humidity, the snakes, and the house cat-sized bugs. Every drive up or down it—and there were a lot of those—made my feet itch to get out and get some sweat going. When I cut through downtown Lee on my way to the Jacksonville airport for my flight home, I spotted a flock of brightly colored runners who were about my shape and age running near the one traffic light. I was ready to join them, as well as rejoin my life that had carried on without me while I was in that disconnected pocket of time that surrounds death.
Re-entry has been tricky. The Tween started running a high fever the day I left and is only now close to her old self. The Husband kept the homestead running, because he is a good and capable man, but the edges got a little ragged with only one parent around. Also, the elves didn’t do any of the work I needed to get done, nor did they clean the house. Stupid elves.
Between the end of the school year award ceremonies and catching up on everything else, I’ve been running. My pace and mileage have been less than spectacular. But something is always better than nothing.
Before too long, I’ll have to transition back into training mode for 13.FUN. For now, I’m doing my best to enjoy every opportunity I have to move this body around. It all goes by too quickly, sometimes, and we forget to take notice of the good things we have.