Losses and Gains

Today should have been Dad’s 80th birthday. I say “should have”, although he would probably disagree. He was shocked to make it past 70 and he was 2 months shy of his 78th birthday when he died. I also should have run my first marathon today, in honor of Dad. But neither of those things happened.

Yesterday, just like with Mom on Mother’s Day, I visited Dad’s grave. Since it was a Saturday close to Memorial Day, there were a bunch of people in the cemetery, which I hated. Dad would have waved to most folks that were nearby and say “How are ya?” (although it would sound like “Whyya”), but I just kept my head down and set up our picnic.

Dad used to make whirligigs, some were funny, some obscene, and some were just cute. I didn’t plan well enough but for the moment I placed a few small pinwheels, just to have something moving in the breeze. I brought my dad Cheez-Its, which were one of his favorite snacks. There’s an inside joke between my husband and my dad and they used to exchange a box of these crackers nearly every Christmas. It all stemmed from the time my then fiancĂ© drove my dad to Pennsylvania for my graduate school graduation, and my father ate a whole box of Cheez-Its…and proceeded to have horrible gas…and they were trapped inside this little Ford Escort with hours left to drive. It was something they both used to laugh about and bonded over as only men can.

Once I set out snacks and my water bottle, I just sat in front of Dad’s stone and plucked the grass around it and ran my hands over the smooth stone. I could hear people around me, including a man about 20 feet from me laughing into his phone. I tried to block him and the others out, when I started to cry. I was angry and overcome with that loss again–that emptiness I feel when I realize I can never have another conversation with my father. But also the absurdity of the situation. I was bringing my father treats he would never eat again. His body was far beneath the ground I was sitting on and I know this because my sister and I helped put his body in that fucking hole. And all around me people are planting bushes and flowers to sit around these stones with our loved ones names carved into them. But…why?

I wiped my eyes and started to talk to Dad. I told him I loved and missed him. Told him we were all surviving, how tall my son is, how work is going. The usual things we discussed when he was alive. But Dad also liked to have deeper conversations. For a man that never liked to read, he did like to deconstruct thoughts or ideas. And I know some of what he’d say about his grave and stone. He never wanted to be cremated because he said, “I’ll be close enough to hell as it is.” He was traditional in some ways, hence the funeral home visiting hours, the church funeral, the burial. All the stuff that I hate, but the stuff that he and his wife knew and understood. But as I sat there, I also got it, I understood. In a way, I do like being able to “visit” my father. I like being able to still give him things, even if that’s just a plant or a plaque or mints (my father always had mints of some kind and I leave at least one wintergreen lifesaver every time). I do talk to him occasionally when I’m home or somewhere else, so I don’t save that for the cemetery. Honestly I usually get upset when I go to Dad’s grave in particular because I can’t feel him. I’ve visited his grave on days that I just really wanted to talk with him, and I’ve always left even more bereft then when I arrived because he’s not there. I always think that I’ll feel something, like his spirit is somehow there, but it isn’t. It really isn’t. But…I also don’t even believe in spirits anyway! See how confused I am?

I just want to believe in something because it’s too devastating to think my parents and brother are just…gone.

No longer exist.

Dead. Forever.

So…I continued to talk to Dad. Why the hell not? The cemetery cleared out, the breeze died down and the black flies started to swarm. “Dad, I’m going to go, ok? As you would say, the black flies are about to pick me up and slam me to the ground!” I kissed his grave stone and told him I’d be back next month.

When I drove home, I saw the sign for the Robyville Bridge–a historic covered bridge in Corinth. I had been there before but I felt the need to go there again. I just took a few photos, avoided the couple that was there as much as possible, walked then ran across the bridge. That need I felt to go to the bridge was like a need to feel alive, to experience something new. Even something as simple as looking at, admiring and running across a covered bridge fulfilled that need.

As I woke up this morning, the day I should have been running for hours and hours and had trained for for many months, I figured I might as well try to start training again. So far my leg is better (although I am now aware that could change at any time). My heart isn’t in it as much as before, but hopefully that will change. The run I took was just 4 miles this morning, but it was already 73 degrees and humid at 9am. It wasn’t a pleasant run for the first half. At the 2.75 mile mark, I had to walk (or shuffle) and drink more water. The sun was frying my brain and destroying my will to go on, until I heard the lovely tune of two geese squawking and flying in the sky just behind me. I have this thing for geese, and often wonder if it’s my family hanging out near my house. And today, after the geese flew over, the clouds rolled in and cooled things down just a tad and I immediately felt better. I laughed out loud and decided that my parents were giving me some support and urging me to keep going. So I did.

This afternoon, I took my son to an international food festival at the high school near where I work, and we ate SO MUCH. One or both of us tried a food from every single country they had (except for Japan because they weren’t ready). We couldn’t pronounce some of the foods, a few were things we had eaten before, and others seemed strange but were typically delicious. It was a fun experience and one that I know the rest of my family would have enjoyed. If food was involved, my father would have been happy. He might have been a meat and potatoes man, but he was willing to try just about anything. It was a great way for us to honor Dad today.

Then on the way home from the festival, I saw a turtle in the road. Over the years, my mother picked up many, many turtles and sometimes brought them home. I distinctly remember finding a turtle in our bathtub on at least two occasions. I always stop for turtles and try to shoo them to the other side of the road. Typically my son hates it, but today he helped me and we just walked behind the turtle, moving it along so cars wouldn’t kill it. Seeing the turtle felt like a little “hello” from Mom…if I believed in that sort of thing.

And now as I sit here, thinking about the days ahead, I am a bit relieved that there are a few weeks until Father’s Day and my brother’s birthday–they happen to fall on the same day this year. A double whammy. Maybe I’ll have a few more gains and pluses and good moments before then. Maybe I’ll have more bad days than good. No matter what though, I will keep remembering, keep running if physically possible, and keep my eyes to the sky. Because you just never know, right? You just never know.

Oh My Deer!

Everywhere you run has its challenges. I’ve only run in a handful of suburbs and cities, but the advantage I see there are sidewalks and more clear paths. But the downside seems to be way too many people. I typically run at my home in rural, central Maine. I’ve been run off the road a time or two, and nearly run over too many times to count. Occasionally I know it’s the conditions, particularly the sun in the driver’s eyes. I know this because my husband almost hit me last fall and was horribly shaken up afterwards. I was wearing everything you’re supposed to wear (lots of reflective gear, bright clothes, etc.) but the sun was in his eyes and he just didn’t see me. But so far I haven’t been physically hurt by a driver. I’ve been splashed by puddles, mud, and slush, but that’s par for the course, right?

But for the past few months, I have enjoyed my running excursions outside immensely. This is why:

In the winter, I rarely run on any road but my own. There is little traffic and my goal is just to get a few miles in outside and do it as safely as possible. Last fall, this beautiful creature started to follow me for about a half mile on some of my runs. (Thank you to Joelle, one of my neighbors, for sharing the video with me.) This past week, Bam Bam, as some people have affectionately called her, has run with me every day. I took this video a few days ago. From what I’ve pieced together from some of the neighbors, this deer’s mother was killed and a family took her in as a fawn so she’d survive. (I say “she” because I’m hoping Bam Bam does not grow up to a large buck that could easily kill me when “in a rut”, or aka breeding season.)

So since the fall, Bam Bam has become like a neighborhood pet. I guess she likes carrots, but not from me. She trusts people more than she should, but she’s an absolute joy to be around. A bunch of the neighbors came out to see her today as she ran behind me, all the way past my house which was new for her. She tends to stay in this small 1/2 mile area, but today she ran over 2 miles with me! (Mostly behind me, once beside me, then near my house she took off in front of me and was so dang graceful and beautiful!)

I’m sure this amazing time won’t last, but I can’t tell you how much joy it brings me. If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook and you’re sick of seeing these types of photos and videos, you might want to block me. As long as Bam Bam is around, I will continue taking photos of this lovely creature. I hope it at least brings a smile to your face.

My Whiteboard

I listen to the “Fake Doctors, Real Friends” podcast, featuring Zach Braff and Donald Faison of the television show Scrubs. It’s a great distraction from life and it makes me laugh hysterically when I take walks or do housework. Zach often talks about his whiteboard and how if you want things to happen, you need to visualize them. So he writes things he wants to happen on a whiteboard and places it where he can see it.

I have a whiteboard in my office at work, and I write the annual goals I want to achieve regarding my library. I finally crossed off “Write and adopt a collection development policy” after having it on the list since I was hired. But this summer I added “Do not physically harm another person” after the staff and I had a particular trying day in the library.

I’ve never had a lot of personal goals, though, unless they related to my weight. I STILL want to lose 13 more pounds, but after literally running hundreds of miles this summer AND watching what I eat, that damn scale hasn’t budged. But my pants fit better so I’m throwing my hands up for now!

Occasionally I’ll have a new year’s resolution where I try a new recipe each week or do something that scares me every month, or I’ll have a particular running goal like running a half on my mom’s birthday. But now, after running for nearly 10 years (this December), I have a goal that I’m ready to say out loud. I might even get a whiteboard for home to write it on there, but this is even better than a whiteboard. Because y’all will know what I’m trying to do. The scary part for me is that you’ll also know if I fail.

I told very few people about running a half for Mom–just my husband and maybe a couple of friends. But even with my friends it was just in passing like “I might do this.” Hell, even with my husband, I gave myself lots of outs just in case.

But this is something on my bucket list. This is something I’ve really wanted to do for nearly 10 years, but never thought I had it in me. And yet….I want to have the strength to do this.

I want to run a marathon.

I know, it’s no big deal, right? People do this ALL the time. Yeah, well, it also takes a lot of training and a lot of effort and I honestly don’t even know if my body (or my mind) can do it. But…I really want to and I’m willing to put in the effort to at least try. Being the librarian I am, I’ve been reading books that I own, that my library owns, and ordering a ton of material through interlibrary loan to find a plan that will work for me. I’ve weeded out a few already, but some have just some really great advice or inspirational stories that I’ll probably photocopy to keep me going.

I won’t do an in-person race, even if there are any next year. If I did, it would be the Bay of Fundy International Marathon where you run from Maine to Canada. (Seriously, doesn’t that sound AMAZING?!?) I have a date in mind for next year when I’d like to try and run a marathon at home, but I’m not ready to say the date because as we all know, life can get in the way. Shit happens. I could break my other arm. You never know.

But for now, I’m just throwing my dream out there into the world and I’m hoping I can make it come true. I’ll surround myself with plans and research and opinions. I’ll talk to my doc (who is a runner) and I may even consult a dietician. I’ll buy more running shoes and at least one more pair of shorts. And, of course, I’ll keep running.

If you have run a marathon, I’d love to hear your story or any tips you want to share. I plan to ask at least Kirsten, Kola and Kartika a few questions (and I love that the three friends I know for sure have run a marathon have names that begin with K!).

And who knows? Maybe I’ll even get a tattoo afterwards.