For you, Mom

If you run two half marathons in 3 weeks, does that mean you can say you ran a marathon? 😉 Yeah I didn’t think so, but it was worth a shot.

Today I ran the half marathon I had intended to all summer. I’ve been training since late May for this, and although I ran a half on August 30th (a PR of 2:32), I really wanted to run today in honor and in memory of Mom, on what should have been her 74th birthday.

I’ve had some bad runs lately and haven’t been feeling great–aching shin around the lump in my leg from my treadmill fall, twinge-y right hamstring, and tender left knee. And emotionally I’ve just been…off. I suppose we all have been though, right? I’ve been thinking all week about the amazing women in my life that are gone, but also the incredible women in my life that I still have. I’ve tried to be a really good friend this week, but also I’ve made an effort to be a good person. I wish it always came naturally, but it doesn’t. So this week I tried to reach out to people who I might not usually and just say “hi” or “what can I do for you” or “thank you.”

So with all those thoughts and feelings running through me, I got up this morning and tried to prepare my head and my body for what I would hope be a decent 13.1 miles. I wore lots of black, including my “You Got This” shirt, and an orange ponytail holder that made me think of Mom. (Orange was her favorite color–her kitchen counters were orange!) I told my husband I may call him in an hour, and if not, he knew where to meet me with extra water and Gatorade.

As I began my run, I first concentrated on how my body was feeling. I started out fairly slow and just kept moving forward. The first half of the run would be similar to the half I did three weeks ago, but by the time I reached mile 6, I was in completely new territory…and I loved it. I’ve driven on the Lapoint Road in Stetson many, many times (I take it nearly every day in the winter) but running it is extremely different. I was able to admire the scenery more than usual, that cool little pond I had never been up close to, that adorable sign with the birds that make me laugh out loud and think of both of my parents. Much of the run on this road was serene and absolutely enjoyable–except of course the corners where there was nowhere to run but on the road and there would always be two cars coming in both directions. Every. Single. Time. BUT, most folks were extremely courteous this Sunday morning and I had few problems.

Once I reached mile 9, my husband was there for fluid refills and to cheer me on. This is where I began my 2.5 mile stretch on the dirt road which I knew would be hell on my feet. Large sections of this road now have this weird roller pattern, so when you drive over it you’re bumping up and down and feeling like your car will shake apart. And running on it is no better. As your foot lands on the gravel, it doesn’t know where to go. My large canoes could feel a bump in the arch of my foot while my toes and heels felt like they were sinking. Other parts of the road had so much gravel that I slid on stones several times–but I didn’t fall!

I could hear my mother’s voice so clearly through the entire second half of the run. All my life I would tell her my worries about my ability to do something–whether it be passing a class or moving to Pennsylvania for graduate school or raising my son or even going for a long run–and her response to me was always the same, “You can do it. No problem!” She had such faith in me which I often envied. But today I thought, “Yes. I can do this. My body and my mind can do this.”

Thankfully, once I was off the dirt road, I only had 1.5 miles to go and it wasn’t horrible. And I suppose it wouldn’t be, because Mom was with me the entire way.

Mom and I with a giant beer at the Roadkill Cafe in Greenville, Maine back in 1995.

As I ran to the finish line (my driveway), my son ran with me the last bit while my husband shot a video. It was a good, strong finish (2:36) with a bit of sweat and a few tears.

Happy birthday, Mom. I so wish you were here to enjoy your coffee and blueberry cupcake.

But maybe you’re in a place where you are celebrated like you should be–with lots of fantastic food (especially ice cream) and an endless supply of good, hot coffee. ❤

I love you so much, Mom. I miss you and your badass self. Thank you for loving me and believing in me. I’m trying to do that for myself now. I think I’m doing ok.

Searching for Signs

Yesterday afternoon after I got home from work, my husband and I helped our neighbor for a little bit then took a short walk. Once we got home, I went for a longer walk by myself. I listened to an audio book, anything so I wouldn’t think too much. Yet as I walked, I had an incredible urge to go to my father’s grave. I haven’t been there since we buried him in May, but I needed to be there at that moment.

As soon as I got home, I told my husband and son where I was going. It’s about a 20 minute drive through back roads in beautiful farm country. I tried to take in the last of the fall colors as I drove. When I got to the cemetery, I parked my car directly in front of the site.

This was the first time I’ve seen my father’s gravestone. It seemed so small to me. My father was not only a large man, but he was larger than life sometimes. He had a great booming voice when he wanted to and his love for his family sometimes seemed larger than the room you were in, you know?

I stood in front of Dad’s grave, said “hi Dad” then waited. I wasn’t expecting him to say anything back obviously, but I was expecting…something. I thought I would feel like he was there listening. But there was absolutely nothing. I felt nothing. I went back to my car, put my head on the wheel and cried. I just needed my father to be there. I needed to talk with him, but I really needed him to talk back. I was hurting and I missed Mom and I just needed my papa right then. I needed him to hug me and rub my back and tell me that he understood. He wouldn’t say it was going to be ok because it wasn’t, but he’d probably tell me how much it sucked, but I would eventually be ok.

Once I got home, feeling sad and tired and frustrated, I got out of my car and saw a small murder of crows flying over my house. I find myself looking for signs of my family everywhere now and I wondered if Phil and Dad and Mom were a part of this group saying “hey” before they went wherever they were going. I had this overwhelming feeling of being left behind and I whispered, “Wait!” They didn’t wait but flew away, as they should.

Foolishly, I decided then I should take care of Mom’s things I had from the nursing home and some of the photos we had out for the celebration of her life. I sat in the middle of my home library surrounded by her things and her photos and her smell that clung to the clothes I was unpacking. I only cried once, but I could feel the loneliness creeping into my bones.

My husband was in his office and my son was in his room. After I finished with Mom’s things, I started to fold laundry in the living room. When my son came out and asked me something, I got upset at him. When he asked me what was wrong, I broke down and in between sobs told him I missed my dad and my mom. My heart was broken but I didn’t want to tell him that. Instead I held the washcloth I was folding close to my heart and just rocked and cried. My poor boy put his arms around me as my husband came out of his office and sat with us. The three of us began to talk and we cried and we laughed and we just were.

We were together.