One of my earliest memories of running was watching my Dad lace up some old tennis shoes and shorts and run around the block a few times when he was on one of his 'gotta get some exercise' kicks. He'd get that urge every once in a while. They never lasted longer than a week or two for him, but they impressed upon me, at probably 7 years old, the importance of exercise. The running, in particular, made such an impression that it's become a lifelong kick for me.
I thought about that, as I reflected on various memories of growing up with my Dad this week. Much of the week has been spent with family, sitting at his bedside at his home, and at the hospice, where they are trying to keep him as comfortable as possible in the waning moments of his life.
It's difficult and emotional, of course, but it's also a reality of the cycle life. Earlier in the week, when he was more communicative, he told us he was not scared. He said ready to go. He was stoic, and we have tried to follow his example. Most everyone in the family was able to say their goodbyes. In a sense, we are fortunate. I cover so much tragedy in my job, where death comes suddenly, prematurely, and without the chance to say goodbye.
So after sitting around his bed, basically watching him breathe most of the day, sharing memories and trying to keep emotions in check, I needed a little escape Saturday morning. And for me, there is no better escape than to get out on a run with my long-time running partner, who happens to be my former high school coach.
We've run and talked through births, deaths, marriages and divorces over the many years we've been sharing miles on the road. It just seemed natural that I needed to get away for a little while to get a dose of 'running therapy'. It wasn't a problem I needed to work through. There's no solution to death. It's gonna happen to all of us some time or another. But it was something I wanted to talk about, if only for a few minutes, mixed in with some heavy breathing and sweat.
The death of a parent turns one's life upside down. It is a landmark event that forces one to contemplate the larger meaning of life and faith. It makes one feel alone. The person who has taken care of you, who gave you life, and raised you to become the person you are is gone, and you have to go forward on your own.
My father was a proud man. And he was proud of his children and grandchildren. He's pictured with my youngest daughter several years ago. When I first started at ABC-7, 21 years ago, he recorded the newscasts on his old VCR so he could play them back for me. I almost didn't want to tell him that, yeah, we have those recordings at the station also and I watch them for work. So much goes through one's mind at at time like this. It's difficult to sort through.
Perhaps the place where I am best able to think clearly, without distraction, is on a run. My father's encouragement led me into sports at an early age. Football, basketball, golf, tennis, running. You name it. I tried it, and he generally showed up to watch and offer support. Now, as a parent myself, my father's example is what I have to follow as I try to support to my own children. It's a big and lonely responsibility.
It's a lot to think about. And I'm grateful to have friends like Rick to share the road with as I work through it all. After the run Saturday morning, I felt as if some part of my normal life had returned.
It will never be the same. But we move forward, putting one foot in front of the other,
See you on the roads......