Yesterday was Thanksgiving day. Admittedly, as far as missing you goes, it wasn't any worse than other days. And I guess it feels weird to say that the missing you part of my life has shifted from that acutely throbbing way to this dull steady sensation. I've learned to not only live with it but also try my best to channel it for something good. Like you would, you know?
Anyways. I told you after the Army 10 miler that I'd finally tackled what seemed like a far-fetched goal and how seeing your face and hearing your voice pushed me to even try in the first place. This morning I was reflecting on this past year and this whole running adventure that I've been on. I realized that one of the best things about all of it is how it makes me feel connected to you. And that has propelled me, you know? It has.
When that heart attack took you away from us, I felt so cheated. Wait. A lot of days I still do. So I made up my mind to find some way to start fighting and raging against heart disease. And, of course, genetics is genetics but still. I wasn't always as great as JoLai or Daddy about getting that 150 minutes or more per week of cardiovascular exercise. So first, I committed myself to that part. But somehow this idea of running and you looking up from your crocheting to tell me at the kitchen table that day that I could be a runner stayed in my head. It did.
So initially I'd set this goal back in January of 2013 to run a half marathon in your honor. And it was important to me that it be done in 2013 because that was the year of our beloved sorority's centennial and I knew how much this year meant to you. So 2013 it would be. But then came a stress fracture and some set backs so my original plan of running the Chicago Women's Half for the American Heart Association faded into the shadows.
Of course, other goals were realized, so I didn't fret long. I shifted my focus to the Army 10 miler since you had personally encouraged me to do that one. And that race felt like we were holding hands. It really did. That might have been the very best part. And is the very best part of when I run.
This I do in remembrance of you. And sure, perhaps that's mostly spoken in reference to taking communion in churches but for me and running nothing could feel more holy than feeling my beating heart intertwining with yours. I look at my feet and feel my arms pumping and imagine that we are of the same DNA which means we are always, always together. So it always feels good and is, in part, as religious an experience as any for me.
Sigh. Yeah. So on Thanksgiving morning I can say I was as thankful for you as I always am which is a lot. And with that I am super-thankful for JoLai and Will more than ever because they, too, know what I feel when it comes to us and our blended souls. You'd be happy to know that mom and dad have been mostly great and they found smiles and laughter yesterday and have been finding them more and more. But the other thing that happened yesterday was this:
I ran a half marathon. In 2013. Yes. In 2013, Deanna!
And let me tell you about it, okay? It was cold. Like, super cold that morning. 24 degrees to be exact and blistering-blistering on my cheeks and hands. But I double-gloved with mittens on top and a pair of dainty satin Delta gloves on bottom. And I know the dainty Delta gloves is kind of funny but I needed to have something from you on my person.
Ha ha. Goofy, I know.
Anyways. I got stuck in a crap-ton of traffic on my way there and OMG I mean a CRAP-TON. It turns out that a lot of Atlantans were half-crazy that morning and wanted to start their turkey day off with a half marathon or a 5K, too.
I was in Corral D so was supposed to start at 7:45 a.m. Well. By the time I parked and used the potty, it was nearly 8:00 a.m. I was TOTALLY freaking out. TOTALLY. Fortunately, the Profesora in Pittsburgh talked me directly off of the ledge and kept telling me that it would work out no matter what. That this was going to happen and that it would be good because it was connected to you.
She was right.
I literally sprinted from the car to the potty and from the potty to the start and straight into the race. I was already behind and a little freaked out. That made me run overly fast (for me) for the first two miles. Fortunately that caught me up to several of my friends like Frieda and Coach B and Ishan and Tamika and Jennifer. So I'd say that was a good thing.
I did my mile dedications. Most of them were for you but I did dedicate miles to JoLai, Will, Mommy and Daddy, Grandma, the boys, my Ruths and CJ. This past week was the fifth year since CJ made his heavenly transition. I thought of him and of Davina and Ced a lot this week. I remembered how affected you were by their loss back in 2008. I liked knowing I had some angels on my side, too.
The race was tough and a bit hilly but mostly, it was great. I felt strong and able. It kept making me think of that t-shirt JoLai gave me that said "Today I can do anything." She gave me that right around the time that I first started running. So I kept hearing that in my head yesterday while I was running which connected me to JoLai, too.
Yeah. So I kept a decent pace and felt good. And you know? When I got to mile 8 I started feeling a slump coming on. My legs felt tired and I was starting to run out of gas. And you know what I did? I said, "Hey CJ! I need you to loan me your wings for about a mile or so." Sure, I said it under my breath but still, I said it. And you know what? That gave me a second wind. At least for miles 8 and 9, it did.
When I got to mile 10, my legs were very tired. My wind was fine but my legs! Uggh. So there I was trucking under the interstate 85 bridge and chanting to myself "Today I can do anything" over and over again. That or "Come on, Mommy. Come on, Mommy." I wish I could say that it was working. But then the most interesting thing happened. A homeless man who clearly lived under that bridge was standing on the side of the road cheering people on. And he yelled out loud, "JUST THREE MORE MILES!"
And I'm not sure what it was about that, Dee. Like, was it seeing him with that blanket over his shoulders and imagining him having to sleep in that searing cold? Was it the thought of him walking miles and miles just to find a dry and safe-ish place? Was it me thinking of how many miles he'd need to walk to get to a shelter only to find out that it is already full? Maybe. But also it was that number he yelled out.
"JUST THREE MORE MILES!"
Three. Three. Your number. And also a doable task. "I can run three miles," I said. I said that out loud. In fact, I said it very loud. "I can TOTALLY run three miles!" But my legs were protesting. They were saying, "No. No, we can't. We've never run more than ten miles, remember? You are tripping." But then? Then I heard that Drill Sergeant woman from the Army 10 miler with her big, booming voice yelling in my ear.
"RUN STRONG, DEANNA'S SISTER! RUN STRONG FOR DEANNA! COME ON! YOU GOT THIS, BABY! YOU GOT THIS, DEANNA'S SISTER!"
And that? That did it. That right there. And, of course, just the thought of that woman yelling out your name and it making me feel immediately stronger made me cry. No, not immediately. I was okay until I reached the mile 12 marker. But something about seeing that told me that I was going to make it. That it was 2013 and I was going to complete a half marathon. Me.
I'm so glad I saved her voice on my mental iPod that day. I knew I'd need it again. And probably again.
Damn. I couldn't stop crying. Like, literally, I cried for a solid half of that mile and I didn't even care who saw me. Fortunately, I wasn't running with another person and most folks were so dog tired and cold that they could focus on nothing but themselves by that point instead of some randomly hysterical crying black woman next to them.
And you know what? I crossed that finish line and felt elated. Because honestly, I felt like I had just presented you with a very precious gift that I'd been working on for an entire year. And that you'd just opened it before me and said, "I love it! I love it!" And that? That was super awesome. Super, duper awesome.
|"Today I can do anything."|
And even better is the fact that it was a gift to me and all of the rest of our family, too. Which is so amazing, isn't it? I even made it in under my goal time of 2 hours and 30 minutes. My official time ended up being 2:27:51 which, I'm now certain, I can beat in the future. And I will.
One of the first people I saw when I finished was my Tuskegee chapter soror, Ishan. And she's run lots of races but understood what all of this has meant to me. So she hugged my neck and congratulated me in the most sincere and sisterly way. I'm really thankful that she was the first one I saw because she got where I was. She did. She knew of this journey and the look in her eyes told me so.
|with Ishan M.|
Then I saw my sweet Free-Free but somehow in our excitement neglected to take an iPhone picture. (It was a lot colder than it was at the Peachtree Road Race below.) But that's okay because Frieda and I have more races on our horizon so there will be more to see in the future.
But then, this:
The BHE (who refused to be photographed) braved the cold to wait at the finish line. And I cannot even begin to describe how amazing it feels to see your children hooping and hollering right after you just finished running the furthest you've ever run in your life. Especially for this reason.
Zachary was probably the most excited. He wanted me to run some more so that he could run with me. And, of course, he promptly put on my medal and the warmer as soon as he could get it off of me.
That part was awesome. Really, really awesome.
Oh! And you'd love that my other Tuskegee chapter soror Tamika and I had shirts made that said, "TUSKEGEE GIRLS RULE." Which, I'm sure you'd agree, is totally true. We also have hops.
Tamika and I have decided to make a tradition of the post race jumping photos.
Ha ha. Tamika's an awesome sport. I'm hoping to have a giant collection of dorky jumping pictures after a while. Still haven't succeeded at getting your buddy Crystal in on the jumping. What can I say? It's a process. Ha ha.
Later that evening, we had a wonderful dinner that included Grandma Shugsie and lots of very good friends, too. The food was amazing and the fellowship even more so. I am sure that you would have been right in the thick of it and probably at the table trashtalking and playing cards, too.
And every chance I get to live my life with more intention. . . .now I know that just like running. . . this I do in remembrance of you.
Today? I can do anything. It's 2013. I just ran a half marathon. And life is very, very good.
Love and miss you to the moon,
P.S. Thought you'd like this: I routed my long training runs on the weekends so that I'd run past Will's clinic. That always gave me a little charge at the midpoint of my run. (It also gave me a place to use the bathroom and have some water. LOL.)
Happy Belated Thanksgiving everybody. I hope you know that today you can do anything, too.
Now playing on my mental iPod. . . my running power song!