Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Moving, Moving, Moving

I am not a runner. In fact, I am not an athletic person at all. Growing up, the only sport I really participated in was swimming and really I only did that in the "I swim on the country club's summer swim team mostly so my parents can socialize" kind of way.

I didn't like balls coming at me, or balls that I had to chase (really? what's the point of that?) and so I just avoided most sports completely and willingly accepted myself as "non-athletic."

As a mother with children who are athletic (and of course now I'm also the wife of a soccer coach), I have learned to appreciate sports but still mostly in the "I'm just here to sit on the sidelines and socialize" kind of way.

And I was fine with all of this.

But earlier this summer, a friend who is helping to organize the Pekin to Peoria St. Jude Run (a satellite event to the Memphis to Peoria run) tried to convince me to sign up. At first, I just laughed but she insisted the event isn't about running, it's about raising money. And she insisted anyone - runner or not - would be able to participate. But still, I balked. Too many other things going on this summer. I didn't need one more thing to fill my schedule.

But then I had two friends who unexpectedly found themselves St. Jude parents. One of them was the friend working so hard to convince me to join the run. Another has a 4-year old diagnosed with a brain tumor. In the back of my head, I kept hearing a voice.

"Why are you resisting? So running is hard, so what? It's no harder than what these kids are doing. Don't turn your back from this opportunity. You have something to give, and you have something much larger here to receive. Do it."

So, I signed up. And in the roughly two weeks since I started "training" (boy, do I use that term loosely!) I have racked up about 16 miles. That is approximately twice as many miles as I have run in my entire lifetime prior to this point. (Probably not as exaggerated as you may think. :) )

And guess what? I like running. Or more specifically, I like the way I feel after a run. I like that I have discovered I CAN run, a lot further than I ever imagined - up to 3 miles at a time without stopping so far. I like the quiet time to myself, and I like the camraderie of running with friends.

I do run slowly though. Partly I think because I am such a terrible runner and partly because I have a lot of slower music on my iPhone. I like to pull up the playlist and hit "shuffle" and then get lost in the songs that show up and the meaning they have in my life.

There are a lot of songs on my phone right now that relate to my dad.

Earlier tonight, I was clipping right along in my run... just about to reach the 2-mile mark and only a few blocks from my stopping point. I was doing great, focusing on my breathing, enjoying the spirit lift that comes when you know a good workout is coming to an end.

And then the song on my phone changed and suddenly Josh Groban's "To Where You Are" began to play.

Who can say for certain
Maybe you're still here
I feel you all around me
Your memory, so clear

It's such a beautiful song, and it speaks right to my heart.

And right there, I stopped running and started sobbing. In the middle of the block, right there in the street, sweat pouring down my face amidst the tears. Gut-wrenching, ripping your heart out sobbing.

You see, just before I left for my run tonight, I got a text that my little sister is engaged.

:)

This is GREAT, happy, WONDERFUL news! It's the kind of engagement that makes you say, "finally!" because you've known it was coming for many years now. My dad knew Ben, my dad loved Ben, my dad knew Ben and Tiffany would get married one day.

But now it's happening and my dad isn't here.

And I jump back on the grief roller coaster again.

I felt the same way last May when my other sister graduated from high school. There are certain life events that you just *expect* your parents to be present for. High school graduations, college graduations, and weddings are not out of this realm. Many people take them for granted.

I never did.

With each passing milestone in my life, I thanked God for the presence of my family. My dad started chemotherapy two weeks before my wedding and as he walked me down the aisle, he brushed away hair that was just starting to fall out from his eyes.

But he was there.

I don't have any pictures of myself with my dad at my college graduation (an unfortunate slip-up that still haunts me to this day) and only one of us together at our house before I left for my high school graduation.

But he was there.

And when my first three children were born and I was miscarrying my second baby in the emergency room of the local hospital, my dad was there. The hand holding mine in the photo just after Elisabeth was born (while I braced for a shot for stitches) was my dad's.

Again and again and again, my dad was there. Because he wanted to be.

And I know he'd want to be here for my sisters too. And sometimes, I just get so mad at the unfairness of it all. It's not fair to them, it's not fair to him. It's not fair to my children.

Fly me up to where you are
Beyond the distant star
I wish upon tonight
To see you smile
If only for awhile to know you're there
A breath away not far
To where you are

It's not fair.

Damnit.

And I feel guilty too. Guilty for the experiences I got to have that they won't. Guilty for wanting more. Guilty knowing some people don't ever have the kind of relationship we had with a parent, let alone get to have it for 34 years.

Are you gently sleeping
Here inside my dream
And isn't faith believing
All power can't be seen

As my heart holds you
Just one beat away
I cherish all you gave me everyday
'Cause you are my
Forever love
Watching me from up above

Just yesterday, I was emailing with a friend who lost her father a few weeks ago. As I explained the concept of "grief bursts," I thought about how long it had been since I'd experienced one. They're the sudden, unforseen things that suddenly set you off and they happen when you least expect it. I cried when I heard a stranger whistling at Wal-Mart, but did just fine when my 10-year old son made sure to include his Papa Tebben's birthday on his new planner. Sometimes, the happiest of events are the ones that evoke the strongest, aching longing deep in the soul.

That's how I'm feeling tonight.

Life is moving on. And of course I know my dad is watching and smiling. I know he's even smiling as he watches me, the emotional one, work through and process all of this with excitement, tears, and finally... writing.

I know he'll be there. I suspect he will even make his presence known.

And I know he's proud that we all keep moving. That we all face the challenges in our lives and keep moving, moving, moving, trying new things and not shying away from the things that seem hard.

We all just... keep... running.