Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Staying in Stride

Referring to Suz and Rob as my kids is - in fact - an inccurate statement. Point in fact, both of them are adults. They are adults who at present have full, active lives at least one time zone removed from where they were raised, which is where the Missus and I still hang our hats. I should no better than to refer to either of them as a "kid". Without intending to, it might somehow undercut the significance of their own achievements to date, which are considerable, and cast doubt on the certainty of their respective futures, which are bright. That is most assuredly not my intention as I am beyond proud of the two of them. However, I shall endeavor to be less sloppy in my characterization of them moving forward.

Sunday morning I was thinking about the Dynamic Duo a bit. Each of them is a wonder to me. In significant part, my appreciation of them stems from the size of the heart that each one possesses. The world is filled with bright people....even if it seems now and again that it is nothing more than a cavalcade of idiots. Being bright is not enough. You need more than just intellect or aptitude. You need grit. The willingness to keep going when someone of a less steely disposition will not.

Both Suz and Rob possess that quality in spades. It has always seemed to me that it comes to both of them from two sources: inside of themselves and from their mother. I am fortunate that each has it in abundance. Their excess comes in handy when those of us lacking in it need a little extra to see us through.

I am waist-deep in training for this year's edition of the New Jersey Marathon (I use waist-deep as the current point of reference with the understanding that by the time race day rolls around I shall yet again be in over my head), because my first attempt at it went so well. Also, because I apparently was absent the day we all learned that wisdom and age are travelling companions. I enjoy running. It is not relaxing per se but it is soothing or cleansing. It is a pursuit that - while I am engaged in it - permits me to wash away a lot of the stress and silliness that I encounter - as we all do - in my day-to-day.

Yet, marathon training turns the notion of running on its ear. For me, anyway. It converts an activity I enjoy into one in which I must engage. I have a schedule that I adhere to in an effort to maximize the likelihood of not just finishing the damn race but doing so in a time that pleases me rather than infuriates me. The schedule called for a 10-mile run on Sunday. I was not terribly excited about it. My legs felt a bit stiff from running in the Beach Run in 'Squan on Saturday morning and I had a lot of difficulty wrapping my head around this particular task.

I seriously contemplated blowing it off, manufacturing some excuse why I could not do it. And then I looked at the little stack of clean clothes that Margaret had left for me on my dresser, complete with the unwritten note, "Hey lazy bones, I washed, dried and folded them. The least you could do is put them away." Staring up at me was a t-shirt that I had bought for Rob slightly less than 1,000,000 years ago - when I took him to see Springsteen for the very first time.

I scored truly awful tickets to two separate shows at the Byrne Arena in August, 1999 and ended up taking Rob to both of them. Only the blimp crew had worse seats than we did. And it mattered not at all. From the time the band took the stage on August 9 (the first of his two shows), Rob was a fan. By the time the house lights came up at the conclusion of the August 11 show, he was hooked for life. On the way out of Byrne Arena on one of those two evenings, we stopped at one of the "sanctioned junk" stands to buy him a t-shirt. The smallest size they had was "Adult Large". Being (I think) 13 at the time, we chalked up its purchase as an investment, presuming that some day he would grow into it.

I honestly have no idea if he ever wore it. Candidly, until Margaret brought its continuing existence to my attention a few weeks ago as she was cleaning Rob's room in preparation of our move (Eisenhower had nothing on my wife in the planning department), I had not thought about it in at least a dozen years. It turns out that one of the benefits of running - for me - has been a marked decrease in the amount of me. My walking around weight is 25-30 pounds less than it was this time two years ago. I "un-grew" my way into it. Once upon a time that shirt would have fit me as poorly as it would have my then-13 year-old son. Now? It fits just fine.

Seeing it on Sunday morning made me think of Rob. Thinking of Rob - and the distance that I did not want to run that day - made me think of the final task that Rob and his classmates were required to successfully complete in order to advance from Georgia to the great wide open. Their final mission? A ten-mile run. Complete it and go through graduation and onto the rest of your life. Fail to complete it and go home. In much the same way he does everything - without fanfare and with a quiet, steely purpose - Rob completed it. It was not easy. But it was necessary. And because it was necessary he did it.

I ran Sunday morning wearing that old Springsteen concert t-shirt. And I clipped through my ten-mile run in ninety minutes, which will not make anyone confuse me for Meb but will help me continue to build a base towards making the mark I intend to make this May, which I missed by almost thirty minutes last May.

A helping hand - even from two time zones away. Comes in handy. Especially when one falls behind.


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