“Old age is the most unexpected of all things that happen to a man.” – Leon Trotsky
My Dad drove me to the starting line of my first marathon—the 1981 Philadelphia Independence Marathon. Four years later he took the “big one” at the young age of sixty-five. I was twenty-seven when he checked-out. The summer before he passed, he would walk three miles to my house, mow my two-third-acre lawn, and then walk home in the sweltering Delaware Valley heat while I was at work at the shipyard. My Dad lived an active life—he golfed often, laughed heartily and enjoyed beer nearly as much as his sons, and now his grandsons.
My Dad’s sudden death shook me and I began to experience chest pains of my own. I went to a cardiologist who diagnosed me with mitral valve prolapse, a non-life threatening condition that doesn’t restrict physical activity. The cardiologist prescribed isotrate, and when I asked him if there was an organic alternative he became indignant—the nerve of a commoner questioning a schooled Man of Medicine. Well, I said, screw him. I got a new doctor who told me to take an aspirin once a day. Thirty years later, I’m registered for my thirteenth marathon, and lost count long ago of the other endurance races I’d completed—and I’m still kicking.
I’d once heard that as you age you become more like your parents, and now realize that I am my Dad. One of the dominant traits that we share is that I never stop moving. My thirteenth marathon will follow a four-year hiatus from the sport. During my absence from the marathon circuit I had two knee surgeries and my orthopedic surgeon told me that I have more arthritis that he cares to see in someone my age. He suggested I restrict my running to the 5K or 10K distance. I figure, what the hell’s another twenty miles.
Father’s Day I’ll run for my Dad, because we never ran together when he was here. While I’m at it, I’ll run for my Mom, who scoots around on a red electric wheelchair, goes to dialysis three times a week, ignores her dietary restrictions and has an eternal glimmer in her eyes. I’ll also run for my sister who has multiple sclerosis and never asks anyone to do anything for her. She determinedly motors around, always asks everyone what she can do for them. She never stops. I’ll run for a friend I met at the park where I run who’d had an apparent stroke at some point of his life. His contorted body struggles to get out of his truck and he expends more energy walking twenty feet than I do on my hour run, yet he is always there. He never gives up. He’s amazing. I’ll run for the guy in the electric wheelchair who buzzes along, his wife with the long blonde hair at his side and his daughter with the curly blonde hair on his lap—she’s too cute. None of them seem to be distracted by the wheelchair, it’s their gig.
I have plenty of people who inspire me to run, and I’ll keep on running for as long as I am able. When my time is up, I hope I take the “big one” during a run. That way I can be sure I’ll have a smile on my face when I check-out.