I have long been enthralled by relay races. By the choreography of passing the baton from one hand to another. By the split-second accuracy. By the blind faith each runner places in the other to make it all work.
Last Saturday, at the second track meet of the season, my son Charlie was part of the quartet of trust.
We humans tend to take life's basics -- running, walking, snort-laughing, listening, friends, music, raincoats, children, parents, pets, pasta, thunderstorms, sunshine, soup, silence -- for granted. This isn't a particularly bold or astute observation; still, it's one that needs to be pointed out at least a bit more often.
Tomorrow, you can be the one to do so. But today, it's my turn. Or, more accurately, it is that of a total stranger, one who didn't even realize she was taking a turn.
She came into Run On, the running store where I work, on Saturday. Truth to tell, if she walked right into my dining room right now, I probably wouldn't recognize her. But I do remember her story.
She sat down across from me in the store and told me her feet hurt. No wonder; she had just walked around White Rock Lake in shoes she knew needed replacing. If she were to do the Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon on March 14, she told me, she'd better buy some new ones.
"You're running the half?" I asked. "How exciting!"
"Oh, I'm not running it," she said. "I'm walking. It'll be my fourth half-marathon. I do it with Team N Training."
(TNT is a program in which participants raise money to fight blood cancer and support patients. In turn, they are trained by certified coaches for various events across the country.)
"I've heard such wonderful things about that program," I said. "If you don't mind I ask, how did you happen to get involved with it?"
"My husband and son both have had forms of blood cancer," she said.
"Oh my gosh," I said. "How are they doing?"
"My husband had a bone-marrow transplant 16 months ago," she said. "He's had some complications, but he's doing OK. My son died last September."
"Oh no," I said. "I am so so sorry."
"He was 35. He had a wife and a precious 3-year-old daughter."
I was tying her shoes while she talked, tying them very slowly and deliberately, wondering whether I would start to cry if I said anything. I finished, patted her shoes, put my hands on my legs and sat up straight.
"What a beautiful tribute you're doing for them," I said.
"Thank you," she said. "I love it. I know it means a lot to my husband, and that it meant a lot to my son."
She smiled, paid for her shoes and a pair of socks, and walked out the door. She wasn't trying to make a point, or to teach a lesson, or to remind me not to take life for granted. She was just someone doing what those who meant the world to her could not do -- walk. Because she can, and because she loves them very much.
I'm a writer who loves to run and who is basically optimistic, albeit a bit hard on myself.
My son (that lovable kid here) may have spent too much of his summer vacation neither reading books not cleaning out his car, but he does have a great sense of humor. In other words, he usually thinks I'm funny.