For as long as I remember, my father and I experienced more interpersonal friction than familial harmony. The reasons for that are nuanced and plentiful. He was always (at least in my mind) the voice of "No", the strict one, the one who seemed disappointed in and critical of my behavior and my choices. When the chips were really, truly down, though, he was there for me, but on a day-to-day basis, we seemed to clash on issues big and small, be it politics, expectations as to how sons should treat their fathers (and vice-versa), diet and health choices, financial management, etc. I could make a long list of those types of squabbles, but there's nothing to be gained from such an exercise. And, to be clear, I wasn't a completely innocent victim in the whole ordeal.
Since my father's death, many concerned friends have offered words of solace and consolation. Those who've wished me peace & strength have helped a lot. One college friend observed that on the few occasions when he met my father, he'd seemed very proud of me. That also helped. But, those who - albeit with the best intentions - have said things like "celebrate a life well-lived" or "find comfort in all the positive memories" . . . well, let's just say that those comments have not made me feel much better.
It's very difficult to articulate how one feels after losing a parent. In this case, the natural emotions and pain are complicated by the very complicated nature of my relationship with my father. As I wrote elsewhere recently, when a parent dies, the child immediately feels that much more alone in the world. A constant presence in my life for 41+ years is now gone forever. It shakes one's foundation.
But, in terms of my own situation, what makes me the most sad is that the way things were is now the way they will always be. In fact, the last conversation I had with him occurred about a week before he died. His last words to me were the following: "Please let me know how soon you can come down again, since there are still a few things I'd like to say to you." Try letting that echo within your psyche for a while. Yeah, kind of harsh.
The hope that my relationship with my father would continue to heal, improve and grow is no longer. And I am filled with feelings of regret, sadness, anger, remorse, disappointment, fear, emptiness, etc., as well as with love. And, I am scared to death of being an inadequate husband and father myself. I don't just want my kids to know I love them; I want us to know and understand each other, in a profound and real way. I don't want to talk "at" my kids; I want to have a give-&-take with them. The same is true of my marriage. I want to grow closer to my wife as we age together, not feel like the pressure of modern-day life is driving us apart. And, of course, I find myself sometimes paralyzed at the thought that I will repeat my father's mistakes.
I'm feeling kind like a bit of a wreck, and I'm not sure what to do about it.
So, today I look back one week and think about what may be the saddest day of my life. Then, of course, I look ahead one week, and hope to be experiencing one of the happiest. The Yin-Yang-iness of this is not lost on me, but I'm having trouble seeing the Boston light through the darkness of loss. My Dad didn't really "get" the running thing, and so saying that he "would have wanted" me to do well at Boston and continue raising money for the Reeve Foundation would be a stretch.
But, I do think that Dad would have wanted me to stay focused on something in which I've invested so much of myself, to give it my best shot, and to be satisfied with the final time, so long as I put forth an honest effort.
My training was "in the bank" before my Dad passed away (I did 71+ miles the week before and nearly 50 last week, taking my first rest day since Christmas). Physically, therefore, nothing has changed (save for getting a nasty cold which is still lingering). In terms of being in the right place mentally/emotionally, though, I'm feeling a bit less-than-optimally prepared.
So, I'm taking it one day at a time (really, not in the cliched sense) and trying to deal with work and other non-running issues. I'm trying to view the "Boston 2 Big Sur" double as a well-earned reward for dedication, discipline and sacrifice, all the while doing something good for a worthy cause. I just need to figure out how to channel my sadness and grief in a productive way. I trust that I have the strength to do so, but won't know for sure until I put one foot in front of the other for a couple of 26.2-mile runs in six days.
Thanks for reading and sharing my journey.