Monday, April 12, 2010

NOT Part of the Plan

So, by 9:30 a.m. EDT on Sunday, April 4, 2010, I had reached the "tapering" portion of training relatively intact.  Tired, a couple of random aches, all sorts of race-related issues on my mind . . . sure.  But, early Monday morning came the sobering news which - while not completely unexpected - still hit me like a punch to the stomach: my father is dead.  Just like that.  So, what follows may be some somewhat random ramblings, part tribute, part gripe, but likely much cathartic drivel.  Thanks for your indulgence.


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.



TiredMamaRunning said...

I don't see any drivel in what you had to say-just very honest words about everything you've been thinking and feeling the past week. I haven't experience the loss of a parent first hand so I can only imagine how complicated it all is, but can identify with the challenging parent/child relationship and being worried about forging better relationships with spouses and children.

Thank you for sharing everything about your journey, Ron. I completely admire how you're trying to get through each day as best you can.

screaminzab said...

Hey Ron-

I appreciate you sharing your heart and thoughts about your father's passing and am sorry for your loss. I am not going to try to wave a magic wand and make you feel "all better," but I am going to tell you something else. You're a great person and friend.

Enjoy Boston, you've worked your ass off for a long time for that little slice of 3 hours and some change. You don't need me to tell you that life can be fleeting. What we choose to do with it is up to us. Your strength and determination has gotten you this far. Let it take over on the 19th.

DogPound said...

Ron, thanks for this.
Loosing a parent is tough, expected, not expected. There really is no way to get ready for this, the emotions you feel now, the ones that will come up along the road.
I have though about you a lot since last week.
Your relationship with your dad sounds very familiar to me, and I too lost my dad right before a very big race. It did help me to have another focus and I hope it helps you too.
Hang in there. While you feel like your foundation has been shaken, you're not alone.
I look forward to seeing you this weekend.

jaysummer4 said...

Thanks for your honest reflections about the loss of your father. The swirl and fog that come with the immediacy of grief is hard to navigate, and only the passing of time brings clarity, or what may pass for clarity.
The relationships that you write about are so much more important than running, but since I "know" you mainly as a runner, my thoughts qickly return to your Boston race. I hope you are able to rest and prepare, so that you can have a great experience, the one that you have worked so hard for.
You wrote that people wishing you peace and strength helped. So I wish you peace and strength. Seriously.

Good luck. Hang in there.


Unknown said...

That was such a genuine post, and I appreciated reading it. I really do hope that the pain fades and you can find some peace. I am sure you are a great husband and father--the fact that you are worrying about it tells me so. Can't wait to meet you this weekend and/or Monday!

L.A. Runner said...

I'm sorry. I was one of those "keep the memories" people. I was thinking of what would comfort me in your situation, which is never a wise idea.

I don't have children, but I've been around them to know a little bit. Your will and drive to be a good father and husband will get you the relationship that you desire with your loved ones. Just being aware of your past and the things you want to accomplish will happen(if they haven't already).

Taking it one day at a time is not a cliche. It's a good, solid life strategy.

I'm sending you strength and comfort. Enjoy yourself on Monday; you deserve it!!!!

Unknown said...

I haven't followed your blog in the past but clicked over to read about Boston 2 Big Sur after I saw it on your signature line on RWOL.
I'm very sorry to hear about the passing of your father-I had no idea that this had happened but then really all I know about you is from your running related posting.
Anyway, I am not the really a great communicator, so when I read this posting, I realized that much of what you had written echoed my relationship with my father. I certainly have never been able to express my thoughts and emotions to anyone in such a clear manner as you have captured here.

My dad died eleven years ago, and it gets easier I suppose, but I am constantly reminded of my relationship with him as I raise my own kids and like you,"I find myself sometimes paralyzed at the thought that I will repeat my father's mistakes."

Not sure what my point is here,and I think I am the one rambling, but from the very little I know about you, you have the character and strength to see some positive in all this.

I'll sign off saying sorry again about your father, and good luck in Boston and Big Sur.


Girl In Motion said...

Oh, you sweet man, I'm sorry you're having to wrestle with these huge issues and memories. I can understand much of what you describe in your father, my mother was someone I wished would have been different than the way she was and while I fought against her for so many years, openly, as you did with your dad, in the end, people are who they'll be.

You have absolutely no worries of following in your father's footsteps. You're already 180 degrees away from his parental skills, words aren't even required to show that, your family photos prove that out - lots of love, right up on the surface for all to see.

Speaking of footsteps, you're going to take some amazing ones in a few short days and I'm excited as hell to get to meet you finally. Counting down until "good luck" is said in person. :-)