The Ghosts Of You And Me
There have been so many things I have done in my life I am not proud of. So many mistakes. For all of the times if have fallen down, I have always found a way to get back up. My decisions, good and bad, have made me who I am, and I have very few regrets. One of the days I do regret is May 15, 2010. Not because of my words or actions, though they weren't anything to be proud of, I was in a hospital room fighting with my dying mother. But because of the things I didn't say.
I never said goodnight. I never said I'm sorry. I never said I love you.
Nope. I was in a bad mood. I was selfish. It was Saturday night, visiting hours were almost over, and there were beers I needed to drink. Besides, even though you were sick, nothing was going to happen that night. We were coming back the next day. I was going to bring you Rita's, like my future intentions somehow made up for my being a douchebag in the present. The next day came, but not how I thought it would. The next time I would see you, you were on life support. I woke up at 6 a.m. in a drunken stupor to the messages that the cancer had caused you to have a massive heart attack overnight. They didn't know how long the machine would keep you alive. Some car accidents don't hurt as bad as that instant sobriety did.
You died that day. It wasn't the first time, or the last time, I felt like my world came crashing down around me. But it was the most painful. It's been almost 5 years. The road from that day to today has been long and winding, with lots of detours, pot holes, and speed bumps along the way. Watching you die convinced me to quit smoking. Before I would quit drinking, I would go to the bottom of many bottles in search of you, or something, or anything. When I did finally sober up, I started running. I don't know whether I was running away from something, towards something, with something, in search of something. In the beginning it didn't matter. In some ways it still doesn't matter.
The running changed me. At first it was just physical changes, then mental. It made me stronger. But I still didn't have peace. I still didn't have acceptance. I still had guilt, and regret, and so much pain. As the miles piled up, and the races came and went, I remembered so many things. I had always thought my early childhood memories were full of so much pain. But now they were what I was latching onto. Why? Because even in all those times when everything was wrong, when you were broken, crying, alone, defeated, there were two things you always told me when things were at their worst. "Goodnight. I'm sorry. I love you." and "Broken homes don't make broken people".
I realized at the end of last summer that the pain I was holding onto wasn't because you were gone. It was the pain of my inability to forgive myself for what I didn't say on May 15, 2010. Like that night, I was still being selfish. But I still wasn't ready to let go. I spent a lot of time looking for what you had left me. If I couldn't hold onto the guilt, what was there to hold onto? Where would you be? What did I have left?
Then I found it. I found it in the sparkle of those two big blue eyes of my little girl as she stared up at me while we danced in the living room while watching Cinderella. I found it in the infectious laugh of my little boy while we snuggled on the couch watching Saturday morning Disney cartoons. You left me love. Now it was my turn to give it to my kids like you gave it to us. Through all of my failures and my successes, you were always there to hold my hand and love me, no matter what. You taught me how to be a good parent. You taught me it was ok to make mistakes. You taught me that your children are the most important thing in the world.
So, what does this all have to do with running? When I signed up to run tomorrow's marathon, I knew this would be it. I knew I was going to move to Florida. I knew this would be goodbye to New Jersey, to the people, places, and things of the past. Even though I moved to Pittsburgh in 2004, I still never really left. But this would be different. Most importantly, I knew it would be time for me to say goodbye to the piece of me that was still holding on to you. He needs to go with you. Not because I need to forget about you, but because I only have two hands, and these kids are going to be needing them for awhile. I am finally ready to let go.
But there is still one more run to go. I need you to hold my hand for 26.2 more miles. Before I ran Chicago I asked you to give me wings, I knew I'd never qualify for Boston without them. No wings tomorrow. Just your company. I need you to run with me one more time. No fear, no pressure, no expectations. When we get to that finish line I can let go for the last time, and the piece of me that is going with you can finally be at peace, and I can take these two little sets of hands and head into the future giving them all of the love that you gave me. And whenever I need to find my mom, I won't have to look any further then the smiles of my son and daughter to find her. Or I could just go for a run, because these two legs seem to always be able to find where you are.
Goodnight. I'm sorry. I love you.
5/10/2015 05:34:13 am
Wow....just read this very moving article ON Mother's Day. My mom passed away 2 months before your mom, also from cancer. I can totally relate to your feelings of guilt. I started running 10 months after her death, trained with Team in Training, & ran my first half marathon 4 months later in memory of her. I haven't stopped running....LOVE it. On every run, I encounter a butterfly, which always makes me think of my mom :). Again, GREAT article that brought tears to my eyes. God Bless You, & never stop running.
5/11/2017 09:56:55 pm
That was written beautifully, sorry for your loss.
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Every day, every minute, every mile. Make them yours, no one else is going to do it for you. "There is no finish line."