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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Almost to Six.

The third tote was heavy in its fragility as I struggled to keep it under control, navigating the uneven steps and cracked sidewalk. This one was larger than the others, and my lessened sense of balance and heftier, shapelier frame battled my self trust and balance.

I saw him motion, from the corner of my eye, waving his cane in an up-and-down arc, as you might wave a flag. I turned towards my elderly neighbor from his perch on his porch, where he watched the days and people go by. He was mouthing something as Kyle passed behind me with another tote on his way to the car.

I set my tote down and crossed the tiny patches of grass and abandoned flower beds that we called yards, to better see what he was trying to say to me, only me.

Kyle passed again, projecting his hello to our neighbor as he disappeared back into the house.

"Are you moving out?" he asked, nodding.

I took a step backwards, his words colliding square with my chest, knocking my already truncated air supply down a notch.

"What?"

"Are you moving out?" he repeated, smiling gently.

Kyle's footsteps in flip flops drug behind me, another tote to the car. I turned to watch him navigate the stairs, exercising caution as he felt my eyes fall on him.

"No," I forced a small laugh. "We're getting married on Friday. We're taking the decorations to the florist today."

My elderly neighbor's cloudy blue eyes followed Kyle as he shuffled past again.

"Oh, just hearing the way you two fight sometimes ..." he faltered as I looked down at my bare feet, palms pressing against my already aching lower back. He cleared his throat. 

"Congratulations."

I forced another laugh and thanked him, returning to my abandoned tote and the overloaded car, sighing deeply as I realized I would have to rearrange everything to get it all to fit without endangering the vintage china and glassware I'd carefully been hoarding over the past year. 

When we would return over the weekend, my elderly neighbor would motion me over again and hand me a ten dollar bill, and tell me a woman in my condition shouldn't be working as hard as I was. 

I smiled and thanked him, making a mental note to write him a proper thank you card.

*****

I find comfort in that it rained this year. Every year since, the weather has been near identical to the day -- sunny, unseasonably warm, bright. But not this year, the date falling on a Friday once again. It rained and rained, skies overcast and clouded, the hint of winter on the tips of the wind and the edge of the raindrops.

I spent my sixth wedding anniversary cleaning my house, for the home visit from the social worker from Children's Services to determine if my home was fit for the children I made it for, the forms for food stamps on the dining room table, waiting for questions to be answered before being submitted. 

He was there. And the girl, the girl who cried tears of joy for the first time in her life six years prior, she couldn't understand how this boy who promised her safety and security and love forever and always and no matter what, how he was gone without remorse, without a look back.

How the family we made wasn't worth changing for, trying harder for. 

How this could be the result of nine years of effort, of hope.

We are getting a divorce, he said. We are no longer in a relationship. We will never be in a relationship again. This is over.

The day before, he had told me I deserved a nice anniversary, that he felt bad for ruining yet another one.

I have never been able to grasp his disparities.

I kissed him one last time, as he left the home we made for us. His condescending laughter at what I'm sure he saw as a desperate measure gave way to muffled sobs and for a moment, we held on to each other as we choked and struggled to breathe, his quivering lips on my forehead as I couldn't bear to look him in the eye.

And then he was gone into the rainy night and so with him the last of my resolve, of my belief in what we should have been, what we could have been.

This is what I get for believing in fairy tales.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Grief, Manifested.

It is a pair of black tweezers in the medicine cabinet.

I remember standing in the make-up aisle at Meijer some midnight, fresh off of losing my previous unremarkable pair. I've always had a touch of trichotillomania, and the inability to tame my self-proclaimed wild eyebrows triggered some sort of fight-or-flight response, the panic raising in my chest. So there I stood, weighing my insufficient options in the dead of night because for how little I have ever been able to control in my life, I could at least make sure I had impeccable eyebrows.

I wanted Tweezermans, but you can't just pick those up at any old 24-hour super center. So I went with the pair that looked the most similar, stainless steel powder-coated black, from Revlon.

They were the worst tweezers I've ever owned, so much more likely to gouge my delicate eye area than actually pluck a hair, and yet I held on to them for the better part of a decade, as back-up for the inevitable time where I misplaced my better pairs.

Now, they're gone.

I figured as much would happen -- keeping them upstairs, in the kids' bathroom, meant they were fair game. The coating had long since begun to flake off, and any semblance of a sharp edge had long been dulled. I had ceded them to general use years ago.

Yet I keep reaching for them, right before I get in the shower, where the light is better on the whole than in my bathroom and I can see all of the microscopic downy protrusions that escaped my purview in other spaces.

It is the thing I am catching myself doing despite knowing better, the simple habit I haven't yet broken.

It is the reminder of the loss that is happening, here.

Other things were easier -- rearrange the shoes, take up the extra coat hook, put away all the laundry that usually piles up into empty drawers, buy more hangers and use that closet, too. And there have been the littlest of joys, like putting the fleece blanket on the bed and both duvets into the cover (something I've always wanted to do, but never could before) because I don't need permission, and how I've rearranged the bedroom means the cool night breeze actually hits me while I sleep, without another body to absorb or block it.

In most ways, it feels like the first time I've been able to breathe in longer than I realized, the first taste of that being in California at BlogHer.

But when I reach for those tweezers, in the now mostly-empty cabinet, the air catches in my chest, barely creeping its way out of my lungs in a way that makes it hard to stand upright.

We have lived together for eight years, in this house for seven of them.

Except now, we don't.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Let's Try It Again, This Time With More Soul: The 2014 Air Force Half Marathon.

Twelve weeks isn't a whole lot of time to beat your body into submission.

Especially when you work nights, which used to be your running time. And half of your scheduled runs are in the part of summer when you travel, and the other half are somewhere in the chaos of three different school schedules starting for the three other people you live with, plus all the extra appointments and meetings required to get the two students of the house all ready to go. And your brother gets married. And your husband moves out.

So my hopes weren't high Saturday morning as we pulled onto Wright Patterson Air Force Base at the literal crack of dawn with my venti Pumpkin Spice Latte nervously clutched to my chest, that this half marathon would be anything I'd be proud of.

And I should have been, because I wasn't running it for me. I was running it for Dayton Children's Hospital, in Kiedis' name, thanks to all of your generous support.



You all raised $760 dollars, you know that? That's TRIPLE what I needed to be able to run.

TRIPLE.

I cried like a baby, I'm not even going to lie.

So I knew I would give it my best shot, despite never getting over eight miles in training and missing most of my long runs. Despite the fact that both my sports bras and my shoes were shot and neither were giving me the support I so desperately need. And despite the fact that emotionally I felt so drained by everything that it truly was a miracle that I could put one foot in front of the other without falling flat on my face and staying there.

My hope was to finish in three hours, which would have been a great deal over my time from last year.

And this course -- only one person tried to tell me about this course. That it was uphill the whole way, not just at the giant hill at the beginning that is a near mirror of the hill I live on and run each and every time I walk out my front door to run (I laughed out loud through mile one and two while people around me acted like that hill was Mt. Everest. Because that's my every run, y'all) but that the whole thing was on this slight incline and it so rarely recovered back down.

My ass is still on fire. STILL.

But running through the base I've lived around all but two years of my life, that was something. To see the security forces soldiers that lined the course in their full uniforms, directing runners cheer us on -- that was my brother, in Texas and in Italy, while my children were being born. Along the officer's quarters, the families that came out and played music from their running cars in their driveways, with the small children nervously holding out their hands for high-fives -- I slowed for each and every one of them, making gentle contact and signing thank you to their families, not just for being there that morning, but for making the choices they have with their lives that means I have the rights I do.

And to the one dude, who had a garden mister rigged up to his outside hose and some PVC contraption to made a run-through mister station? BLESS YOU, SIR. BLESS YOU.

I ran on the streets that I've always driven since I've known how to drive -- the roads I take now to get from my kids' school to my hometown in a heartbeat. I ran along the back of my college campus, high-fiving my alma mater's mascot while I was cheered on by students bearing their school pride for the place I grew up visiting my mother at work, then later attended.

I smiled a lot. I gave thumbs up to a pregnant woman running alongside me for a while, and to another whose shirt read across the back "If you're running behind me, then you didn't train either." I choked up at the maybe 12 year old boy who had a tag safety-pinned to the back of his shirt that he was running for his aunt who was watching him from heaven and for the elderly gentleman who shuffled along, a similar tag on his back dedicating his run to his now-disabled Marine, at home.

I had thought about making a shirt with Kiedis' picture for this same purpose, but I had an official shirt to wear for Children's. I should have made a tag thing. Next time.

There were soldiers from every branch, runners supporting Wounded Warriors and the USO and other countless military and veteran's organizations. And, despite my politics, growing up in this town I have a somber respect for the people who make the choice to defend our country. You don't live in an area like this without feeling the stinging loss of those who don't return from their orders -- whether it's a classmate's parent when you're young to your actual classmates and friends as you grown into adulthood -- Dayton is a military community, and we all know that this life comes with sacrifice both great and small.

And I thought about them as I ran ... and then walked a while, and then ran again. There was more walking than I'd like to admit, but it gave me time to let it all sink in, this run and the people that came together to support me in doing it, the differences made in my life and that of my childrens' because of this hospital and this community and having called the Miami Valley home for the last 28 years.

And, I even managed to see a college friend celebrate her 30th birthday by running her first half marathon, on her actual birthday. I briefly caught up with her early on, but I don't know when she finished. We've been friends for about ten years now and to see how far we're both come in that time, well, it meant the world to me to be able to see her while she tamed this beast.

Other than that, I didn't see anyone I knew until I was yards away from the finish line, and there were my children with their father, yelling and cheering.

And, as I'd been planning on doing since about mile nine, I ran to them, reached over the railing, and pulled Kiedis onto the course to finish the race with me.

Because without him, none of this would matter.

He laughed and cheered and grinned, holding my hand the whole way. And I sobbed, because there is nothing that is impossible in this life. Babies with broken backs will learn to run. Women with broken hearts will heal and stand on their own two feet. Soldiers will come home and have lives and broken families will reunite and everyone will have new appreciation for the simple things, like the ability to run races.

And, in this case, one under-trained runner will finish a race at exactly 2:44:59 with a pace of 12:34, three seconds faster per mile than last year (on average), and she will let her son take the medal from the soldiers waiting at the finish line, because this race was his in the first place.

But she'll steal it back later, for a feminist selfie, of course.

I talk a lot about hating running, but that's not entirely true. It is a physical manifestation of my love-hate relationship with everything, with life and my body and the world around me. But after each run, whether is is a mile or 13.1, I am grateful for the body and the life that I have, and for the world I am allowed to live in.

I will absolutely run another race. And maybe I'll even make it to the Princess Half one of these years, ready to take back and make mine new memories in missed opportunities.

Because nothing is impossible, when you put your heart in it, put one foot in front of the other, and refuse to give up.