My Kind of Town: A Tale of Two Marathons

She did it!

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She inspires me too! Sign by her friend Heidi, who biked and Ubered the route to cheer Lauren to the finish.

My niece Lauren conquered the Chicago Marathon yesterday.  Not that there would have been one shred of disappointment otherwise, but she ran every, single, agonizing step in her 26.2 yesterday.  Every.  Single.  Step.  Agonizing is my word, not hers.  That girl smiled every step of the way, and I swear on all that is good and true in this world, her makeup didn’t even run.  Not even after pounding out the first eleven or so miles in the pouring rain.

Until several months ago, Lauren wasn’t a runner.  She was an incredibly fit, young twenty-something graduate student (speech-language pathologist in the making–so, so proud!), but not a runner.  Like not even hahahaha, I’m a runner.  But Lauren committed to running the Chicago Marathon as a member of Team Momentum, the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s support and fund-raising team, and suddenly last winter she sprung it on us that she’d committed to a full-on 26.2.

She sent me this photo early yesterday morning, and I couldn’t even talk.  My son and I were ready to hop the Hiawatha Line to Chicago’s Union Station to be part of marathon madness, and when I saw the photo, I was grateful for waterproof mascara.  I couldn’t talk.  My husband was all, “What’s wrong, what’s wrong???” until I showed him the photo.  And then I shared it with the world on social media, because goodness should be shared.

Ninety minutes later, still seated on the train, my boy and I spied runners crossing over the Chicago River from Union Station, and because I am a freak about time, I felt like if we didn’t get out there RIGHT NOW, we would miss Lauren.  It took about forty minutes, in a not-light kind of rain, to find my sister- and brother-in-law in the throng.  And let me tell you what an inspiring, encouraging throng it was: positive energy flowed from every cowbell-shaking, sign-carrying, hollering-for-anyone-whose-name-or-team-name-could-be-read-from-their-jerseys sideliner as the marathoners passed by.  The runners smiled, waved, cheered, thumbs-upped back to their adoring fans.  If you weren’t moved by the buzz, even in the deluge, your heart must be made of stone.

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My kind of humor

We first spotted Lauren at the 13-mile marker, the halfway point.  She ran over to us, hugged us all–enormous grin the whole while–and kept hammering.  I cried.  We spotted her at mile 17.  I cried.  We spotted her at mile 20, still radiant, and I cried.

When she began to pick up speed at mile 25, I cried.  Afterward, Lauren said that when she saw the one mile to go marker, she just picked it up and, I believe her word was sprinted to the finish.  I can’t disagree.  Look at her!  Smiling still, waving, taking it all in, even faster than the 25 miles before it.

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After her thermal blanket and medal were around her shoulders and neck, we hiked another mile north to the MDA’s race team headquarters, a snazzy, downtown workout facility.  My sis- and bro-in-law joked that we couldn’t possibly complain about our own aching backs, knees, ankles after, you know, Lauren had COMPLETED A MARATHON, but I was beat.  They were beat.  My son was barely hanging on.  BEAT.  As we trekked that last mile, (well, technically my boy and I still had another mile-plus walk back to the train station), my kid admitted finally that he needed a break.  And snacks.

See, the whole reason we’ve embraced and been embraced by the MDA is because my son has muscular dystrophy, and while Lauren killed 26.2, my boy crushed his own 10.4 miles yesterday.  And yeah, I cried. It was the theme of the day, after all.  The boy complained not once, not ever, but did agree that maybe hailing an Uber from mile marker 20 to mile marker 25 would “be nice.”  My son gets this posture when he’s fatigued, and he held that position for much of his day yesterday.  But you’d never have known how exhausted he was by speaking with him.  My son isn’t one with the social gifts, and he’s fourteen, so not what you’d call “chatty,” ahem, but he smiled for the camera as his weepy mother demanded.  Well, sorta.

So the moral of the story is this:  As Lauren demonstrated, you can do just about anything you set your mind to.  You can change the world for a kid with a horrible muscle disease, and lead by an example of determination and goodness.  You can reduce your aunt to a blubbering mess repeatedly, and she’ll only love you more for it.

We usually spend our days in Chicago looking up at its marvelous architecture, but yesterday was spent looking ahead, and the view was magnificent.

Chicago, you really are my kind of town.

Awaiting Sentencing 

Last December, I wrote that Homeland Security led a multi-agency raid on a house distressingly near ours.  It occurred so closely you could feel the battering ram vibrating in our home.  Not hyperbole, by the way.   Interested in reading about my pre-dawn wake the hell up call? Check it here.  We learned late in March that the Feds were acting on information suggesting (and later proving) one of the homeowners was in possession of child pornography. What the actual fuck is so broken in an adult male that he derives sexual gratification from viewing photos of boys, including toddlers, forced into sexual activity?  No words could express my disgust; I’ve tried, yet they don’t come.  The WTAF above is as near as I’ve been able.

Today (now yesterday) was the first genuinely beautiful spring day here. We retrieved our patio furniture from their winter home high in the garage rafters, and after assembling and cleaning, I enjoyed some time in bliss: sitting outdoors, reading and singing along with the cardinals and sparrows.  There was a shindig at the neighbors’ place this afternoon, like a PARTY, and I don’t know why (well, OK, I sort of do) it bothered me so, but it did.  Soaking up the warmth, simmering in my disgust, the party, to me, the mother of two pre-teen boys who live doors away from a man whose child porn collection was so extensive as to warrant a pre-dawn federal raid, felt inappropriate.  Judgey, who me?  Yep.  This time, I’ll surrender to that accusation.  You betcha.  Per the local news outlets, the guilty party is home on a GPS-monitored anklet until sentencing, and party, apparently is the operative word.  And it’s not like an innocent until proven guilty thing–I’m not one for violating one’s US Constitutional rights nor am I playing judge and jury–it’s a done deal.  He’s not reported to be a perpetrator of sexual violence toward children, only in possession of such images.  Which is what?  Like the least bad guy in hell?

Later on, oh let’s say right about now hypothetically, I felt feel conflicted that I harbored ill will toward the hosts and party-goers.  Maybe it’s his last days until he gets locked up, and his loved ones are sending him out BBQ style.  I watch Orange is the New Black; I know that non-violent offenders can sometimes delay the start of their sentence like Piper did. (Editor’s Note: it’s probably best not to base your knowledge of the criminal justice system based on  OITNB and old Law & Order reruns). Who am I to judge?  Oh wait, we already covered that (see paragraph above if my train wreck of thought is confounding you–you’d not be the first to need a road map through my rants and raves, or as I like to call them, observations).  Sometimes I am a reactionary for jumping ugly quickly, but other times I am a naif for granting the undeserving too much leeway.  Maybe I’m just a decent person who (foolishly) persists in believing in good and second chances.  Or maybe it’s none of my business.  It forced us to have “the talk” again with our children, so there’s that silver lining.

Because it was so lovely, I began my Couch-to-5K for about the fifth time today. Sixth.  Maybe seventh, but really, who’s counting?  I am no spring chicken and still have potential to be physically fit, so I run/walk until I can run.  I’m not going to lie though, friends.  It’s tougher each spring, and I SWEAR I can hear my joints jostling as bone slams into bone during those run intervals.  I know for a fact my heart was near to beating right out of my shirt.  But I did it.  My 800th or whatever Day 1 of running happened.  I run because I can, and sometimes when I’m certain I cannot go one single step further, I think that my kid can’t run a 5K.  So I persevere.  Not really for him, but to remind myself and maybe demonstrate to my child(ren) through my actions that we can do hard things through exceptional effort, and that the effort is worth it.  My husband was at baseball practice with Junior, Jr. and he texted me “how was your run?” when I got home.  Here’s my reply.
  I hate running, but I love having run.  Yep.  Exalted, y’all.

5-7-5

A few years back, a friend invited me into his Haiku circle.  During the last 10-12 years or so, he has built a group of writers who are invited weekly to submit a haiku, and through it, I’ve “met” people I’ll probably never meet.  You learn about people though as you read their seventeen syllables–their joys, trials, disappointments, wry observations, dreams.  No one but Paul, the moderator, seems to craft a haiku each and every week, but I always enjoy my Friday invitations (sometimes more than the resultant haiku themselves in fact) and reading Paul’s Haiku Unity Clearinghouse (PHUC –wink-wink-nudge-nudge get it??) the following week.

I’m contemplating this week’s seventeen, but can’t winnow down to one topic.  I have a friend who became a widow one year ago this week; she’s in her 30s and has triplets.  I can’t breathe sometimes when I wonder how she has made it.  She has strength of character and a heart that beats for four; she’s smart and beautiful and hard-working, and I admire her so.  I thought I might write seventeen syllables about her, but how can I possibly capture her tale in so few words?  I wanted to leave her some type of message on THE BIG DAY, but elected not to.  I know she had a billion messages on THAT DAY, but I bet she got fewer on the day after.  Maybe I’ll write about her, but 5-7-5 seems insufficient.

My kid has another neurology appointment this week, and I’m terrified.  This begins the differential diagnosis protocol, and a part of me wishes desperately to continue blissfully unaware. PS–it’s not blissful and I’m pretty aware.  Just sayin’. . .  Knowing what to expect though means there’s something I will need to expect, and my mother’s heart still expects wants my kid to grow out of it.  I have created this forum to bitch about MD though, and clearly I could not restrain myself to seventeen syllables.  I’m already at 323 words.  325.

It’s Easter tomorrow, and though we are not religious, I do enjoy the fellowship the spirit of rebirth and the Easter Bunny bring.  My husband and I plan to burst the big kid’s bubble and tell him that the EB is not real next week.  The notion of a mysterious critter sneaking in under cover of darkness leaving treats for good little girls and boys is magical and sweet.  I feel somewhat murderous in intentionally shattering that notion.  Will I feel worse for him when my kid’s friends torture him mercilessly when they find out he still believes though?  That is the conundrum.  Conundrum has three syllables and would fit beautifully in a haiku.  So maybe this is my theme.

The snow has finally (probably) melted for good, so I began running again this week,  The best way I know to describe my relationship with running came from my friend Sally, the wife of my haiku moderator as it happens, and a dear friend.  I know for a fact I couldn’t dream of capturing my gratitude at meeting her and gaining a life-long friend early in my 40s in 5-7-5 formatting, so that’s off the table today too.  The first time I began running (the first time since high school that is), she told me, “I hate running, but I love having run.”  Word.  Here are seventeen syllables that capture my love-hate relationship:

Hate, hate, hate, hate, hate

Hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate

Hate.  Love.  I did it.

 #nailedit