I thought trying to find the words to describe a challenging race or a hard-fought victory was tough. I was wrong. Trying to encapsulate how you feel when your own father dies makes everything else seem like a walk in the park.
I do not often go into details of my private life in public, and will hardly open the vault in this post (you can, however, see my father’s obituary by clicking here). But after a simple posting on facebook about my father had me flooded with condolences I wanted to at least take the time to thank those who spent a few seconds of their day wishing me and my family well.
Even my closest friends knew very little about my father. He was a quiet man who kept to himself for the most part. Having been physically crippled by a hunting accident, a series of post-accident surgeries, infections and his personal bad judgment, I only knew my father one way my entire life- fairly immobile. Yet this did not keep him from attending just about every event I participated in, if at all possible. I never so much as played catch with my father but there was no sport that I took on that he did not fully support my participation in. Yet, there were times when he could have been a better father or husband. He was far from perfect. Then again, so am I.
About four years ago I was participating in a race on a very unique day. This race put me at the exact age (just a few days off) from the age when my father was shot. From that point on, I would have had the full use of my legs longer than he ever had in his life. During this race, my father back in my hometown, went to the hospital. What we would later learn was the beginning of a slide into Alzeheimer’s took roost. Given the nature of my race (a 24 hour event where runners simply tried to run as far as they could on a 2 mile loop) I had the ability to take phone calls while I walked certain portions. When I called my father and spoke to him, it was clear he was quite confused. He was absolutely convinced he was still at home even though he was obviously hooked up to machines in a hospital. I had known my father as a diabetic crippled man my entire life, but this was the first time that shield of invincibility finally cracked around his mind.
The race itself was hard on me and each time I spoke to my father (which I did every few hours) I was beginning to realize things would never be the same. Not long thereafter, I pulled out of the race. I blamed heat and fatigue. In reality I knew it was at least partially because I had beaten myself up mentally over seeing Superman fall.
Over the next few years, as long as my father was home, while his memory itself was slipping, he was rather lucid. This changed a little over a year ago. Sparing the details, suffice it to say both his mental and physical health deteriorated rapidly. We began preparing for what seemed inevitable. Always a stubborn SOB, my father rallied on numerous occasions until finally my mother called me to tell me that I needed to say goodbye to him. If you think an 18 mile training run is hard, try saying goodbye to the man who helped make you who you are, over the phone, when he cannot respond.
I lost my Dad on Friday around 9 AM EST. He was 68 years old. If you can, please do me a favor and call your own father and tell him how much he means to you today.