July 20, 2014

A Big Goodbye and A Busy Week

Today was the memorial service for a family friend.

I didn't know L well.  He was the oldest son of one of my dad's hunting buddies, approximately 15 years older than me, so when I met him as a kid, he was a pseudo-adult, even if Dad and his buddies treated him a bit like someone in-between childhood and adulthood.

He was a real honest-to-goodness cowboy.  My strongest visual memory of him is one I saw play out many a weekend early morning -- skinny legs in Levis tucked in cowboy boots vaulting into a Ford truckbed, being tasked by the older men with loading all the hunting supplies, working quickly and quietly between the excited dogs whose tails wagged incessantly.  His face was always partially hidden under his Stetson, but I can still see his grin. 

He died doing what he loved -- in an accident herding cattle on a ranch out in the Nevada desert.

E and I drove into my hometown the day before the memorial and I was shocked to be recognized on sight by a high school friend I hadn't seen in 20 years.  As the manager at the restaurant where we chose to have dinner, she totally hooked us up.

It threw me for a bit of a loop.  I don't feel like I belong in my childhood hometown anymore.  And yet, if you spent a long period of time somewhere, particularly your childhood, there are pieces of your history just lying in wait to snare you and remind you that you *do* belong there, somewhat.  It doesn't matter how long you've been gone.  Viscerally, I know this and had prepared myself to deal with it at the memorial.  But to have it happen at dinner, and to have such a strongly welcomed return to my childhood hometown from someone I hadn't seen in so long surprised me.  What surprised me more was how grateful I was.  I doubt A will ever know how much I appreciated her recognizing me and treating us with such warmth and kindness.

It rained on our drive to the memorial, which was held in what Dad would have thought was just about the best thing ever -- a fancy barn-themed outdoor event venue in the glorious wild nature of the California Sierra foothills.  I have no memories of rain in July in my hometown.  E, a southerner, was unfazed, but I couldn't help but assume that Dad, Papa, Gran, and L were pulling weather for us to keep it cool (either that or global warming was cooling my hometown's summers but increasing its humidity).

It was a bit of a family reunion as Brother went (with K).  And, Aunt B, Dad's youngest sister went too (alone).

Brother had hunted and spent time with L growing up and in his early adulthood, so he would have gone anyways.  But Aunt B and I (and by extension E) were really there as proxies for Dad.  L's dad, G, was one of Dad's best friends, and G's wife S is like a grandmother to the entire community that Dad lived in, so really, the event was a bit of a Dad's folks reunion.

I received many bear hugs as BigD's daughter -- again, a bigger homecoming than expected. 

I was rarely involved in the details of their relationship, but I know that G (L's dad) and BigD hunted and fished and shot the shit and drank beer in cans and complained about their difficult children and passed time together in a gorgeous brotherly love that makes me so happy to know BigD had such good, fulfilling friendships.  At the end, G drove BigD to untold numbers of chemotherapy and doctor appointments when BigD really shouldn't have been driving himself.  Between the two of them, there was no discussion, no ask for help, no accusation or admittance of weakness.  One day, G just said, "I'm going to drive you to all these appointments."  And that was that (and our family breathed a sigh of relief to be saved from the awkward, hard conversations that could have been).

As if that wasn't enough, L's younger brother T was somewhat of a surrogate older brother to Brother and due to the odd age split between generations also thought of Dad as his own surrogate older brother.  He'd been a rock to me when Dad had passed, and it was important to me to be there today to let him know that I didn't know exactly what he was going through, but that I supported him and cared about him and was there for him just as he had been for me.

And, of course, when there's an accidental death, they always need a lawyer.  So, as promised, my personal appearance made it clear that as Dad would have wanted and as I'd promised over the phone, my (limited PI) skills are on call for the family, should they need them, when dealing with the insurance madness.

After all of those heartfelt details, the reality of my week seems so mundane.

I ran (or walked, but mainly ran) 30.23 miles.  I did 9 long on Saturday and 6 in the heat on Sunday in my hometown and I'm ready for next weekend's half marathon (albeit slow).

Work was fairly crazy.  Notably, I closed a fairly big deal after 4+ hours of final in-person negotiation on Tuesday (1.5 hrs scheduled, but 4+ hours in a too-hot conference room where I sweated...).  After the fact, I received a picture of my client signing the deal and me in the background, looking on, shiny.  Thankfully, they were very happy with their outcome and I felt great for having helped them get there, even if I looked like I'd covered my face in olive oil before the photo.  

In an effort to be more balanced, I'd managed to talk E2 into joining me for a friends of the SF symphony concert and we enjoyed a Mozart piano quartet and Arensky piano trio on Wednesday before taking advantage of a friend's condo since it's high conference season and there's not a hotel room to be had in SF on short notice.  Both were unique arrangements, but more importantly, both confirmed that I love me some chamber music (and piano).

Our weekly BBQ was super small, maxing out at 5 or 6 attendees, including E & me.

Friday night, I babysat a friend's 4-yr-old and E showed up with the Wii for 30 minutes of (parent approved) videogame time before his bedtime.  Yeah, that's right.  We're the best, favorite babysitters ever.

While this week was typically busy, the biggest change in my life this last year is literary.  I'm now committed to reading and listening to audiobooks much more than I used to be (when it was simply a hobby) because I've realized they give my life meaning and purpose.  I feel more alive when I commit to books.  This week is no different.  In addition to my ordinary audiobook and book club fare, I ripped through Gone Feral, which, in hindsight, was a great preparation to the memorial service today.  Modern day cowboys or men who choose to try to live off the land today are *very* *very* complex.

Also, after today, I'm feeling very mortal.  I get this way, occasionally.  More often than most, but I think it's healthy.  Today I saw friends of Dad, who've survived him, I saw Brother, who, as always continues to inspire me with his amazing outlook on life post-injury, I saw contemporaries of mine from grade-school who've visibly aged so much it made me realize that I too must have aged that much, and I saw friends of Dad's who are obviously ailing, headed his way, as much as it hurts to admit that reality.  I saw life, raw, and wonderful, full of love for a lost member of the tribe.  And I was honored to be there.

And towards that end, I think if I'm honest with myself, just training for and finishing the Chicago and New York Marathons is an accomplishment in and of itself.  One worth celebrating.  I've spent a few years chasing times and PRs and I've had some success, but lately, I've been struggling with the high effort that PRs and impressive (for me) performances require. I've gained weight.  My life has not allowed for ideal training.  And yet, I've kept on.  I think, after today, that's the thing about myself I'm most proud of.  I keep plodding on in the direction of the things I believe in, regardless of the pace.  And I intend to continue to do so.  Assuming nothing goes horribly wrong, I'm going to finish 2 of the major world marathons this year!  If I'm lucky enough to be healthy enough and in a situation where I can train hard and perform well, that would be wonderful.  But truly, just being able to run (or walk) on any day is such a blessing, and I want to be sure to enjoy it to its fullest.


L.A. Runner said...

Beautiful post!!!!! I'm sorry for your family's loss.

I'm with you on trying to become more of a literary person. I had a big list of books that I wanted to read or re-read this summer, and I have only gotten through maybe 2. All of a sudden I'm refinishing a rocking chair or looking at baby clothes.

Keep up the good work with your training. I don't think there's ever something as a "perfect" training cycle. Your training looks solid to me.

Arvay said...

Lovely post. Thank you for sharing.

Jen said...

So sorry to hear about L. Sounds like a bittersweet weekend. On a practical note -- if you need any personal injury references, my boss might know of experts that can help (if it gets to the point of litigation).

I think your last paragraph is so on-point, especially in the light of my current state of sort-of-injured-runner. Being healthy and crossing that finish line without limping is huge!

bt said...

Thanks, All.