If you have followed my blog for a while, you are aware of some changes in my writing. First, I don’t write as often, and second, my posts are, more often than not, about running. There are reasons for this. When you decide to get in shape as a fifty-six year old, post-menopausal, stage-four cancer survivor, and your weight falls well within the obese section of the BMI charts, getting in shape is quite an undertaking. It requires focus and intentionality. Adding seven to ten hours of exercise into my week took a large chunk out of my writing time and since I tend to write in order to process life, running becoming a large chunk of said life makes running into a main topic on my blog.
Late this winter I finally reached the “normal” section of the BMI chart. I’m feeling better than I can ever remember and I’m in the process of trying to figure out how to move on while maintaining an active life-style. It’s sort of my summer project. This is also the summer that our oldest son and his family are state-side, taking a break from the International School where they work in China.
David is not a big fan of long flights. His emotional “carrot” at the end of the trip home was his Apple watch, delivered to our house days before their arrival. He had it open and on his wrist within half an hour of de-planing. Apple watches have “circles” to complete daily. David got it in his head that it would be a good idea to run with me and so complete his workout circle. This scared me a bit. I ran with my younger son once toward the end of the school year. He assured me that my pace would not be a problem because he had a pulled muscle. What I learned is that the pace of a young, fit, injured person does not equal the pace of an old, fit, uninjured person. Running with Matt pushed me. That’s good, but not necessarily pleasant. I was panting when we finished. David assured me that I could easily run with him because he was not at a peak level of fitness. (Breathable air is difficult to come by where he lives.) I was doubtful, and a little embarrassed. I run two or three minutes and then walk a minute. It’s what “Masters” runners do. (“Masters” is code for old.) What I have learned by running with David is that young, slightly out of shape, former Army officer pace does not equal old, fit, on-summer-break teacher pace. He has been VERY kind, and because running with him pushes me I’ve gotten faster. I did my fastest 5K (outside with hills) ever this morning at 33:22.
So, running with my boys has been good for me. It has also been more of an adjustment than I imagined. I’m their mom. I carried them, gave them birth, fed them, and took care of them when they were sick. I always tried to protect them, to keep them as safe as possible. Exercising with adult sons is totally new and yet nostalgic at the same time. The first thing I noticed is that instead of keeping them safe, they made me feel safe. I don’t usually run outside our neighborhood early in the morning, especially not on the greenway. With David along, I felt comfortable. Unlike when I was running with Matt, I can wait now until it’s light to run. Besides, David survived both Iraq and Afghanistan. I figure he can take care of us on the greenway. Still, the Mama-is-protector feeling is strong. It feels natural for me to run on the outside nearest to traffic as I did when they were little, but now they are grown men. We taught them that the oldest and/or strongest adult should walk on the outside to protect or honor the more vulnerable. I have to repeatedly remind myself to stay to the inside. It’s different. Times and roles have changed.
The nostalgic part comes at the end of our run. Returning to our subdivision requires climbing a long hill. I’m usually pretty pooped at this point. I try to run full tilt to take advantage of the fairly flat end of the greenway and then I walk up the hill. The last few times David has continued to sprint on up the hill. He either waits for me at the top or walks back to meet me. This morning I had a flash of memory as I watched him recede into the distance. When the kids were little we would often go for walks in a park in Longview, Texas. Our home school group met there on Fridays for semi-organized soccer games, field days and general fellowship. We’d occasionally go for a family walk before or after the group time. Our favorite path curved around a duck pond and sometimes the kids would become impatient with our slow, meandering, isn’t-it-wonderful-that-it’s-Friday pace and they’d ask to run ahead. “You may run up to that next bench (or tree, or sign post),” we’d say. “DO NOT run so far around the curve that we can’t see you.” So they’d run, full tilt and full of the joy and life and energy that is childhood. I remembered that this morning, and I was filled with the wistful sadness that accompanies such remembrances. As I caught up to him and we turned in the direction of home, however, my sadness melted into thanksgiving. I’m thankful to be here, thankful to be able to run at all, thankful to be able to share this with my boy. We went home and he coached me through making really good fresh-ground coffee and then we sat at my table discussing theology and history, enjoying our adult relationship. We’re having a sort of family stay-cation this week, so the girls and more grandkids came over later. First, we walked to a nearby park and let the kids play and then we took them all to the pool. As we walked back from the park, I watched the children run on the greenway; I heard myself yell, “Don’t go so far down the path that we can’t see you!” and I got very nervous as we made the turn and headed up the hill along the road, explaining to the boys that it was necessary for adults to walk on the outside. I realized then that things are not so very different. There’s no reason to be sad. Nothing has been lost; on the contrary, my life is richer than ever!