Swim…Bike…Run. I’ve been training for months for the 11 Global Lake Oconee Olympic Triathlon. That’s 1.5km swim, 40km bike, and 10km run. I can do it, but an entrapped ulnar nerve in my right elbow has forced me out of the competition, again…
Three doctors told me surgery should be done ASAP to prevent further permanent nerve damage yet I struggle to find excuses why I shouldn’t do it. “It’s getting better; it’s not so bad…” My mind reels with the what if’s. I am stronger, faster, and fitter than I have ever been. Why me? As if that’s an excuse… The road to Hell has been paved by excuses.
Why am I so obsessed with a race that means relatively little in the scheme of life? The Boston Marathon has been forever marred by the senseless tragedy of it all. All those people chasing their dream have had their glory ruined by cowards.
My kids love me; I know they do. I see it in their faces when I give them chocolate milk just because. I want them to grow up chasing their dreams as wife and I have done. I am weeks away from dissertation success and beating the human odds everyday for the last five years since I was confined to a wheelchair and hobbled by a cane. Right now, son’s dream is to beat “Temple Run.” Well, he’s four. Daughter’s dream is to be a dance choreographer and she competes at the highest levels of our expectations.
I am reminded of Rudy where a small-town guy that is too small battles and beats the odds of a big-time dream. Dreams can be reached; they just need to be tempered with realistic expectations. On September 29, i will toe the line at Ironman 70.3 Augusta. See you at the starting line.
Like any other day, son was his usual self. He went to school, played outside, and watched TV. When he explained to me that he wanted to stick something sharp into a fish to kill it, he alarmed me. I asked, “Why would you want to kill a fish?:
“So we can eat it…”
“Have you seen this?”
“When [daughter] caught a catfish Poppa hit something sharp in its head and it bleed”
Now, wife and I have been worried that perhaps the superhero TV shows and stories, even action figures, are giving son the wrong idea and creating an unhealthy, violent environment. How soon we forget that life is violent. If we lived on a farm, perhaps he would have a more intimate knowledge of death.
Is it a good idea? Well, it doesn’t matter. That’s life. Molly died..he dealt with it. I think perhaps we compare children and see that son is more “vigorous” than daughter and worry that he is headed toward psychological damage. Truth is, I think men are from Jupiter and women are from Saturn. As if I would repeat that stupid cliche…
As long as son still finds joy watching The Octonauts, I will rest assured he is still our little boy. Now, if he would just go to bed…
For several lonely years, a gopher lived in my Father’s study when one day, a beaver came to live and be friends with it. Now, that beaver is missing. See, son is fascinated with those two creatures, so much so that the last time he was at Poppy’s house, son took and hid the beaver. When Poppy asked, “Do you know where the beaver is?” son replied with a noncommittal answer.
“I don’t know…”
They searched high and low, all over the house to no avail. The following week when son was again at Poppy’s, he was asked if he could help them find it. “I can’t remember…”
Last Saturday, I discovered why Kroger Supermarket puts candy at toddler eye level on the checkout aisles. Son tried to sneak a Rollo into his pocket.”What is that?” I asked knowing exactly what was going on.
“I want a Rollo.”
“I want a Rollo!”
I pulled the candy out of his tightly clenched hand and returned it to the shelf. He went for it again and I deftly picked him up and moved him away. Or, so I thought. By the time I grabbed his waist, he had a vice grip with both hands on the candy shelf. I pulled and pulled until he finally let go and moved him toward the end of the aisle. He made a rush for it, but I blocked him and moved him back again, while he was kicking and hollering.
He then took it upon himself to block the cart with his body; ” What’s the password?” he asked.
Really…I thought. “I don’t know. What is it?”
“Move, Now! We have to pay the lady.” I picked him up again, kicking and hollering then blocked him with my knee as I paid, hoping no one was going to call DFACS.
We get to the car where he then refused to get in his car seat. After pleading with him then forcing him in, I finished unloading the groceries in the trunk and made for home. As I was leaving, I noticed I had a voicemail from wife from an hour earlier: “Listen, if you want to wait until I finish running, I will watch son while you go to the store alone. I know how hard it is to take son with you.”
Every once in a while, something insightful crosses my path that I feel compelled to share. In Herman Hesse’s novel, Siddhartha, the main character asks a ferryman to carry him across a river. Symbolizing the escape from his previous life, He, like Odysseus returning from the underworld by way of the river, Styx, arrives on the other side at a new beginning; a new chapter in his life. I think we could all shed baggage that has been weighing us down for far too long; I would like to be a better me. I wrote this poem for an exercise in class today.
The river’s edge calls me softly to cross,
I cannot see the other side.
First my toe, cold- then my knees
The icy touch of the water cuts into my body
As I sink deeper.
Now at the waist, I feel the current;
It pulls me toward the middle.
My heart beats with trepidation as the bottom drops;
I am treading water.
I can go forward or retreat to what I know.
I begin to swim.
This week, I set sail on the Pequod towards the South Seas with my trusted friends, Ishmael and Queequeg. After a week of recovery, I set back to work on Monday morning where my students asked incessantly, “What did you do?” As if I didn’t tell them the week prior to surgery that I was having my ankle worked on?!?! Better yet, one student, commenting on my knee scooter, asked, “Did you buy that?”
“No…I leased it. It was $1,899 down, $189 a month for 72 months”
“Wow! You’re going to need that scooter for 72 months?!?!?”
Hmmm. These are the same students who are complaining about Moby Dick having too many pages and using big words. Perhaps I should lower my expectations for eleventh grade to include Highlights magazine. We could do word searches and read short stories with life lessons in them.
Seriously, though. Son is learning faster than we can teach him. He spelled his name yesterday at school without help or those little guide-dashes on handwriting worksheets. He can recognizes every letter in the alphabet. A few weeks ago, I was driving toward the gym (natch’) and son and I passed a national chain food restaurant. Son exclaimed with excitement, “Daddy, I know what ‘S’ starts with…a pepper.” Thanks, Chili’s, for the educational signage.
Yesterday, I participated in market research regarding pizza. I sat in a bleak room with a two-way mirror along one wall as women dressed in laboratory coats brought me several slices of pizza to evaluate. But, they didn’t just bring them out. First, we were told to examine the appearance. Out of a blank wall, a door appeared and a young woman brought out a pizza with a specified number atop. After five or so seconds she moved on to other participants and I set out to answer several questions about how appealing the pizza was. Seriously, of the three pies, I couldn’t tell you which was which were I asked to go back and compare. Maybe they were turning the oven hotter or cooking it longer; they seemed the same to me.
After the general appeal questions, we were told to cleanse our palettes with saltine crackers and spring water, making sure to thoroughly rinse the entire cracker from our mouths prior to tasting the pizza. We took two bites from the front, two from the crust, and, heck, one from the middle just for kicks. More questions; more pizza. Finally, when we left, we received some dough for our troubles.
Much needed money, mind you. Today, the computer repairman explained to me that both the battery and the hard drive failed on my Macbook Pro (mid 2009). For Christmas 2012, I will receive a brand new (used) computer with no data on it. I am concerned because our backup drive is the only thing separating me from meeting an untimely death were it to fail as well. 60,000 photos from 2002 until last week reside on two backup drives, a cloud-based storage system, and were on the laptop itself. The computer will be ready on Tuesday when I can then begin the laborious task of rebuilding the computer with its backup. One note, because I had to replace the drive anyway, I doubled the size for only $30 more. I thought the battery drained fast.
Anyway, today I had the stitches removed from my ankle where three, 1 inch incisions barely stand out upon examination. I am not completely recovered, though, so my wife will still have to get my beers for me. Tomorrow during the Bulldogs game, maybe I’ll ask for wings as well. I better get something, though, because she and several friends are sharing a limousine to the Madonna concert (Must. Count. Blessings. Not. Asked. To Go.) tomorrow night. She deserves a night out, but did she have to do it with such style?
Why is the SyFy channel showing more reality dreck on TV? I pay for this channel so I can watch reruns of TV shows that engage me with quality story lines and B-movies that make me laugh at their horrible special effects. I don’t need reality; it’s mundane and trite.
As I lie in bed recovering from minor surgery, I was hoping for an escape from all the details I’m missing by not working, not writing (dissertation), and not parenting. When a trip to the bathroom becomes the highlight of my morning, I need to move on.
Daughter turned ten this week and now constantly reminds everyone she’s officially a tween. Next thing I know, she’ll want the car keys.
Meanwhile, today at son’s school, Santa is visiting. Yes, I think it’s the first week of November but the Big Man gets pretty busy this time of year. So, last night wife and I encouraged son to make a list of what he wants from Santa. See- Santa told me he wants to give him a bike, but the first words out of son’s mouth, “Zero bikes!” This might pose a bit of a problem…
As son was being toweled off and daughter was in shower, she had no problems spouting off everything she wants. Yes, I said it was her birthday recently and I may have mentioned she won a Kindle Fire HD and has an iTouch, but she wants a computer. I think it’s time she got ahold of some lowered expectations. I imagine Santa might be suggesting a bike for her as well. Heck, why don’t we all ask for bikes!
Speaking of bikes, I continue to research the best possible options to improve my tour de force in the 2nd leg of my next triathlon. I am hoping that a sale will occur at the same time that I actually have cash to buy one because they never seem to coincide.
I’ve noticed that sales are tricks, friends, meant to steal our hard earned cash by “enticing” us with a slightly better model for a modest increase in price. No, I want the cheap one to be cheaper. I don’t want the more expensive one to be just a touch pricier that I spend more money.
This is a lesson that I learned in college, not through education, but late night TV viewing. One night the wife comes into our apartment and catches me, phone and credit card in hand, buying…you guessed it! A Body by Jake Total Fitness Gym that had interchangeable bands for weighted resistance. Best damn clothes rack I ever bought!
Well, I won’t get any good feedback from the doctor until next week when the stitches come out and I get a set of X-rays. My fitness goal is to be cross-training until January 1st then hit the pavement. I have 9mos to reach my goal. Speaking of which, I saw a tweet that said Ironman Florida sold out in 30min. I just hope I get a starting spot at the 70.3 Augusta.
It seems SyFy has a whole damn day planned for Hollywood Collector so I guess I could actually read. My latest book is I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell. Lets hope I never find out because I know they serve it in Heaven. Hey, wife! Get me a beer and make me a ham sammich.
Stardate: 58365.1 Sector 001, Atlanta. It was 4 degrees Celsius and I was dressed in shorts, a long sleeve t-shirt, and Mizuno running shoes. It was the Atlanta Marathon and I knew I could run the distance. As I started from Turner Field, I paced myself- not running too quickly with the lead pack. I’d been in that situation before, but 26.2 miles meant careful planning. At mile fifteen, a monkey jumped on my back but I had enough energy to run over and hug daughter, 9.2 to go. When I hit “Cardiac Hill” (for those of you familiar with the Peachtree Road Race) I slowed to a crawl. Then, cramps… I had to make it. As I rounded Capitol Avenue to see the Olympic Rings, I told my running companion, “Let’s make this count…,” and sped across the finish line with family cheering. That’s what a race feels like. That’s why we do it.
With training, setbacks come and go; each one seems like it’ll be the end of the road. You take two steps back for every one forward. Then the next race appears on the horizon and you know it is a goal worth reaching. Whether it is a fun run or an Ironman, each runner takes a challenge to push themselves farther and faster than before to earn the intrinsic reward of achievement. You spend hours in the pool, miles on the road, and days of recovery only to be sidelined by an insidious, barely visible crack that runs through your tibia and the doctor suggests surgery.
This is not my first rodeo, daughter and son barely know the “healthy” me, having seen me undergo surgery after surgery to repair the “blue light special” fracture of the day. Health is not a goal, it is a drive to meet the needs of my family; but I do not train to become healthy. It may be a side-effect, a good one; but, I train to embrace the suck. To prove to myself I can be stronger, faster, smarter.
Wife is the real victim; she works harder to help the kids, care for me, and perform well at work. She is my Lt. Commander Nella Doran to my Captain Picard. Picard opened his heart up once and it was worth it; my wife is worth every moment we spend together.
Today is Halloween, and I am going to dress as wife’s husband, and son and daughter’s father. You don’t need a costume to make that look good. Sometimes, you just need to show up. The next race is the May 11, 2013 11Global Olympic Triathlon at Lake Oconee. I’ll be there because sometimes you just need to show up.