Friday, March 26, 2010

Sometimes it is Sad

Have you ever been sad? What does sad feel like?…

It was October 17 1969. I was a sophomore, no driver’s license yet. Steve had celebrated his 16th birthday a few days earlier. No one would have guessed that he was two months plus a few days older than me. I was 8 inches taller and could grow a beard. 5 months earlier, Steve threw the ball to me that became the result of one of the most embarrasing moments of my life. With most of our school watching, and after catching the ball and runnning for a touchdown, Bryan Tucket went for my flag but caught my pants and they came, exposing me in my jockstrap with my butt mooning the student body. I am still reminded about that catch 40 years later. I can laugh about it now...but can be tough. Lucky I was bigger than all of them.

There was a homecoming stomp at Highland that night. He called me and asked if I wanted to go…Of course we went. We both danced a little…I don’t remember who with. I have always loved to dance. Shar’s biggest fight with me was over dancing. Well... It was her company party at the Fort Douglas Club. The dinner was fabulous and the band was even better. Shar and I danced a little…It was obvious she didn’t enjoy it as much as I did back in the late 1970’s. Her boss, who was stoned drunk asked Shar if she would share me and let me dance with her…a little part of Shar was happy to have her boss try her skills on the dance floor with me. She let it all go and didn’t remember a thing the next day…So did I, and I remembered everything. Half way through our second dance, I noticed everybody had stopped dancing and now were circling us and clapping and urging us to get even wilder. We did…Shar left and went and sat in the car. She was so embarrassed. If she could, she would join me today and we would dance the night away. We had that opportunity a few years ago at my cousin’s wedding. The band was fabulous. So was she.

Steve and I eventually found our way sitting on the hard wood floor in the far Northeast corner of the Gym. It was noisy but the conversation soon blanked out everything else as though we were the only ones around. We were friends…best friends…and we could talk about anything but didn’t very often…we could talk about sports and girls and school and homework…this night the discussion started with the World Series. Brook Robinson, the hall of famer 3rd Baseman was the most valuable player in a 5 game series that surprised the experts. The Baltimore Orioles beat the Big Red Machine of Cincinnati. Steve was a baseball player. He was a really good baseball player. He was a sure thing when it came to making the varsity team as a sophomore playing 2nd or 3rd base, but that would have to wait until spring. He was going to try out for the basketball team so we talked about who would letter first. Getting your letter jacket was a big thing back in 1969. The things kids talk about. I was hoping to make the basketball varsity team in a few weeks. I had played most of the day shooting at the ward house on Foothill preparing for tryouts. Steve was hoping for the sophomore team.

We left the stomp early. The girls we liked didn't show up. We were happy by ourselves that night. I called my mother from the payphone just outside the gym to let her know that I would call her from Steve’s house. There was a bank of three phones attached to the red brick entry wall where we would always enter when there was a game or when I was late for school. When was the last time I used a pay phone? I don’t remember. We walked with a pace of a turtle. We were not in a hurry. We stopped a few times just to layout on a lawn. We laughed, probably waking up kids that their parents had just put down to bed. We were loud. The things we learn as we age.

It was a warm October night and the moon lit up the sky. Steve's street is the same today…it was lined with large Elm trees. The trees always made Steve’s street seem very dark. There was always shade on those hot summer days. No sun block was needed. This night you could see for a hundred yards or more. The moon light wove through the drooping branches of the trees. We talked about how weird that was.

We sat under the tree in his front yard leaning up against the large edgy trunk where the conversation turned spiritual. Steve was to be ordained a Priest the next morning. We talked about that and our belief in God. We asked the questions that no one has the answers for. I am still asking those same questions. We laughed, we even cried when Mark Newsom was remembered. He had died in a motor cycle accident just before school started in August. He was so talented. Music was his love. Perfect pitch…nobody had perfect pitch, but he did. We sang in boy’s glee together. I miss him.

I had forgotten to call my mom back until after midnight. I heard about it when she finally came to get me. It was almost 1 AM. Steve waited with me until she came. His parents had gone to bed an hour earlier. As the car lights glimmered from around the corner we both stood and gave each other a sporty hug and told each other we would see each other on Monday. I wished him luck with his ordination and told him I was going to get my letterman’s jacket first. “I will make the team”. He laughed, and I was gone.It was around 6:00 PM on Sunday. Less that a day had passed when my dad called me to the phone. It’s a girl…Ann Barker, who I had a crush on in the 9th grade was calling. Have you heard the news? She was crying….Steve is dead – Steve is dead. I was Curts age...15 years old. "What do you mean?" ….He was with Bruce Nelson and 4 others when there jeep turned over and crushed him. He died instantly…nobody else was hurt. The reality had not sunk in but the words hurt and I began to cry. I thanked Ann for letting me know and then went to my room and cried all night. My parents came in and cried with me. What do parents do? I appreciated them that night and the following months. They helped me through. I got some of that same practice with Jami when Jeff died… and when Ashley died, I was there to tell Chelsea. You can never get those moments just right. You can only just be there. All three died in car accidents, even though Steve was in the hills, off road, when the jeep rolled. He was on the back passenger side of the topless jeep. He was in the wrong spot at the wrong time. I spoke at his funeral. Highlands’s baseball coach, Mr. Hardcastle, came and awarded him his letter just before I spoke. I cried as I shared our conversation from just a few days earlier and then somehow got through my talk. Everyone I knew was there, and we all cried and we were all sad together.

Someone asked me how I was feeling yesterday. I responded, “I am sad”. My friend urged me to talk about it. “I don’t know if I have ever felt more sad”….and then I thought of Steve. It is hard to compare…

Shar’s illness has changed our lives. She is sad about it. I am very sad about it. She is more sad. The ability to change the way things are is hoped for, but the reality of today is hard. There are many diversions that take place everyday that make it easy not to focus on the sadness. We thank everyone for the diversions you create in our lives. We appreciate, so much, the love that has walked through our front, back and side doors. We love the cards and the jokes and the meals and the visits. Everyone has helped take the sadness away. We might get used to this change, but it hasn’t sunk in quite yet…I hope it never does. We hope that things will improve. Hope is a great thing…but waiting…day by day by day is hard and sometimes sad.

As we have gone through this past week we are sad to hear how people treat people when it comes to political things. How sad…The things we think and say and do, sometimes create sadness. We should all listen and show respect even if our expeience and thoughts and feelings are so different. We should all love a little more and more often.

Sadness is one of the emotions that I have experienced over the last few months. It is not my favorite, but it is teaching me. Shar has not written on her blog for a few months…She has been too sad…She just told me she looks like a blow fish…I think I will go in and paint blue and orange stripes on her face. Oh, what we do to push the sadness away. The great thing is that sometimes it really works. Sadness comes and goes…Through it all we are greatful and surprisingly...OK.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Lets Go For a Run

About 10 years ago a treadmill ended up residing in our basement. It had been living at Shar’s parent’s house for quite a few years, but was feeling badly for its non use. Over lunch, hot chicken soup and home made rolls; the decision was made to move it from one basement to ours. It sat in its new surroundings rarely being used because Shar ran outside and I wouldn’t touch it. Shar is a runner. If she is not running, she is thinking it. This morning she wanted to go run. THIS MORNING. The walk from the bedroom to the kitchen did her in so she sadly gave up the dream, at least for today. “Today would be a fabulous day to run around the lake”. Do you want to go?” I looked at her, not quite knowing how to respond. I could feel her deep frustration and sadness. Today she would not be able to run.

Once in a blue moon, whatever that means, Shar would hop on the treadmill and give it a spin. She could run for miles when she was out in Gods beauty, but inside, she would only go a mile or two or three, sometimes just to warm up, or sometimes in the early evening, an hour or so after dinner, when her running partners were not available. It was always in winter, for night came quick and early and Shar was always about safety, not wanting to run alone when it was dark. I had told my sweetheart, on more than one occasion, that we should get rid of that treadmill, that it was only taking up space, and that I would never use it. I tried again when it was time to give the treadmill a new house. I hated to run. Well, I disliked it very much. I couldn’t run. On these occasions I was not her sweetheart.

Shar’s first Marathon was in Las Vegas. I thought she was nuts when she signed up. A trip to sunny and warm Las Vegas would be nice so I did support her, even though I thought she was crazy. I would take my golf clubs and hope to play at the Desert Inn. It is nice to know people, but that didn’t happen on this trip. We traveled down with two other families (dear friends) who had runners and with the original owners of the treadmill and two of their Grandchildren, Jami and Jessica (our two oldest daughters.) Oh, they were cute when they were young. They remind me that they still are.

We were all going down to support Shar and her running friends and hoped to have some fun. The sleeping arrangements were poor. Sleeping with my father in law is similar to trying to catch a few minutes of shuteye inside a hanger where they are testing jet engines 24-7. The only thing to do at midnight to five in the morning in Vegas is to sit at one of the million blackjack tables and try not to loose $20.00. Free orange juice throughout the night was a plus and it sure beat trying to use my imagination to come up with the best sound barrier that I could use to shut down the noise that was going on in room 166. I was not successful and vowed I would never make the mistake again of rooming with my in laws no matter how much I love them. It was 5:00 AM when the gambling money ran out, so I took a walk outside to check the weather. There was a McDonalds that had just opened and it was close to the hotel. I went for some pancakes and sausage, my favorite meal at McDonalds. They had it 30 years ago and you can buy it at your local McDonalds today plus inflation…before 10:30. I have always thought McDonalds could do even better business by serving breakfast all day long. I would visit more.

The walk, across the street and down a half of block, was miserable…it was cold…it was blowing…it was snowing…in VEGAS…I ate quickly and then retreated back to the hotel to make sure Shar was up. Shar, Melissa Wood, her first running mate and best friend (2nd cousin too – they found this out while running one morning when they were talking about a family reunion they both needed to attend) and Rich Pugh needed to get to the buses that would take them to the starting line; 26.2 miles away from the finish line. I was hoping the weather would give the runners a break and the wind would stop, or start to blow in the opposite direction. I knew that for the first 20 miles or so the runners would be running north, which on this morning was like running in the Alaskan Wilderness in a 30 mile an hour head wind. The wind chill was below 0…in Vegas.

They boarded the cold bus and were gone. Many of the runners didn’t even get on board. It was too cold. More of the runners never got off the buses when they reached the starting line…it was freezing.

I returned back to the hotel and laid down for an hour or so. Pres was up and out getting breakfast for he and Carol, and I was beat but it was silent. I couldn’t allow myself to sleep because I was worried that if I did, I would miss the race. A few years later I had a very similar experience with a group of golfing buddies. Rooming with Steve McPherron was like rooming with Pres. Let’s just say I got very little sleep on that trip, but, I did play a lot of golf. The race was beginning and I had a little time before I needed to get the girls up so we could go cheer on their mother. We had to stop at McDonalds for breakfast, the second stop for me that morning. The same cashier welcomed us. No smile. It might have been because she had braces. We ate our pancakes and then we were off to the course. Again, no golf course could have been played in Vegas that morning. The drive was slow for the roads were wet and very slippery. I was happy I had a good set of Utah tires. Even the Vegas Strip was barren and even the gamblers had stayed into hibernate.

We stopped at mile marker 13, the half way mark and waited. We had to keep the car running so the car heater could keep us comfortable. The visibility was about 100 yards. About 40 minutes passed before the runners started to appear through the blowing snow. No one told us the race would start late. No one could. It was miserable and it was so colder than cold. The girls and I would jump out of the car with our home made signs each time we would see someone coming. We were sad each time it was not Shar (mom) but happy to get back in the car where it was warm. Almost an hour passed from when the first runner went by, to when Shar appeared. Her head was down focusing on only her next stride. She was clothed in her red sweats, heavy coat with her blue hat and black gloves. She hadn’t dared to take them off. As she got closer we yelled as loud as we could and I cheered like I never had before…I had never seen her run…I was so proud....she looked up with a quick smile…and then back to the grind…and as she disappeared back into the cold grey sky, I cried.

We stopped again at the 20 mile marker. The snow had let up some but the wind was still howling. She was one of the last runners to pass that point that day. I was hoping she wouldn’t be disappointed.

We waited at the finish line. Melisa and Rich had finished almost an hour earlier when Shar crossed the line with the biggest frozen smile you could ever imagine. She had finished. Her time 4:31:26. It was slower than she had wanted…but when I look back now…She was moving. Just over 10 minute miles in that weather…Amazing.

Shar ran 3 other marathons in St. George. The weather was always better and her times just went lower. She broke the 4 hour mark twice. 8:45 per mile. Wow! I was always there at the finish line in total awe of her, and a tear would always form in my eye from the emotion that would fill my soul watching her RUN and realizing what she had mastered. She had some of her happiest and joyful moments as she would cross that line and know she had accomplished her dream.

I run around the lake now. I started last year. I did it for the first time this year just last week. I still enjoy swimming in the lake more than running around it, but that will have to wait another few months…for now, I run, I really do it…and…I like it.

Last night, the same as the night before, I stepped on the treadmill that sits in our basement at 11552. I have stepped on it many times this past winter waiting for the sun to warm the earth and for spring to introduce itself to me once more. I run about 3 to 4 miles and then step off. I like it, even though it does not come close to running outside on the worn pavement. There are two things that are sad each time I step off that treadmill. The first is selfish. My per mile time is not even close to what Shar ran back when…I blame that on my age, even though I know better…and second; I realize that when Shar ran…I could not. Oh, how life likes to fool with us.

Last summer, Shar and I strolled around the lake, sometimes just together, sometimes with our Grandchildren in their Blue and read double stroller and sometimes with our children and friends.

I hope for the day when she can run again and that her wishes come true, so that one morning when she wakes and wants to go for a run, WE CAN.