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Published by
gtown   Feb 29th 2012, 3:48am

by jdawgsrunningblog

My son was pumped that Marcus Dickson ran a 4:07 to win the mile at the Brooks PR. He was stoked that this kid was a Washington boy, from White River, near Mt. Rainier---the same school that produced sub-4 miler Andy Maris back when I was that age. My son, an eighth grader gets jazzed about how high school runners perform. And he’s not even able to run right now, and hasn’t been able to for nearly two months—with the exception of a three-miler here and there—with his knee stiffening afterwards, or now, he’s been sick, coughing all night long.  He stumbles around the house with a long face, but keeping his upper lip strong. I admire the kid, admire his effort to stay upbeat and positive, and focus on his school work—even as he’s uinable to pursue that which he loves.

And here he comes now, really hacking away. School doesn’t start for nearly three hours, and he says he has to get ready. He’s got a headache, and no, he doesn’t feel like drinking tea. This is a deep cough, like it’s coming from his gut, and rattling his brain. I can’t imagine sending him to school, but he insists he’s going, that he has to go.

It feels like the backbone of our existence together has been removed—the fact of us not running and connecting through that daily run. So long it has been, and then you start to wonder if he’ll ever get healthy. Will he able to run consistently. Will he recover from this illness? Will his knees stop aching? Everything feels so temporary and unpredictable. Not being able to count on a single thing. Is that how we’re supposed to live, absent of any and all assumptions?  That all we have is this moment? That’s it? And now what? What of it? This moment right here?

Are we to dwell, savor, immerse? What’s involved in this saturation process, this mode of engaging, of being engaged? How is it that all the so-called ‘window dressing’ can dissolve or fade away into the horizon—when the requirements for such seem to coincide with a certain world view and perspective.

The vulnerability of lives on the edge.  I feel them a heartbeat away. One tells of getting out of prison, trying to get his life together, discovering religion, how it’s helping him learn about himself, his mind. He’s describing his brother, who joined the military and used it to get an education and now he owns his own business. That’s the way to use the military, for an education, he says. If you’re looking for a paycheck and free housing, it’ll be a waste.  He wishes he had his brother’s focus. He wishes he’d learned the lessons of life a bit earlier, when he frittered away a bunch of money. He decries greed and materialism, and how he was never happy, content, satisfied. As soon as he acquired one desire, the next one was lurking.

I exchange greetings with another man just outside the downtown gym. Clearly, he’s been outside all night. I wonder what he’s thinking when he sees the likes of me, dressed up and heading for his car, heading for his home. Is he mad, jealous, angry? Does he wish I’d cough up five bucks, buy him a mocha, ask him about his life? Does he want a job? A career? A wife and kids?

What will he be doing today? Is he hoping for a day job, cleaning up asbestos from the old GP plant? Loading freight at the shipyard? Doing some clearing and lifting for a construction project?  Or will he end up walking aimlessly around town, taking a nap at the library, smoking cigarettes in front of the record store, playing his banjo by the co-op, drinking a 32-ouncer under the trestle?

And me, and what? Before leaving, bantering once again with the night custodian. Another day. “But they’re all different, aren’t they,” she declares. “That’s what makes it all so interesting.”  She’s wise, that one, always giving me something to chew on, to contemplate, something I need to hear, spoken in just the right way, the right tone.  Yes, I can’t look ahead. And I can’t project, and I can’t judge, or let my petty instincts surface.

Oh, how badly I want to bring out my best self, what is best within me, and I want to work for it. No short cuts, Nothing easy or given or handed to me. I want to give and share, and when I’m not sure, I just want to buckle down and do the work, whatever it may be. I want to establish that pattern, that ethic, that quiet anonymity and humility, being there for others when I can, being aware, sensitive, knowing what to do when I hear that cough. “Can I get you some breakfast, SammyG5K?”

He looks at me, chin down, eyebrows  furrowed. “That would be good,” he says. “Thank you.”

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