One year ago today, the second-hand running shoes that wait beside me weren't much less worn than they are now.  I slipped them on at dusk and ran north, down a hill, before turning west at the bottom.  Even choosing feet over wheels, it only takes a matter of minutes to reach the little yellow house I called home as I grew from baby to wife.  I sped up as I ran past, hoping to slip by unnoticed but knowing that my chances were slim.  Sure enough, five minutes later I heard the low, steady growl of Dad's van closing in behind me.

This was inevitable. My dad's sixth sense kicked in every time I left the house to run, and even when I chose our hills and skipped his, he'd nearly always find me before the run was over, sidling beside me with the van, rolling down his window, and rehashing all the reasons why I was in danger from running deserted country roads at dusk.  I'd gulp for air and gasp out demands for him to leave- me- alone- while- running- can't - talk.  He'd drive next to me for a few seconds, pull ahead, and then slowly drive around the six-mile block homeward or turn around somewhere ahead, depending on where he found me at the time.  This was our tradition.

One year ago today, my Dad's van crawled next to me, he rolled down his window, and then drove on.  He was too winded to talk. I ended my run at their house and found Dad sitting on the bottom of the steps, holding Ruger's leash, his face gray in the last bits of light.  He was too weak to move Ruger to the other line.  Could I move him, instead?

We made a deal that night, my Dad and I.  We'd been nagging him to return to the walk-in for the sinus infection that wasn't improving, even with antibiotics.  It could be because he was too tired to stubbornly dig in his heels like usual, but I think he probably knew that deep inside things were losing a bigger fight.  He agreed to go to the walk-in the following day.  In return, I promised to buy reflector tape to emblazon my running shoes and jacket.  The next morning, he went to the walk-in, and that afternoon my mom called to tell me the diagnosis.  I bought the reflector tape the same week I bought flannel pajamas for Dad to wear when they transferred him to the new hospital, but, somehow, I never finished the job.

I haven't run much in the last year-- a handful of times every month has been the most I've had gumption for.  The first few months this spring, my ear was unconsciously tuned for the sound of an ancient brown van, and when I realized what I was tensely waiting for, my throat closed up.  Running has been more than a quiet space to empty my head, and it's been more than a practice in pushing myself, though of course it's still both.  It's also been a space in which missing rises up without anything to temper it, which is perhaps why I haven't been running as much.

Fall is here with winter howling at its heels, and dusk falls earlier each day.  One year later, I pulled out tape and glue for neglected sneakers.  Here you go, Dad.  A deal's a deal.


Renata AtSunnyside said...

Hi Abigail, ((hugs)). Please know that I will be praying for you, your Mum and your family over the next few weeks. May God hold you close and may the memories bring not just tears, but smiles as well.

Deborah Johnson said...

Ahh. I hadn't heard this before, and it squeezes my heart a bit. It's hard to believe it's been nearly a year. I love you, Ab, and I'm glad the reflector tape is now on your shoes. Dad would be pleased.

Molly said...

I have been thinking about all of you especially as November nears and I will continue to keep each of you in my prayers. I love your story and I am glad to hear you did apply the tape to your shoes, dear one!

Much love!

heidiann(e) said...

You've been in my thoughts too.
Prayers and love.

Abigail said...

Thanks, friends.

I appreciate you upholding Mopsy, especially, in prayer these next couple of weeks.

Danielle Rizzo said...

It feels good to have a good long cry on a run!!!

Abigail said...

Not only are you an elite runner to my country-bumpkin-huff-and-puff but also you can multi-task better! I can have a good long cry or I can run. I've found I can't do both at once, and usually opt for the cry-on-the-side-of-the-road over the run. :)

cadie said...

You all have been in my thoughts and prayers, as well, especially as I know it it's now hitting the one year mark.

Rebecca said...

I have never really lost anyone close to me before. My Oma was the closest I've come and I only grew to know her through our few-times-a-year visits. Healing has always come fairly easily afterward because my life was unaffected. It is easy to forget (or really, not even to realize) that when someone who is so close to you dies, you have so many moments that unexpectedly draw you back to that place of grief. Because it affects everything about your life.

My dad really takes very little interest in my life and wouldn't know if I ran (even if I did-hehehe) let alone to do something like follow me along for the sake of safety. This is a heartbreaking post but at the same time, a true testament to a real RELATIONSHIP between father and daughter. It is beautiful, even in the sorrow.

May every moment that causes you grief and pain be made more bearable with the memory of a father's love.

Abigail said...

Thanks, Cadie. We welcome them.

Thanks, too, Rebecca, for your thoughts. My brother said to my mom that Dad's fingerprints are on everything, and it's true. I bet your Dad has some fingerprints, too, that aren't just as visible as a father who doggedly pursues...er, gently checks up on his jogging daughter. :) I never thought I'd miss that, but I do.