In honor of Father’s Day, I invited a special guest blogger to join us. It is Mark’s cousin, Marcy. Although many states separate us, we are bonded together through the loss of a parent, a love of running, and the joy of sharing laughs. I know you’ll love her as much as I do… so please welcome Marcy.
In 1994, my father passed away at the young age of 51. He had been sick for many months, and while watching a loved one suffer is terrible, I am grateful I had the time and space to say goodbye. I was 16, and while I was old enough to understand how intense his illness was, I was also young enough to lack much insight into the impact this would have on the rest of my life.
There are a lot of terrific memories I associate with Father’s Day and my dad. My dad and I would often go running together, and since my short kid-legs could not keep up, Dad would run circles around me when I walked off a muscle cramp. When I was about 4, we ran a 3-mile race together, and I recall being terrified of running across a wooden bridge over a stream. Despite the cheers of encouragement of a bunch of grown-ups on the other side, I froze. Dad grabbed me, lifted me up, and carried me over the bridge and then we continued on side by side.
In addition to running, Dad loved sailboats. One afternoon, I came home from junior high school and found most of the furniture moved out of our living room. Dad had used masking tape to mark the floor plan of an imaginary sailboat on the carpet. He measured it out and scaled it to fit the room, and made it look as real as he could – including moving the portable toilet for his actual sailboat into the outlined space of the “head” (bathroom). He announced our family was going to sail around the world. Much to my pre-teen horror, we gathered around in the “boat” after dinner and Dad charted the initial course on a map, explained our responsibilities, and assigned us watch shifts (this included entering information in the logbook and working as a team). I thought he had lost his mind. Perhaps he had, but the point was he was trying to pass on a dream of his to me and my brother, and in this eccentric and unbelievable fashion, did so in the most practical way he could.
Later on in my teenage years, the faux boat became a real boat. Dad had found an article in a sailing magazine that explained how to build a boat in 5 hours. The time estimate was quite inaccurate; I recall it taking many months. We measured, cut, hand-planed, glued, sanded and finished the hull, keel, mast, boom, rudder, and oars out of wood. I learned that it takes a long time to locate the perfect piece of lumber to make a sailboat mast – I knew this because we went to at least a dozen lumber yards until we found it. And we didn’t neglect decor. Dad was mildly amused when I insisted on painting the boat interior and bottom purple. I also insisted on making the sails out of cotton bed sheets – so I could tie-dye them purple.
It has been over 15 years since my father died. I am still learning about his life and his death, and how both have influenced me. At the time of his death, I was quite aware that he would not be around for holidays, graduations, and other important events. The first few Father’s Day holidays that passed included sadness and tears. More recently, Father’s Day sneaks up on me and I realize it is coming at the last minute. There may still be important events where his presence is missed, but it seems my energy has shifted to examining the ways he still influences me, which facilitates some unexpected healing and contentment.
Last year, I started a year-long training journey with the end goal of completing an Ironman (a 140-mile triathalon: a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and a 26-mile marathon). Most people think this journey is crazy. What do the masking-tape sailboat “trip”, the tie-dyed purple sails, and training for an Ironman have in common? Is completing an Ironman as crazy as masking taping a fake boat on the living room floor? When anticipation, creativity, patience, and resilience collide, is the result an Ironman?
Contemplating my memories of Dad and how they integrate into my current life seem to make Father’s Day easier. On this Father’s Day, I will go for a run, maybe spend some time family and friends, mull over more memories and perhaps discover some more connections between being a Daddy’s girl in the past and life as it is today.
Take good care-