Cry Baby

Richard was walking in front of me.  He was wearing his day-glow yellow vest, and I recognized his gait.  Since his hip replacement, he rolls his hips a bit as he goes along, not really favoring one side or the other, but almost as if it takes a different  motion to move each side of his body with each stride.  I was headed up Eden Road, zipping along.   The morning was perfect.  Cool salt air brushed my cheeks, the sunlight shining on the sea along Pebble Beach dazzled me, taking my worries away, if only for the length of the run.

“Hey, Richard!’

“Hey, Elizabeth!  You seen our tulips?”

“Ah, no.  Not yet.”

“You never stop and smell the roses.  You’re only interested in how fast and how far you can run.”

Richard is a funny, kind man.  He’s a family man, spends time with his wife and children.   I know his intention was not to hurt me, only to remind me to notice the beauty around me, even if it means slowing down when I run.

I foolishly tried to explain myself.  Choking on my words, I told him how sick my dad has been, and about my husband and his mom. The hubby has been relegated to the sidelines with another knee injury, my mother-in-law is just home from two weeks in rehab, and me, responsible for care taking and meals.  I spluttered to say why running was separate from the rest of my life, how it was not my “rose-smelling” time.  As I trotted off, I looked up on the hill at his home.  I saw thick rows of tulips all in full bloom, a dense, low fence of flowers.  Reds, pinks, yellows, orange-y reds burst from their green stems to brighten the whole landscape of the property.  He was right.  I should be looking.  I often do look at what’s around me when I run; I have written plenty about that.  But I had failed to notice the bank of flowers for several days in a row.

“They’re beautiful, Richard!” I called over my shoulder as I jogged by.

The next breath after hollering to my friend came hard.  I felt tears prick behind my eyes and a fat lump assert itself in my throat.  I straightened my sunglasses and kept running.  The road’s incline made it even harder to keep moving, and I considered, as I passed the overlook for the Twin Lights, that perhaps I should take a walk break.  I couldn’t do it.  I had to keep running.  An image of my father, struggling to stand from a chair and walk down the hall with his walker filled my mind.  Then another image, this one of my mother, her small frame as she flits around my dad, checking his legs and breathing and pills and blood sugar.  I remembered her voice on the phone so many mornings, sounding sad, disheartened, and afraid.  Then I thought about my mother-in-law, and remembered sitting beside her on the edge of her bed as we waited for the ambulance to arrive and race her to the hospital just a few weeks ago.  I saw again the fear on her face and felt the trembling of her hand I held as we waited.

Each breath hurt a little more than the last, and I let the tears escape and run down my cheeks without wiping them.  I crested the first hill and rounded the corner, pressing ahead.  I could not put the image of my father out of my head.  I kept thinking Daddy, Daddy, I’m so sorry. I miss you.  I want you to be well.  I want you to be you again.  I don’t want this old, sick man.  I want my dad back.

I ran four miles while crying.  That’s hard to do.  The breath comes in jagged draws, but wants to come in long, smooth, rhythmic pulls.  Muscles ache for the oxygen.  Tears blur vision, leaving the runner struggling to see the edge of the pavement and the dips in the sidewalks.

In some way, the running and crying felt good.  I’m not usually a crier.  I stuff everything down inside, and then pound it all out every single morning in sprints and dashes.  Tears just take too much out of me.  They  hurt, even though they give release.  On this day, though, the combination of running and crying was good.

I can’t expect Richard to understand, because this is mine.  He was only a catalyst for what happened on that run.

Log:  8 miles.  63 minutes.

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7 Comments on “Cry Baby”

  1. Mermaid Says:

    Even gazelles have to cry sometimes. Tulips and crying and running, it works.

  2. Craig Says:

    When I heard what you were going to write about, I confess I avoided reading the final entry for a couple days, not wanting to feel the sadness along with you. But I am so glad I finally did. We are in this together, honey. I will provide all the strength I can for you in this multi-front emotional turmoil, as you have been such a powerful source of energy in dealing with my mom and my injury. Thank you again and again.

  3. Sue Says:

    Elizabeth,
    Richard was only having a friendly banter. He meant no harm to you. Every person on the planet has their own story to tell. Mine is that at 20 years old I had to go home from the hospital and tell my 9 year old brother and 12 year old sister that daddy died. He was only 52 years old and we had to watch him waste away to 75 lbs. So from my point of view you have had at least 30 more years of family dinners and holidays. Your children got to meet your father. Richard is actually right, you should stop to smell the roses because you are lucky you still have your parents and your mother in law.


    • You are so right, Sue. Some days I get so bogged down I forget to notice what’s around me. Richard is right. I was just extra sensitive that day. I do count my blessings. We are lucky.

  4. Dan Says:

    This is an amazingly honest and poignant piece of writing. You should submit it to Runner’s World.


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