Sunday, April 8, 2012

Were It Not For Grace

I am not the best home owner or neighbor. I mean in some ways I’m a decent one as most of my close neighbors have been to my house and I’ve been to theirs and apparently unlike most of the American population, we know each other’s names. I went to church with one for palm Sunday and going with another to Easter Sunday (someone suggested that showed that I’m open to different religious view points but perhaps it just demonstrated I don’t have a home church). But on the bad neighborhood end, I am someone who lets his dog run around unleashed ­­­too much and who doesn’t mow his lawn frequently enough. I’ve had a hole in my fence for a few months. In my view, it’s not egregious but never having really lived in a house where I had to help with any of that stuff and not really caring what my neighbor’s lawns look like, I may not be the best judge. But my neighbors never really seem annoyed but always gracious.
But this Easter weekend is in severe taper mode for Boston, with only 10 miles to run on Saturday (this is why we’re called the Ship of Fools, who says “I only ran 10 miles” in the real world?) so I got up two hours before the run and did all the stuff I’m going to do in Boston to keep testing the knee and it went all right but in the waiting time, I set up the lawn mower to the right height. In the last few days I’ve done a variety of gardening things and fixing a hole in the fence and doing things like taking the dog to the vet for the first time in a year. Last year around this time I did almost none of that. I had neglected it all to the worst level ever I’ve done by far because I had a marathon I was training for and a surgery I was thinking about and Ipad apps to learn and books to read and a wife and daughter to love (all not necessarily in that order), all while nervous about an upcoming trip to the East Coast. When I got back two or three dozen friends showed at various time up for those weeks I wasn’t allowed to drive or return to work and needed to be monitored. They sat there and helped plant a garden, walk around the neighborhood, drive me to follow up appointments, help with the lawn and bushes, clean house, provide meals, help with the dog, play word and memory games. My friend Will Lafferty had set up a care calendar and people like Cindy and Dave Armstrong, Bob and Irene Dooling helped plant a garden. I wish I could name them all and they all got Christmas cards in December and thank you texts right after I did their tasks this year but there is no adequate way to say thank you; it’s sad that there is no proper way to acknowledge it. People from ultimate, work, running, my physical therapist herself all showed up at the house. They would later acknowledge, only 2 said it at the same, that I seemed awfully tired, not quite like myself, mostly because I seemed unable to get or make jokes. I didn’t have my energy level and the guy who hates sleep was taking 2-3 hours of sleeping after lunch each day. Anyway, last year, I had put all this house maintenance off because I was going to the east coast. This year, perhaps just making excuses, I was putting off some of this stuff under the pretense that I didn’t want to get injured doing any of it before the Boston marathon but that’s a cheap excuse for neglecting your house so now it’s done. Plus it mattered to me that leaving it all done was the right way to leave my home before heading to the East Coast, this time for a better reason. It is interesting though that before all this, my house was just somewhere to sleep (the only room that had ever gotten lot of effort was Kiana’s, she being literally the reason I bought the house, almost exactly 1 month before she was born). Now I’ve gotten to be a big fan in the decorations and planting trees department and all of those reasons many other people buy a house. I am not quite sure what it says that it took brain surgery for me to make the house home.
On Good Friday, I packed all the stuff I would need on race day for Boston and I went to Mellow Johnny’s to pick up the bike that Livestrong is lending me and the gear that is being donated to me. I clipped into a bike for the first time while it was on a stand and was told not to ride it till after Boston because I could fall and get injured (this one I’ll listen to). I met the owner of Road ID, PJ Rabice, who was kind enough to provide me a gift certificate so I can start wearing that emergency bracelet I should probably have started wearing oh… 18 months ago. I met one of Lance Armstrong’s greatest supporters who showed me his bike which has electronic shifting (I honestly have no clue what that meant). I put on gear that makes me realize that running and ultimate clothes have the advantage that I have wiggle room to pretend like I have more muscle underneath. I brought Kiana with me, showing her the steps that I still had to learn in riding a bicycle; she went home and rode some more of her own after that. With some of the fancy stuff she was looking at and asked this or that, it was one of those moments where she got to realize that dad doesn’t have the answers to all of her questions. I left there with it all still feeling surreal; oddly it was trying to dismiss some of that surrealness that inspired me to do things like fix the fence and pick out some weeds all while listening to the Boston playlist. As I sat there and realized that there’s more to putting together to some of this home stuff than I knew, one of my neighbors came and helped me while educating me. As I spoke about things I don’t understand about Kiana’s mother, he said to me in one of those aha moments, if I were in Kiana's mom's shoes, I’d probably do something similar in regards to the counseling since I know the child would come to me if you were medically incapacitated (this helped make some sense of why she doesn’t care about taking some counseling sessions to draw out a plan but I’ll never quite wrap my mind around how someone with a kid doesn’t fight like hell to not miss a moment of their lives). Like a good doctor friend who also knows about these things, he said he doesn’t think I’ll beat this tumor forever and I should live accordingly. He added about Kiana’s mom that someone who leaves that fast and under those circumstances was clearly unhappy and that he believes we’re both better off separate no matter how much I loved her. I love blatant honesty but that was tough to all hear even when I realize there’s wisdom in it.
Kiana had a blatantly good time both at the church services, at a birthday party and at an Easter Egg Hunt and helping with the lawn stuff. I’ve been part of some serious races but I’ve never seen so many false starts and runners knocked down than as at the beginning of the Egg Hunt! I’d pay serious money for half her energy and enthusiasm in the race now 8 days away. I put off brain surgery to try to qualify for this and I want to leave it all out there whatever that means. I hope not to disappoint myself or others­ but either way let me say that I am grateful for the graceful while I quote Larnelle Harris
Were it not for grace, I can tell you where I'd be
Wondering down some pointless road to nowhere, with my salvation up to me
I know how that would go, the battles I would face
Forever running but losing the race, were it not for grace.
Susan who stayed for a week and paid for that bad ass tattoo I sport, the woman I call my older sister (she says men see all women as either wife, mothers or mistresses and I see her like family but she says she’s too young to be a mom figure so we settled on sister), said shortly after my ex left last year that I was missing just how lucky I was. She said she understood why this abandonment shock would be a distraction but she added she hoped I would realize how well my medical procedures went and that it would sink in someday. Having met more and more both general cancer and brain surgery patients of both cancer and other brain issues, I can say now about a year later, she was right that I had no clue how gracious my friends had been and how well my surgery had gone. Having been at three churches in the last week, I have had plenty of time to reflect on accepting grace from those who helped me in ways I was incapable of helping myself. Thank you folks for the grace and this time before heading to the East Coast I made sure my lawn is mowed, my fence is fixed, and Kiana had some church and Easter eggs…

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