A Parental Reminder

I remember when I first thought about it.  I was talking with my youngest son’s third grade teacher.  She mentioned that she was going to run in the annual Cowtown race in Fort Worth, one that attracted tens of thousand participants each year.  My son had been training for it at school.  One of the other teachers was training  the students to run the event and represent the school.  What struck me was that these women were much older than I and were running the race.  So why couldn’t I do it?  I was in my mid-40’s and a decent athlete of sorts.  I just was not a runner.  I felt that runners were cheaters.  Most of the ones that I saw on the street took one stride to my two which I thought wasn’t fair.  But then again, I believe that anyone over 5 foot 9 is a freak of nature.

It was October when I entered my first race, a local 5K (3+ miles).  I huffed and puffed through it but finished strong.  I was anxious to see what my time was.  I was sure it was a world record for my age.  Of course it wasn’t and was actually pretty pathetic.  But I was bitten by the bug and enter races just about each weekend until the end of April.  I showed improvement in my times which was not hard to do since I started at such a low base.  One day I saw an application in a store and filled it out.  It was for the NYC Marathon.

I was shocked when I received an acceptance in the mail a few weeks later.  Couldn’t understand why they wanted me.  I guess it was a combination of  my age, a first time marathoner or just plain luck.  But I was in.  They provided a 4 month training program guide which involved increasing your mileage over time.  Throw in a few runs over 18 miles and then slowly cut back a bit so your body will be rested come the big day.  My wife and kids knew what I was planning but few others.  I really didn’t know if I’d go through with it.  I may chicken out, get hurt or bored and then I’d have to face my friends and explain.  Better if no one knows, I thought.

My parents knew I had taken up running but not my little secret.  I would call them and my Dad would ask me how far I ran that week.  I would always tell him half the distance and he would always say “Too much”.  I’d ask him how he felt and he’d say “Fine”.  Turns out he was in the last year of his life.  You see, children lie to their parents and parents lie to their children all the time.  I never consider it a sin when it is done out of love or to spare the other party from worrying.  We do it all the time.  But it raised a concern with me.  How was I going to tell them of the marathon and how would they react?

Eventually the secret had leaked out among friends and those who found out had two reactions.  They either 1) questioned my sanity or 2) under minded my confidence.  It was  “Why do you want to do such a crazy thing” or “Do you think you can do it?  You know it is 26 miles”.  So this was weighing on mind a bit.

The weekend of the event finally came.  I flew to New York with my oldest son and stayed with my brother and his family.  I finally called home and my mom answered.  She asked where I was and I told her I was at Bob’s.  “What are you doing there”, she asked.  I told her I had a meeting in the City on Monday. (Another lie.  Bless me Monsignor for I have sinned?).  Then she asked a very predictable question:  When are you coming to visit and what do you want to eat?  I said pasta will be fine.

(My mother was an excellent cook.  With in minutes of arriving at her house, you would be offered something to eat or drink.  It didn’t matter if you were an old friend or a stranger.  She always had something wonderful to offer.  Being Italian-American, food has a high place in our culture.  One of my favorite memories was when we had a merican (non-Italian) over for a big meal.  They invariably would make the fatal mistake of stuffing themselves and peaking too soon, not realizing that there were a few more courses still to come).

On the way over to dinner, I went over in my mind what I was going to say and more importantly what their reaction would be.  I rang their doorbell and out they came with two of the biggest grins I could imagine.  As I opened the door and before I could say anything, my mother blurted out and pointed at me, saying “You’re going to run in the Marathon tomorrow.  I knew it. You said you wanted pasta.”  They then went on about how proud they were, how well I’d do the next day, what a great idea it was to run, etc. etc.

Unconditional Love.  Unconditional Love.  When you get down to it, isn’t that one of the most important and simplest things we as parent can do for our children?   Support and encouragement.  Praise and love.  Simple concepts for sure although their execution can sometimes be challenging.  I was so blessed to have them as parents.  Their influence on my life and any success I’ve achieved is because of them.  Here’s hoping we all remember these principles when we speak and share with our children.

P. S.  As they predicted, I completed the Marathon with ease.  Thanks Mom and Dad.

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