A Serious Topic*

*warning, real names are used.  I sincerely hope no one minds.

A couple of years ago, a woman with whom I was neighbors for many years died of cancer, the first death of someone I knew as a friend, the first in what inevitably will become a longer and increasingly more personal list.
Recently, more women whom I called friends at different times in the past 25 years have died.  I am very sad for their families, for the women they loved  for their children. I cannot imagine the pain of losing the woman I love, of suddenly becoming “a me instead of a we” as one of the surviving partners described her loss.
Each death notice—Betty’s, Joanne’s, Cathy’s — in the newspaper (for that is how I learned of their deaths) has stirred up something visceral in me, and I’ve been trying to figure out what, something beyond the “life is short, appreciate what’s in front of you” cliché.  I think we all experience such urgency when someone familiar to us dies too soon and unexpectedly.
My reactions grew increasingly more intense. Even though each of these friendships was situational, they were not without meaning.  Each woman was older than I; not older enough to be my mother, but older enough that we came from different generations, enough older that they simultaneously inspired me and (unintentionally) intimidated me. 
I saw in each of them ways of being in loving and lasting marriages (though the legalization of gay marriage came too late for most); I saw kindness, exuberance, artistry, and their absences now, too early, sadden me.  Even though our lives converged only briefly, we shared a larger community, and even once our paths diverged we occasionally bumped into one another.
I sensed when I stumbled across the most recent obituary, just this past Thursday, that I had a deeper lesson to learn here. I slept on it.  I drank over it. I ran on it. I finally figured it out today. I finally realized that one common thread winds through each of these relationships.
My friend Pj.  PJ has been the one constant through all of these times these women represented for me. PJ is the one person who has been privy to the ups and downs of more than half of my life.  She has seen me grow and struggle and survive. PJ has been there to cheer me on and can be credited with saving my life during a particularly dark time.
I called PJ immediately upon seeing Cathy’s obituary.  I didn’t even hesitate, even though we have been on divergent paths the past few years.  We’ve grown apart especially in the last year, which is ridiculous because we live less than five miles from each other.
I assumed I’d run into Cathy, Joanne, or Betty again, that we’d see each other at a play or in Fred Meyer, down at the bookstore or in a coffee shop around town where we’d smile and nod and maybe catch up a bit, but I won’t.  The chance is gone.  I don’t want this sort of disconnect to happen with PJ and me.  We’ve shared too much these past 28-ish years—we have history, friendship, genuine caring for each other.  We are so deeply connected that we are, in many ways, sisters. 
I don’t want to see her face staring up at me from the obituaries, only to realize that the last time we saw one another we just smiled and nodded, too distant to even catch up.

I want our friendship to continue.  When we die (and we all will), I don’t want either of us to wonder what we’ve been up the past five, ten, fifteen years.  I want to know. I want to be there on the rest of the journey.  I hope she wants to be there, too.

Argo F*ck Yourself!

The Little Woman and I decided to venture out tonight–big Saturday night, dinner and a movie at the new megaplex in town.  As is always the case, we left plenty of time to dine and get to the theater to secure decent seats. In the megaplex foyer, we ran into our friend Leslie and stopped by the gumball machines for a handful of M&Ms and some Mike & Ikes.  Nancy only got five Mikes & Ikes for her fifty cents, so as she went to complain to the manager (hey, money is tight for the grad student), I mosied on in to find us some seats.

I snagged a couple of new comfy seats close to the aisle and not far from the door. Not great seats, but good enough ones, where we got to enjoy the befuddled faces of the latecomers as they discovered a rather crowded, but by no means sold out, venue.

The woman next to me had her purse in the seat between us, and TLW had a single seat next to her.  As more and more Hamsters dawdled in late (Bellingham Time, five minutes after it starts), we could feel their beady little eyes staring at us and the empty seats next to us.  There were PLENTY of seats down in front, but somehow even the latecomers felt entitled to the good seats, the UP seats as opposed to the DOWN seats. Our seats, rather than the empty seats.

A sense of relief flooded over me as the previews started and no one had asked us to move. Bellingham is the sort of town where people kind of expect to be rewarded for tardiness, but I’d decided I wasn’t going to move even if someone did ask.  We always get to where ever we are going early.  Always.  Both of us, even separately, are perpetually early.  Sometimes it’s awkward sitting alone in an empty theater 45 minutes before the movie begins, but sometimes–like tonight–early arrival pays off.

So, smugness settled over me (and probably TLW as well) as we watched latecomers try to figure out how they could possibly rearrange us early arrivers to accommodate their late asses.

“I’m not moving,” I said to TLW.  She nodded her assent.  And so, when the first brazen late couple asked if anyone was sitting in the seat next to me I said “Nope.”

“Will you move over so we can sit here?” she asked.

“Nope,” I shook my head. “There are plenty of seats down there.”  I jutted my chin toward the front. “I planned ahead,” I announced. “I’m not moving.”

TLW nodded in agreement.  “Should have got here earlier,” she added.

The late couple kind of stared at us and turned in confused circles before settling into the “Reserved for Handicapped” seats right in front of us. Good move, I thought.  See, that wasn’t so bad, I wanted to say.

More previews rolled and more people trickled in, most of whom sighed and settled in to the seats closer to the front.  One entitled couple, however, espied our empty seats and headed for us.  I braced myself and gathered my resolve. 2013 just became the Year of No.

When the guy asked if anyone was sitting next to me, I told him he’d have to ask the woman who belonged to the purse.  He did.  She grimaced and moved her purse grudgingly.

He asked me to move over.  I shook my head no.

“Then we will sit on either side of you,” he said.

“Fine, go ahead,” we said.

“Fuck you,” he said and stomped away.

Meanwhile, the first annoying couple had turned in their seats to watch, as if this confrontation would turn out any better than theirs had.  I think they were disappointed.

These people certainly had some cajones, asking us to move. They weren’t elderly or differently abled. They were just freaking late. They should have said no to dessert or maybe driven their Subarus a little faster to get there on time.

I made a choice to leave early.  They can make the same choice  Or not. But their failure to plan does not confer any responsibility on me.

Like Alan Arkin said many times in the film:  “Argo Fuck Yourself.”

p.s. Good movie.  Two thumbs up,  Suspenseful, edge of your seat.  Great 70s outfits, great 70s technology.  Highly recommend you get there early.

2012: One Mile at a Time

 I ran 366 miles in 2012. That’s a mile a day for every day of last year (2012 was a leap year, and thus had one extra day). Not bad considering I took most of May, June, and July off for a calf injury.  This milestone was not the culmination of any New Year’s resolution or the completion of a goal I had set for myself. 
In fact, I didn’t even think about it until near the end of October when my iPhone running app announced I’d hit 265 miles.  Hmmm, I thought, another hundred and I’ll have a mile a day (not yet realizing 2012 was a leap year). I started doing the math in my head—that’s a little under 10 miles a week for the next 11 weeks. I can do that, I said to myself, no problem.
Such optimism for a woman who had spent the past 20 years or so convinced her running days were over, and not because I was injured, but because I’m generally lazy. On Saturday mornings as recent as 18 months ago, as The Little Woman and I drove to breakfast, we actually pointed and laughed at all the runners who were out early, rain or shine, running in their spandex, their tight shirts, and toe shoes.  Seriously, toe shoes? Hahahaha.
Now, I counted the days left in the year, approximately 70, and once I managed to do some math in my head (harder than it seems), I thought that maybe I could do 100 miles in the next 75 days, if I could manage three and a half miles an outing and three outings a week for the remaining 11 weeks.  Then I kind of forgot about it, until the end of November at the Turkey Trot when I realized I only needed 50-ish more miles.  I had yet to put up 50 miles in a single month,  but I thought I could do it, and how cool would it be to have done a mile a day for a year?
December brought the Jingle Bell Run, which TLW and I committed to early, but that was only three miles, and the month pretty much flew by. Things at work got crazy, and I wasn’t getting out much as I’d come home from work and collapse, exhausted.  I pushed myself, but still only managed 14 miles in the first two weeks.  No way would I make 50, I thought. Then, I discovered that after a really rough day at work, I could fly through 3 miles, so I went a little longer and soon I was running four miles or more an outing.  And my times came down to right around 9:10/mile.  I got inspired and recommitted myself to making 365 miles by the end of December.  After all, I’d have plenty of time during the holidays, and with time off, I could even run in the daytime.
On Christmas Eve, I ran 3.67 miles. I took Christmas Day off to, uhm, carbo-load and cranked out five miles on Boxing Day. On Friday, December 28, I had about 18 miles left to go.  I could do it, I knew now.  Just four days to run a little over 4 miles a day. I hadn’t run four days in a row all year. I certainly hadn’t run over four miles a day four days in a row, but it was less than 20 miles. 
So on Friday I did 3.64 miles.  Only about 12 miles to go.  Three days. Piece o’ cake. Saturday was tough and I could only manage 3.77 miles. That’s okay.  Two days. Twelve miles. I Can Do It.  Then I realized that 2012 was a Leap Year.  I had to add an extra mile to my total.  On Sunday I did five miles even, and my math skills started to fail me right along with my legs and lungs.  One day. Nearly seven miles.  Ugh.  I’d not run seven miles in one outing all year.  But failure was not an option at this point.  I’d come too far to quit now.  I couldn’t face the new year having missed by a couple of miles what was now a major goal.
I spent the morning sleeping in—I needed my rest.  I ate a hearty breakfast—I needed my energy.  By the time I suited up and laced my sneakers, it was after noon.  I did not feel like running.  It was cold out. Snow flurries. Brrr. “Okay,” I said.  “You can do this.”  I told TLW my probable route, just in case I didn’t come back by dark. “Come find my cold dead body,” I instructed. I headed out. My calves complained, but I ran on.  At approximately 1.74 miles I had to stop for a bathroom break—thank god my route included a bathroom (what IS it about running?) I managed another couple of miles and a hill before I had to stop again for a few steps.  Another mile.  Four miles.  I was beat.  I stopped my running app and walked to the track.  I’d have to finish on the track.  I had two and a half miles to go.  Ten laps.  I could do this.  I resumed my running app and took off.  I clocked the fastest times of the day going around and around that track. Ten laps took me less than 25 minutes.
I did it.  I finished.  I ran exactly 366 miles in 2012.  Exactly.
I can’t wait to see what 2013 brings!