When I was in the eighth grade my mother took up jogging. She’d quit smoking a few years prior and had gained a modest amount of weight as a result. So, determined to remain the babe that she was, she laced up her Adidas and hit the pavement.
At the time, thinking of my mother running was like thinking of a toddler doing dead lifts. It was possible, I supposed. But it felt off. Shy of a few sets of living room sit-ups, performed in underpants that slipped down every time she rose, I don’t remember her working out at all. It wasn’t until years later, as I watched her fell giant trees on her land in Massachusetts—then drag them off into the wild with her bare hands—that I realized she even had muscles (and, as it turned out, impressive ones). But back then she was more likely to be found sitting on her corner of the couch, reading crime novels or clapping at Reagan.
Like anything she put her mind to, mom became committed to her runs. Most days she ran to Carl Schurz Park for a one mile loop to the river and back. Sometimes she ran stairs as well. Sometimes she ran one mile in the morning and another at the end of the day. And then, one day, this:
“Lorrin, maybe you should start running with me?”
I’d have been more enthusiastic had she asked me to murder the cat. I was, after all, the girl who took the bus five blocks to school to avoid even walking. The girl to whom “the 500-meter” in gym class wasn’t so much a dash as it was an annual, thigh-slapping shuffle.
Of course by asking me, my mom was looking for a partner who would push her to keep it up, keep on going. And I was a good choice as I was a pleaser by nature and would have never dared to say no outright. I also suspect she was afraid that the shapeless blob I used to carry my head from one place to another might actually be more permanent than pubescent. Rightfully so.
So we ran together. And what was for her a motivation was, for me, a nightmare that happened every day. Sometimes we ran one mile to the river and back. Sometimes we ran stairs. One time we ran around the track at Asphalt Green where she declared, “You have a nice line running down your leg.” I hoped she meant muscle and not urine.
Needless to say, it took a total of two nanoseconds before the pleaser in me politely stepped aside to let the lazy slob through. That is to say, I told my mother I didn’t want to run with her anymore. I know it hurt her feelings, I could see it in her face. And I regretted it as soon as I said it (though not enough, God forbid, to ever run with her again).
Shortly thereafter my mom, too, quit running but not due to laziness. She simply traded one commitment for another, replacing her miles with the felling of said trees and the clearing of acres by hand on her land in Massachusetts. A place that became a heaven of her own making.
Today my mom is in that other heaven, the one of someone else’s making. And as I heal from the loss of her, I’ve realized I’d like to do something for the both of us. And perhaps commemorate her with an act of contrition. So, starting on April 12, 2012 I will run at least one mile. I’ll do it again on the 13th. And again on the 14th. And I will keep on doing it, every single day, until I wake up and it’s April 12, 2013.
I will run for my mom (if not with her) every day for one year. I’ll keep myself honest by posting all my runs to Facebook via Nike+. And I hope that you’ll join in my torture by sponsoring me at 50¢ per run (or any amount you can manage) to be donated at the end of the year to The Human Rights Campaign in my mother’s smart, funny, infinitely strong and sorely missed name.
To sponsor me (or Heather or Elly—they’re doing it too! Stay tuned for their challenges), simply respond to this post or write to me with your pledge. No money will be collected until the year is up.
Many thanks. Much love. And may the chaffing begin.