This Thanksgiving wasn’t my favorite, as it brought to light a new, unexpected void in my heart, beyond the expected void at the dinner table—the absence of one of my biggest fans in competition (thankful for the ones I still have—my kids, my mom, my husband, and Wiz).
My dad was a fierce competitor. Win, win, win. Heckle, heckle, heckle. Practice, practice, practice. Start young, and develop a heart that beats big and orange, like a basketball.
I’ve always had the same hunger for excellence, but a quieter, more solitary drive, and for things other than basketball. I’ve only lately come to understand that this was the same fire my dad had, just more of a Bunsen burner than a bonfire because of my personality.
In sports, this passion manifested for me in running. I’m slightly above average at it, but not so genetically gifted that I could dazzle the competition or be a standout. I plug away at it, day after day.
My heart absolutely beats big and strong and healthy, like a ____? (Antelope? Running shoe?! John Deere? Sorry, at a loss here.)
At my first triathlon (which, to anyone who has done a triathlon, is way less impressive than it sounds, and really just a bunch of chubby, bored adults chasing the latest fad while wearing expensive spandex), my dad was there, holding a stopwatch. What exactly was he timing and why?! It’s still a mystery to me, but there he was. Poised to click that watch and time the crap outta that tri!
When I discovered a love for the hills of trail racing and won my first race, all I could think, as I flew down slopes, way, way out of my body’s aerobic comfort zone, was how excited my dad would be to tell everyone at work that I won the Olympics. Because that’s what the story would become. Not that I bested 40 other daft women, grinding out 9 and 10 minute miles on challenging terrain and up steep inclines for 13.1 miles until our knees fell off and our butts cramped up, but that I had beat 400,000 other women, most of whom were dopers/cheating, in the international trail racing championships of the universe.
I remember telling him. “I won the trail race on the women’s side at Laphman Peak, dad.”
“Oh, how cool.” He responded. “Your age group?”
“No, the race.” I said.
“Great!” He said.
And then a few hours later, my mom texted me that my dad had been looking at the results online (because, of course he was LOOKING AT MY RESULTS ONLINE), and did I know that he thinks I WON the whole race and is telling everyone?
Yes. I did know that. The trophy will live on the mantel forever. I freaking won something, like my dad! FISTPUMP, cartwheel, spilts with scissor kick!!!
Yesterday I did a turkey trot at the Boerner BotanicalGardens. The 5K is not my event. But when the gun went off my legs felt like racing, and so I did.
When I crossed the finish line, the second woman to finish (my dad’s careful study of the results would have to verify this), at pace faster than I’ve run since 1995, and more than 90 seconds faster than my goal time, I was floored. How did that happen? VICTORIOUS!
I couldn’t WAIT to tell my dad.
For the most part, he’s not “present” anymore. I told him anyway and who knows what he registered, but it’s not the same. There will be no study of the results.
Who knew that I’d miss this, and so profoundly?
Although we are all managing day to day, it’s the question of how these little, unexpected, sometimes quirky voids will be filled that weighs heavy on my heart.