Sunday, March 11, 2012

Running Strong

I'm rounding the last curve of my year of writing on each of my oldest friends' birthdays. Today marks another such day, the 6th of 'the girls'. There are many things I could write about B: her passion for teaching which drives her days and fuels her imagination (a profession in which four others of us were trained and two others have had long, successful careers), her deep dimples that mark her face and appear with great regularity because she smiles widely and often, her love and concern for her children, which peppers every conversation and every move she makes. Or I might speak of how she is the most innocent of 'the girls', or perhaps the most naive or even gullible. And when she's been teased, there's her inimitable laugh. Ah yes, B's laugh when she gets the joke. I love that.

But what I think of when I think of B--along with all of these things, of course--is that she's a runner.  I'm not exactly sure when B discovered running but I do remember track meets in which she featured as far back as middle school. And though track mattered to her, it was the actual movement of running that has counted in her life. When the rest of us are barely awake, trying to get through our first cup-of-our-beverage-of-choice, she's already dressed in her gear, stretching incredibly toned legs and asking the best route to take from wherever we're parked that particular weekend. While I'm trying to find a comfortable place to rest my pain-laiden body, she's up working out whatever physical discomfort the running has given her.

And that running is also, I think, her healing place. And there's been plenty she's needed to run out of her life. I  won't share all the pain that life has piled on, but her large family has endured more than one might consider 'fair', if one was inclined to measure such things. I lay beside her one night not too many years ago in a bed up in a loft and listened to her tell the story of the first of those losses--the first death, I should say. That loss was suffered many, many years ago now, but I've always wondered how her parents continued to walk and breathe and keep on being after that. I wonder how any of them did. I think B ran it off. I think she put one step after the other and kept on doing so until the only pain was in her calves and the only hurt was in her chest and even that was only physical and somehow eclipsed the emotional, mental, spiritual pain--at least for a while.

Since that first loss, there have been other ones, more recent ones, and each one takes more from her--is more personal, actually. And still she keeps running. I think it's the only way she continues to stand. But what I know about her is that running has made her strong. Running has made those muscles work better, those limbs fast and sturdy and able to withstand what would buckle most of us. I'm sorry they've had to. I'm sorry--more than I can say--that there are more ways than death to lose someone you love, and that she's experienced most of them. But I'm not sorry she's lived to tell about it.

I'm not going to say the road through has been (or still is) easy. I wouldn't dare be so flippant with her life. It's been harder than I can imagine. She continues to lace up those running shoes, stretch out those hurting places and go out the door into her life.

Yes, she keeps on. And is coming through strong, backbone-straight strong, running-with-a-smooth-cadence strong. And yes, smiling-with-dimples-showing strong. Still with her inimitable innocence that makes her so sweet when you'd expect her to be bitter and hard and everything other than what she is. It's a sweet, sweet spirit B's been given and nothing--NOTHING--that life's thrown at her has taken that from her. Thank God.

Happy Birthday, B.
I love you.

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