A View from the Top
It was 10 years ago this week when I had ankle and knee surgery, and the ankle surgery left me with a staph infection (sometimes diagnosed as MRSA) in my left ankle. It was a terrible few months which has stretched to ten years now. It will never go away, and to tell you the truth, I haven’t taken a step at all in that time that does not hurt. I have had hospitalizations, hyperbaric chamber treatments, IVs, a PICC line, years of antibiotics, a doctor told me to prepare to have my foot amputated, and five more surgeries, all for naught. I’d say we have reached a truce of sorts, me and my ankle. We are OK with each other. Almost best friends.
I did not run for many months. I thought about it long and hard on the run this morning. It is simply a part of my life these days like any number of other things. Maybe more persistent.
I am grateful to still run. This is what I felt and wrote when I learned that I could run again, 10 years ago.
Racing The Moon
She showed up not quite unexpectedly the other night, in the trees and leaves rustling amid the cool autumn breeze, in the backyard. I had not seen her in a while, or maybe I had but simply had not noticed her. But her siren song was as strong as ever and she silently beckoned to me, “Come out and see me, I have been missing you.” And as much as I tried, I was powerless to ignore her call. I had missed her as well.
I finally did sneak out of the house this morning at 5:30 AM to see her, and she was waiting for me just as promised. It had been such a long time. In reality I had tried to stay away, maybe not hard enough, maybe too hard, I can’t tell exactly which. I ignored her after ankle and knee surgery, through infections and even a hospitalization, on crutches and then off of them twelve weeks later. I walked a little but that was in the daylight where we would be unable to hide from the prying eyes of others, so I walked alone. One hundred feet the first day when I could, then 200. Then I walked a quarter mile. It hurt. It was a poor approximation of a walk, it was the slow and agonized limp of an injured soldier. I really didn’t want her to see me. I didn’t want to see it, myself. So I gave it up for a while, both her and the walking. My heart was not in it. Maybe I liked the drugs too much. No, it was not that. Drugs could ease the pain in my ankle but not the pain in my gut. But she could.
So, she came back again two nights ago. “Now. Now. It is your time.” I took her up on the offer and saw her in the darkness that morning. Not far, not long, it was just a test. Maybe a tease would better describe it.
Surprisingly, others were out on the roads, just the way I remembered them last July. The white bearded fellow who walks the furry white husky early in the morning, they even resemble each other. He waved and said “Have you been MIA or something?” I never knew that he had even noticed me.
The Scraper, that’s what I call her. The pretty young woman who runs every morning and who doesn’t pick up her feet. On every stride her shoes scrape and drag on the road surface, you can hear her coming a block away. She always waves in a crisp, military style salute, like she doesn’t want to waste any time or effort. She waves at me like old times this morning too. She has dutifully kept the flame burning when I could not.
The Peleton. They are the committed bikers who hit the roads each morning around here. They pedal madly through Killearn before the sun rises, after whipping down Centerville Road to Roberts to Proctor and back to Centerville. Then off into Killearn and probably home. Their numbers swell exponentially as the Tour de France approaches each year, with a predicable drop off once the race is over. Just a few of the real hardcore peacocks are out here this morning. I hear their excited warning shout in the dark before I see them: “Runner up!” I am hobbling so slowly, I am grateful that anyone would even regard me as a runner.
Now that we are alone again on the deserted roadway in the dark, she asks: “How does it feel?” Damn you for asking, I would prefer not to answer. She knows how it feels. I stop after 25 minutes for a look. I have had to cut away the side of every shoe I own to get my foot in and not have it rub the old surgical incision raw again. Not that the incision has actually ever closed. It hasn’t, not yet. I look at the shoe and my foot in the dim street light, there is a small trickle of blood running down the side of my foot and over the sole of the shoe and onto the street. It is shiny looking in the street light.
Suddenly I hear a tinge of sympathy in her tone: “Well, what will you do now?”
“Are you still here?”, I want to know. But she knows the answer before I do. Never make a decision when you are running uphill. Decide when you get to the top, that’s my credo. So, off we go again. But at the top somehow the weeks and months of self-imposed sloth are slowly starting to fall away. The further I go, the worse I feel in my ankle. But I don’t care. The mad truth is that I can do this running thing again. I can feel it sure, but it will hurt just so much and no more than that. I am certain.
There are waves of relief and joy washing over me as I pass the old two mile mark. Tears of relief. God, I am getting high. Okay, just a mile to go now. So much has happened since I last was running here. We have been blessed with a new, wonderful grandson. My best friend, Buster, has also passed on, but in retrospect, it was another blessing to find that little pup on the side of busy highway and watch him grow into a friend and family protector and my best running buddy. Although I miss his presence dearly and will for a long time. I have put on 15 pounds and I don’t like myself for doing that. These thoughts all pass through my mind in a jumble of emotion until rudely shoved out by an incessant pain in my ankle.
At last, the turn for home! “Well, maybe you will actually make it,” she says, very coy, very condescending. I look squarely into her eyes for the first time on this run. She is a graceful slender silver disk, descending brightly into the morning horizon, off to my right.
I am too breathless to answer her because we are racing together. I am racing the moon.