Posts Tagged ‘turning 40’

Monday, October 25, 2010

I had to ride my bike while Ceecee ran 12 miles this morning. I can’t run on my knee, but she’s still training for her marathon. It seems crazy now that when this all started, she was saying she was going to run a marathon to prove she isn’t old.

The game was fun yesterday. My team lost and hers won. We both cheered for our teams, but we almost wanted the other to win so that each other wouldn’t feel bad. What we have now is so good. I’ll take it over any football win anytime, anywhere.

We drove home through rain for most of the way, while listening to Jack Johnson on the CD player. The scenery was beautiful and we enjoyed every bit of it. Nine days of celebration surrounding an anniversary that almost wasn’t and now we’re back home.

My wife asked me just within the last few days if I believed that a mid-life crisis was what started all of our marriage problems.  I told her I didn’t think so, but that we both had certainly had some strange behavior and done some crazy and uncharacteristic things around the time we each turned forty.

She had announced, back when she was about to turn 39, that she was going to run a marathon to prove that she wasn’t old.  Even though she certainly didn’t need to prove anything to anyone except herself, she spent the better part of a year training and, last November, she did in fact run a full marathon.  By that time, we had already been through our separation and were well into the restoration tour, but she had set her mind on doing this, and I had supported her the whole way.

The marathon was her thing, not mine.  I encouraged her and trained with her to some extent, but I never had any plans to run it, nor could I have because of my knee injury.  It was, ironically, while I was attempting to do a long training run with her that the injury occurred, so even if I had any thoughts of trying to run it up to that point, they ended that day.  I was happy to be her cheerleader for this event and nothing more.

The fitness center that we are members of announced a training program last Spring for people who wanted to run the Bass Pro marathon in the fall.  It was called the Galloway program, named after running guru Jeff Galloway.  The cost was $100 and we paid it and signed my wife up.  It started right during the time that our marriage was falling apart and it mostly involved training runs with a large group on Saturday mornings.

Soon after the training started, we separated.  There were many Saturday mornings that were pure anguish for me, as I would often pick her up from her loft, have her drop me off at the gym, and then she would take the car and go on to the place where her running group was meeting.  I was working out alone, while she ran with her group.  When she was done, she would come up to the gym and pick me up, and then there was never any certainty of whether we would spend any time together or have to say good-bye again.

After we got back together, and especially after my triathlon, she faltered somewhat in her training.  I was no longer training for anything, and we were enjoying our marriage too much to be as disciplined as we should have been for her first marathon.  There were a number of Saturday mornings that we just didn’t get out of bed. We would say that we would go together and make up the running the next day.  Sometimes we did, and sometimes we didn’t.

To say that my wife is amazing would be the understatement of the century.  She reached a point, about a month before the race, that she decided she was still committed and was going to do it.  One morning, when she was supposed to be running 23 miles, she felt good enough and decided to go ahead and do the whole 26, just so that she would know that she could.  That happened to be a day that she was scheduled to work a full shift at Dillard’s, so she ran the equivalent of a full marathon in the morning and then went to work.

Sign right before the finish line

The day of the Marathon, she was nervous and I was excited.  It was a beautiful day for early November, so the weather wasn’t going to be a factor.  Since I couldn’t participate, and I didn’t want to sit around for five hours waiting for her, I decided to volunteer at one of the intersections along the route.  That way I got to see her about half way through and give her some words of encouragement.

I brought my bike, and I figured that after I was done at my station, I would go try to find her on the course and see how she was doing.  I tracked her down at around mile 21 and she was in a lot of pain.  I stayed with her for those last few miles and talked her through it when her body wanted her to quit.  When she crossed the finish, it was an extremely proud moment for each of us.  For her, it was a huge accomplishment that not many people will ever achieve.  For me, it made the pain of all those awful mornings go away, and I was thrilled to step aside and let her get all the praise and recognition for what she had done.

My wife now has two silver medals from the Cox Health Medical Mile hanging on our “wall of fame.”  This is where we display all of our race bib numbers and medals from the various events we participate in.

Our "Wall of Fame"

Last year, after she ran the half-marathon that inspired me to get back in shape, I set my sights on running a 5K as a goal for myself.  The Medical Mile is an annual event in Springfield that benefits the Children’s Miracle Network.  Recently, they added a 5K run/walk, and I chose that event to be my first.  I used the C25K program and some trail running with my wife and our son to train, and I hoped to be able to run it in under 30 minutes.

At the event, they hold the mile run first, then the 5K follows after about a 30 minute break.  Some runners participate in both, and my wife was to be one of them.  I waited by the finish line to cheer her on in the mile, and she ran a faster time than she had in any of her training runs.  Unfortunately, she used up so much of her energy that she struggled through the 5K, battling the heat and developing a headache partway through.

I had no idea how to pace myself during the 5K, so I just tried to let my body tell me how to fast to go.  It was a hot, humid day, but I felt strong as I approached the finish line.  My lack of experience kicked in there and I didn’t even look at the clock to gauge my time.  I ended up missing my goal by one second, posting a 30:01.  I was a little disappointed, but I was glad to have completed my first race.

Afterward, we hung around for the award ceremony, mostly to see if we would win any of the random door prizes that are usually given away at these events.  Both of our mouths fell open in disbelief when the announcer called out my wife’s name during the medal presentations.  She had been training for 5K’s;  the mile was something of an afterthought, so we hadn’t even considered where she had finished.  It turned out, she placed second in her age group and eighth overall!

Our separation made it a bittersweet day.  It was great to be sharing this part of lives, but I would have given everything I had to have our marriage back.  I was proud of myself for running the 5K, and proud of my wife for her accomplishments, but there was a hole in my heart where she should have been.  I took a lot of pictures, bragged about her medal to everyone I could, and tried to make the moment last as long as possible.  In the end, though, we were going to go our separate ways.

For this year’s race, which was held last weekend, she moved up into the 40-49 age group, so we figured that gave her an even better chance, but you never know with these things.  She had also been spending more time enjoying our new life together and a lot less time training, so she didn’t even commit to running the mile until a week or two beforehand.  Her training runs weren’t very good, but I figured she’d pull out a better time when it was the real thing.

She didn’t run nearly as well this year as last year, but we tried not to be disappointed.  We were glad to be part of supporting a good cause and glad to be together.  That was the biggest difference.  Last year, there was all the stress of our marriage problems and the uncertainty of our future clouding everything we did.  We were working hard and training well, and we were both getting into really good physical condition. Mentally and emotionally, everything was marred by the fact that we weren’t together and things weren’t working out for us.

This year, we thought it must be a mistake when the same announcer again called my wife’s name as the second place winner in her division.  We didn’t think she had placed and had almost left before they even presented the awards.  This year’s Medical Mile and 5K would have been a successful stop on the restoration tour even without a medal to show for it.  Getting to bring one home and add it to the wall just made it that much more of a special memory.

It’s the first day of my wife’s 41st year and life is certainly looking good from here.  Yesterday was one of those benchmark days on the restoration tour.  It’s a specific day, with specific events, that rectify and replace some of what was wrong with everything that is now right.

This birthday was full of peace and joy, while last year’s was anxious and fretful.  Last year, love was elusive, and noticeably absent.  This year, the presence of love was pervasive and unmistakable.  Last year, we were discovering that a lot of people who we thought were our friends were no friends at all.  This year, we know that we have a number of true friends, and we value them greatly.

So what made the difference? Several things.

Of course, the fact that we reached the point last Summer where we reconciled and found each other again changed everything.  Celebrating a birthday is completely different when two people are happily in love and wouldn’t think of leaving or ending the relationship.  But what about the healing, and the restoration of the past?

This year, it was all about knowing my wife well enough to know what mattered to her, and caring enough to make sure that she got the birthday that she wanted.  It was about putting thought and intent into making this a special and memorable day for her, not just doing obligatory duties like buying gifts and ordering a cake.

My wife is a kid at heart, so I made it a princess birthday, featuring Disney princesses and especially Belle, her favorite.  I got a good laugh at the store where I was buying princess wrapping paper, stickers, silly bands, etc. and the checker asked, “How old is she going to be?”  I’m pretty sure 40 wasn’t the answer she was expecting.

I gave her gifts and little surprises throughout the day, with a big surprise or two carefully worked in at the right moments.  There were presents to open in the morning (she’s a kid remember, and they want their gifts), little surprises slipped into her lunch box, and a car full of pink ballons when she left work.

Birthday Morning

After dinner, I gave her a surprise gift that she never saw coming.  Many years ago, a diamond pendant that I had bought her came up missing and was never found.  This year, I picked out a pendant to match the ring I gave her on our anniversary.  She thought she had already received her “big gift” in the morning and was completely unprepared for the necklace.
In the evening, we had a princess party at a local specialty cupcake shop, where a small group of friends and family surrounded her and joined in the spirit of the evening by putting on stickers and silly bands, pulling the strings on party poppers, and generally being silly.
A lot of healing took place yesterday.  A lot was restored.  Some of it, I wasn’t even aware of.  That’s the way love works when you do it right.  In the passage known as the love chapter the Bible says, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.”

My wife turns 40 today and Friday the 13th is a lucky day indeed.  She is celebrating 40 years young with a wonderful future to look forward to.

It wasn’t that way last year.  Last year at this time, she was angry and hurt, not knowing what the future might look like, but imagining it wouldn’t involve me or the life she had known for the past 13 years. 

Growing up in her family was very different from growing up in my family, and birthdays were no exception.  In my family, they were a special day, where the person who was having the birthday was excused from all chores, got to choose the evening meal, and was spoiled with gifts.  I always looked forward to my wife’s birthday more than my own because I got to give her the royal treatment. 

Last year, she was insistent that we were not celebrating her birthday and she didn’t want anything.  Nevertheless, I arranged for us to go out to eat at a place we always enjoy and had two of our adult children meeting us there.  I had bought a few small gifts that I snuck in and I discreetly let the server know it was her birthday. 

We all laughed and had a great time as we ate together, presented her with gifts, and convinced our server to take some pictures.  For an hour or so, the pain was pushed aside, and the reality that we truly are a great couple and have a great family took center stage. 

This year, that reality is where we live every day.  We are blessed beyond measure with a love that continues to grow and deepen.  Tonight, my wife will be the princess of the ball, and at the stroke of midnight, she will be sleeping, safely wrapped up in my love.