Take Care of Yourself

ChAoS in MOtiOn
Take Care of Yourself

            I really didn’t think I was ready to write this piece yet, but all week, the words keep rolling around in my head and won’t leave; I will accept that it is just time to write this piece. 
            In one of my earlier pieces I mentioned that I run with a hanky.  Technically they are handkerchiefs, and there is not just one, but several of them and they all were my Mother’s.  My mom came from a softer generation that carried these pretty pieces of cloth in their purses for those tears or sniffle needs.  Very unlike me rummaging for a McDonalds napkin in my overflowing purse filled with tiny tractors, a sippee cup, rocks, half-melted tootsie rolls stuck to pennies and play keys that make noises at inopportune times, like during a sermon.  It didn’t occur to me until writing this that maybe I should just put these handkerchiefs in my purse like she did, but I’ve never needed them like I need them when I run.
            This December will mark ten years since Mom’s death.  She died far too young at 67 years old, and two weeks after I learned I was pregnant with our oldest child.  She had spent most of the last 5 years of her life coupled to an oxygen tank, the result of a lifetime of “not smoking.” See, she “didn’t smoke.” I mean she did, but only as much as one can smoke in the bathroom, in a house with seven people and only one bathroom. One. So she did, but never in front of hardly anyone, especially her family.  So to see her succumb so severely and quickly to emphysema was especially difficult.  I would not wish what Mom had to endure in those last years on anyone. She would struggle to breathe, become anxious because she couldn’t breath, thus increasing her need to breath and the cycle was horrible to watch.  We talked frankly in the end about her beginning days of smoking and I remember her saying, “We didn’t know.  It was just the thing to do. We just didn’t know…” her voice trailing off. 
            There may have been other things she said to me in the end, but what I remember as her last spoken words to me were, “Take care of yourself.” And I told her I would. She said again, “Take care of yourself” with a look I will never forget. If you can imagine a look that combined love, regret, hope, wisdom and more love, that was what I saw in her eyes.  I understood her wishes for me: health.
            Like a lost relationship, we don’t really grasp the desire for good health until it starts to slip away from us.  Sometimes it is a permanent slip, but other times if we are lucky, that which slips is just a wakeup call to us, reminding us that all relationships, even that one with our body, needs nurturing.             
            After Mom died I ended up with all of her pretty delicate handkerchiefs.  I also started running a few years after she died. She was my Mom, and she told me to take care of myself, so I listened.  The delicacy of the hankies and the harsh physicality of running is quite contrasting.  But she is with me when I run, usually tucked in by my heart. And it is not lost on me that I am remembering my Mom by using something I wipe snot and sweat upon. But if you had known my Mom, she would have found the humor in that fact.  When I run, I sometimes hear her, usually when I really need it, when the negative voice in my head is telling me to just bag it and quit.  I hear her when I’m asking myself questions about life or parenting.   I feel her in that mile when an eagle has flown in front of me 3 times while I’m lost in my thoughts of missing her.  And I always hear her in that last push to the finish line, the biggest fan screaming “GO DIANI GO DIANI GO!”
            In less than two weeks I will toe the line of my first marathon and I can only hope I’ve made her proud with her wish for me to take care of myself.            She will be with me for the entire 26.2 miles that day, tucked by my heart.