I ran last night!
It was slow and it was with The Kid. But it was a run. And all I could think was ‘Oh wow! Oh wow! Ah man! This is great!’ And I felt grateful that I have two healthy, lovely daughters, and that I can always convince at least one of them to go for a run with me if I don’t feel like being on my own.
It had been the usual day: struggling to write some dull text for some dull textbook for money that I won’t see before next year. Then getting into the car to fetch my dad and driving him to the hospital. Dropping him off at the entrance so that he can make his slow way to my mom’s ward. Parking the car. Sitting in the car for as long as possible, psyching myself up for what I’ll be dealing with today. Maybe better? Maybe lucid? Cheerful? Or taken down by some new infection and back on the drip and more confused than usual? Back to being abusive?
And she was better but no better at all. Physically better. No infection, no blisters, no drip. But just stuck on the same old line: get me out of here. On and on and on and on.
‘What must I do to get out of here?’ she would ask.
‘You have to walk, mom,’ I’d say.
‘But why can’t I just be pushed?’ she would ask.
‘Because you need to be able to get up to go to the toilet. We can’t take care of you at home if you can’t walk.’
‘But why can’t I just be pushed? You can just wheel me to the toilet.’
‘And then? When you get there? Can you get up?’
‘Of course I can get up!’
‘Okay, that’s great. Show me?’
‘What must I do to get out of here? You’re the one with brains. You tell me what to do.’
‘You have to walk, mom.’
‘Yes. You need to sit up, then stand up and then you have to walk.’
‘But I can just pull the blanket over me like this and then you wheel me to the car.’
‘We can’t do that. The bed’s too heavy.’
‘Get one of the nurses. I’ll pay them a thousand rand.’
‘They’re not allowed to do that.’
‘What must I do to get out of here?’
‘You have to walk, mom. It’s the only way.’
‘Why can’t you just push me?’
‘Okay, tomorrow. Tomorrow we’ll push you. Get some rest today.’
‘You think tomorrow will be better?’
‘Tell me, what must I do to get out of here? Why can’t you just push me?’
Put this on repeat for an hour and that’s pretty much how it goes. And nothing can distract her. Nothing veers her off this track. No magazines, no photos, no change of topic. Nothing.
Then, when that was done, I put some old time music on, Elvis or Sinatra or Frankie Valli, because my dad can be distracted with music from his youth, and sat in the late afternoon traffic to ferry my dad back home. And then I sat in some more traffic to fetch The Kid from school. Then I got home and made some herbal tea with maple syrup and sat down on the couch that the dog had shredded and felt roots grow from my body through the couch and into the floorboards … the floorboards that we had gone through all sorts of disaster to have laid last December, the floorboards that had buckled and warped (called ‘cupping’ by the professionals) and lifted, the floorboards that need to be completely lifted and replaced this December … because I really have not much to do and need some distraction, like repeating a process that was really quite dismal the first time round.
But I was running tonight. This is it. There will be running.
Firstborn Daughter came home from work. She wanted to run too. She had signed her voluntary retrenchment papers. She had had an emotional day and she needed to pound some tar.
There was no Significant Other, as he was working late, and the dogs had to be walked first. The Kid feigned total exhaustion. She wasn’t up for either dog walking or running or garden watering or cooking or homework. She might have been up for a spot of texting, though.
So Firstborn Daughter and I took the mad dogs for their walk, leaving instructions with the horizontal kid to be ready to run when we got back. Of course she wasn’t ready to run when we got back. She was still horizontal. Still in her school uniform. Still unspeakably tired.
It took a very long time for her to finally get into some running gear. But we did, eventually, leave the house. And we did, eventually, put one foot in front of the other, both with our Garmins set, both with our music in our ears.
Despite her reluctance, she did well. She ran a full 4 km without stopping. There was some dramatic and highly irritating asthmatic breathing from about 3 km, which I had to filter from my consciousness. But I’m growing very skilled at filtering annoying sounds.
‘Slow down,’ I’d say. ‘Walk if you need to. You don’t have to kill yourself. It’s supposed to be fun.’
‘I can’t,’ she’d say. ‘I can’t slow down. If I slow down it won’t count.’
‘Count for what?’
By 4 km I got horrible ITB – or something; something that put my right knee in agony. I had sat down awkwardly a few days ago, folding my leg under me, and I had felt something pull. It came back to haunt me last night and it’s still acting up this morning.
But we got to the end of it. She walked the last kay, clutching her stomach or her side or her something, something that was terribly sore, and she worked the heavy breathing thing, but she wouldn’t stop until the watch said 5 km, which is pretty admirable. We were lighter by the time we got home. I had half an hour of not thinking about my mom, about deadlines, about chores, about my career. I stomped my tiredness and glumness into the pavement and left it there.
And then I made zucchini fritters for supper and washed it down with a rather superb Flagstone Shiraz – so superb that I had a bit too much of it, so it kind of negated the good (physical) effects of the run. But it doesn’t really matter. I ran.
It was only 5 km. And it took a long time to run it. But I ran last night. And today my world is a brighter place.