The virtual ink has been dry recently. It’s not that I haven’t had things to write about; the ideas have been flowing. For some reason it just hasn’t felt right. That changed on Sunday. As I joined my daughter Chavi in completing the Miami Half Marathon, I knew I wanted to try and put my thoughts to words.
My dad OB”M, once told me that although I would of course love all of my children, there is something special about a father’s relationship with his daughter. As in so many other cases, he was correct. Chavi has always been my little girl, only she’s not so little anymore. In fact she turned 12 on Friday, two days before the race. In fact, becoming a bas/bat mitzvah was part of the impetus for her running the race.
Over the course of the weekend, I was reminded over and over again that she is getting older and that I need to let go a little. Throughout the weekend I watched in awe as she carried herself with confidence and dignity in dealing with all sorts of people, some of whom were many years her senior. When she asked me if she could hang out in the hotel lobby with some of the teenage girls who were also running, I said "Sure", although I felt a lump in my throat as I realized she no longer needed me to watch over her. It would not be the last time that I would have this realization.
The race was not easy for Chavi. Due to my stress fracture I had not been able to train with her, so her mom did her best, while juggling the gazillions of other parts of her life. Her longest training “run” was less than eight miles on the treadmill. Although I remained positive in discussing the race with Chavi, I knew that 13.1 miles on pavement would be tough.
As we waited for the race to start, I told Chavi that in the event that we would get separated, she should keep on going and that I would meet her at the Team Lifeline tent at the finish line. Truth is, I thought, "You’ll be fine without me".
As we started out, I was struck by the fact that one of the youngest women running the race was also the prettiest. We started out running one minute and then walking the next, but after a while, this became too tough for Chavi. For the rest of the race we ran when she could and walked the rest of the time. At times she surprised me by breaking out into a sprint. We picked light poles and mile markers, as places to run to, and we picked guys for her to “chick” (when a female runner passes a male runner), an important phrase that I taught her. We decided that we had to beat the ex-marine wearing the pink tutu. We tried to figure out what ING, the sponsor of the race, stands for (I guessed “International Something Something”, she suggested “I No Go”). We took advantage of gravity on downhills and mugged for every picture, as I hoped my smile could come close to matching hers. As she tired, I became her cheerleader, teaser and, at times, for the first time in too many years, her hand-holder. I splashed her with cups of water, as a way of cooling her off and we talked about life in a way we never had before. As her struggle intensified, I saw a look of beautiful determination on her face that reminded me of someone else. I thought back to the race two years earlier with Chavi’s mom, who had looked the same, later on in her race. I was so happy to discover another way that Chavi resembles my wonderful wife (the alternative being a whole lot less thrilling).
As we approached the finish line, I had to fight back tears. It was not because I had missed my PR by almost two hours. Chavi had stared down and overcome a great challenge and it was amazing to behold. Being a part of the experience was humbling and overwhelming. Most importantly, while I had been correct in my belief that Chavi could have finished on her own, I now realized that had I not been there, it would have been that much harder. Although I no longer need to grasp her hand so firmly, I do not yet need to let go.
Although the race is now over, you can still donate money to help sick children in honor of Chavi becoming a bas/bat mitzvah.http://www.teamlifeline.org/mypage.php?myid=57970