I chose my father, M. L. Maddox. The neighborhood called him Big Daddy.
|My Dad & I in 1978|
I saw Dad's grave the day he was buried. My mom and siblings periodically asked me to go with them to visit the site, but I adamantly refused. It wasn't denial; I just wanted to go alone. Plus, Daddy didn't want us crying over him. I knew I would if I went there. Since this was the 10 year mark of his death, visiting the burial site seemed like the right thing to do. I started to go on Memorial Day, but I was afraid my family would be there and I didn't want to disturb their grief. The same with Father's Day. When the remembrance run came around, I felt like that was the right time.
I had a hard time on the Woodstock training runs. Whether it was body pain, fatigue, water stations packing up before I could get to them, mp3 player batteries running dead, or not being able to keep up with Milford Smallwood (my 90 year old running hero and arch nemesis), I came home after every session feeling like I'd been hit by a truck with an hour plus finishing time to show for it.
|Photo by Carla Willingham|
It's funny what kind of things stand out in one's memory. Though I'd only been to Dad's grave once, I had no trouble finding it today--I went straight to it. The plot of sorrow was a hard thing to see. I know that only his bodily remains are there; his spirit rests in the arms of the Almighty. However, seeing the grave not only caused the part of my heart that belongs to Daddy to squeeze in grief, but the guilt clamped around my neck and felt like I couldn't breathe. It was like he died all over again. Though the real Big Daddy wasn't in the box under the ground, I felt compelled to talk to it anyway. I told him how much I loved him and how sorry I was for all the pain I caused the family: all the time, money, shame, and attention that my existence cost him and mom. I have no way of making amends to my father for it, but acknowledging it at his grave was the least I could do. I hope that my health journey is an amends of sorts. I'll keep working at it no matter what, so that I'll never be a sickly, damaged burden on anyone else again. I owe my parents at least that much. I owe the world that much more.