Saturday, July 26, 2014

#86: Remembering Big Daddy [101 in 1001]

Today, Anniston Runners Club had its annual remembrance run.  It's the final Saturday training run before the Woodstock 5k.  I've been going to these training runs since June.  I've not written about the training runs because they weren't worth mentioning since compared to last year,  my 5k times are horrible.  Anyway, the point of the remembrance run is to honor the memory of a deceased loved one, or to pay tribute to someone of influence. 

I chose my father, M. L. Maddox. The neighborhood called him Big Daddy.

My Dad & I in 1978
Daddy was born January 24, 1930.  His life of 74 years was full of hard work, 46 years of marriage to my mom, hard times, and a gaggle of offspring, of which I am the youngest (as far as we know).  Those years were also full of a lot of health problems.  Eating habits that caused heart disease and diabetes, along with a 62 year smoking habit slowly damaged his health.  On April 23, 2004, his body gave up the fight.

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
Today's run was different.  From the minute I wrote "M.L. Maddox" on my race bib, I couldn't get him out of my mind.  As soon as they gave us the signal to go, I got ahead of Mr. Smallwood in the first five minutes and never looked back.  I did more running than I had all the other training runs.  I finished in 58 minutes, 40 seconds; having shaved almost 7 minutes off Thursday's run.  I hope my time is just as good, if not better at the real race next Saturday.  The triumph was bittersweet because I knew what was coming next.  After a few hugs, pictures, and snacks, I headed for the cemetery.

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.

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