I’ve been thinking a lot about this time last year. I walk through my days remembering. I was sick a year ago. I felt like I had the flu. We went to breakfast with friends, visited another friend at their house up the mountain. Tonight was the night the headache started.
It’s been a year since meningitis. On this day last year, here’s where I was:
June 24, 2009
I walked outside into the late June green of our little farm and told Seth I was going back to the doctor. I had a fever. The pounding between my ears was so intense I couldn’t think. It hurt to breathe. It had been going on too long. I remembered for the thousandth time that day that it was our daughter Lucille’s first birthday. All I wanted to do was hold her, sing her happy birthday, put on her tiny feet the red shoes I’d bought her a few days before. I wanted to give her her first taste of chocolate icing but instead I got in my car and wondered for a minute if I could make the drive by myself.
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Every Sunday morning the training group I run with meets in the upstairs room above the Runner’s Edge, the running store in Missoula. We sit with our coffee, ipods, water, watches that can pretty much predict the future and listen to our coach as he tells us what he has in store for us.
Run against traffic, he says, for Christ’s sake. We’re almost there, he says, be conservative.
As we collect ourselves and our gear a hundred or so of us make our way down a flight of stairs and onto the street. Every Sunday I notice the poster of Steve Prefontaine as I start down the stairs. His eyes are piercing, even in a more than 30-year-old black and white photograph. Nearly every week I have to fight back tears.
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A few years ago Seth and I went to see “Touching the Void,” a mountaineering movie where one climber, Simon Yates, is forced to do the unthinkable. He cuts the rope between he and his climbing partner Joe Simpson moments before Yates would have been pulled off a snow ledge to his own death. The rope had jammed, they’d hit bad weather, Simpson dangled from the end of the rope with a broken leg and was unable to climb himself to safety. When Yates cut the rope Simpson fell but survived. He found himself broken, depleted and at the bottom of a crevasse. There, he said later, he realized that he did not believe in God. He said he’d often wondered what he would do if faced with a life or death situation. Would he pray? Would he all of a sudden get to his knees and talk to the Catholic God he’d been brought up to believe in? Would he ask for forgiveness? At the bottom of that crevasse he did not. And he knew then that he did not believe in a higher power. Somehow he crawled out of the crevasse, over moraine fields and back to his base camp in the remote Andes. The revelation he had at the bottom of that crevasse has always stuck with me; that moment when something became achingly clear.
I had one of those moments last week.
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When Eliza started preschool last fall I didn’t expect to feel anything but relief.
I’d been sick, we’d moved, I was ready for a break. The preschool we’d chosen was a good one and I thought she’d love it there immediately. I didn’t expect much in the way of transition. I thought I’d drop her off and she’d be happy, engaged, fine. This wasn’t the first time she’d been in childcare and I didn’t think she’d be shy when meeting other kids.
I was wrong on almost all counts.
Eliza was nervous. Some of the kids were bigger and she didn’t know a soul. She’d cling to my legs and cry when I left. Lucille hadn’t started walking yet so she hung around my neck while Eliza hung around my knees. Please God, someone peel them off of me, I thought.
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