I’ve never done marathons on consecutive weekends and have wondered if I could trick my legs into believing they weren’t tired. Last Sunday I finished the Honolulu Marathon with my husband. Today, thanks to much appreciated encouragement from race organizer Kawika Carlson, I completed the Hawaii Kai Ultra Run marathon (my 21st). Guess what: my legs are pretty tired! And my mind is kaput. So I’ll write more tomorrow after a good night’s sleep and after more endorphins kick in!
Days have passed by so quickly since the marathon that I almost forgot about Wednesday’s post!
And here it is Wednesday evening. And here I was so sure that after finishing my 20th marathon last Sunday I would be moving onto different kinds of marathons — the kind of long-term goals that require commitment, endurance, and humor, like being a better parent and playing the bassoon again.
So why am I already thinking about a 21st marathon? Has the proverbial Runner’s High made me take leave of my senses?
I’ll keep you posted and set the stage for a cliffhanger — but I’ll let you know by this weekend!
The handsome guy on the right finished his 1st marathon, I completed my 20th.
This one was special: we did all 26.2 miles together. We stayed with each other from start to finish. At times he was stronger and he lifted me; other times I felt like my experience could help my husband. We talked, laughed, and were quiet at times. Fellow marathoners and spectators cheered for us.
We crossed the finish line holding hands and our arms raised in joy and relief.
Every mile of this marathon and marriage has been worth it!
Well, friends, it’s Wednesday and on Sunday I’ll attempt to complete my 20th marathon.
Because I’ll be with my husband who is doing his first and will be walking a fair amount, I haven’t had quite the same muscle aches, strains, and cramps I have learned to embrace.
I also haven’t had the nice weight loss that usually comes with hard training, but that’s fine.
I am convincing myself that allergies and I are just having a bad date right now, nothing more serious than that. If so, I will smell of garlic soon which has helped overcome many a cold in rapid time.
Fortunately, I have very concrete goals at work to keep my mind free from wandering too far. Stay in the moment as many good friends have said.
I’ve never, ever been someone who wants time to rush by except when I’m in an airplane. I look forward, though, to posting again on Sunday with what I hope will be good news about finishing those 26.2 miles. Send good thoughts to all of us out there. We appreciate them!
Yesterday was built around our daughter.
Most of the morning we worked out logistics for the big event: her performance with her hula classmates in front of hundreds people at a swanky mall in Honolulu.
Between rehearsals, prepping, primping, transportation, eating, performance, and post-performance bonding, six hours of a Saturday mostly flew by.
Without missing a beat, though, and no costume change, we drove straight from the mall to a Girl Scout holiday party with wonderful friends, games, food, presents, conversations, and another rush of time. Five hours later, all The Three of Us could think about was sleep.
A funny thing happened, though, on the way to gathering with other parents at the stage area to cheer our kids on: a salesperson approached my husband and me with moisturizer samples from a boutique where even walking in and breathing the rarefied air carries the expectation of leaving a tip! I guess we were profiled!
Except that the tips were given to me by a young man from France who carefully massaged the left side of my face while telling me how to care for my skin. I swallowed down laughs and tried not to joke too loudly with my husband that this impromptu face treatment was going to cost a fortune.
Actually, said Guillaume, it would cost just a few hundred dollars and last two years because even after years of tennis and distance running, my skin, thanks to not smoking and my already being a fan of organic creams, was in pretty good shape.
He then asked the question I had been waiting for: my age. This time, I could not stifle my laughter. I made him guess. A good salesman, he made me several years younger. We talked a little more, but I was determined not to spend any money and to make it to my daughter’s hula performance in time. Guillaume expertly applied at least $30 of product to the other side of my face, made another sales pitch, gave us his boutique’s contact information, and let us go.
On the way to Girl Scout festivities, I talked to my husband about the fun and unexpected boutique experience. Mind you, I grew up avoiding malls. I’ve never had a credit card. I’ve usually held two or three jobs. Just last week, I blogged about how I had purchased my last piece of new clothing. I’m a fan of free samples.
My husband turned to me in the car at a traffic stop, smiled and said, “I’ve never seen your skin look better. Maybe you should consider buying the product.”
You see how lucky I am. Maybe it was my husband’s kind words, Guillaume’s magical potions, or exhilaration about my daughter fitting in so well into the communities we have found in Hawaii that I felt lighter, maybe even 5 years younger!
A day later, I’m back to the challenges and joys of parenthood, thinking of what I need to accomplish at work this week, and uneasy thoughts about the state of world affairs, but I believe my skin still has a certain glow to it — or maybe that’s just residue from the yogurt my daughter spilled on me this morning.
Death does not always make sense.
Sometimes, understanding wins out against grief. When my father died a few years ago, I remembered he was not always the kindest person to his body and that his life was also filled with hardship. He still lived, though, a pretty fulfilling, reasonably long life. He saw his first of six grandchildren begin college. His marriage lasted more than 50 years.
When I read last week that Jana Novotna, a former Wimbledon champion, had died at age 49, my first thought was, “How is this possible?”
Although I had met Jana just twice when I was working as a tennis reporter, reading about her quiet battle with cancer felt like learning about a few close friends close to my age who also died too young.
For those of us who have worked as reporters, any star who agrees to spend time answering questions with grace and humor is a real gift for a writer.
Jana was a gift to the tennis world in spectacular ways. Her fearless, relentless volleys and taking control of the net was a welcome sight for fans who have grown so used to the power baseline rallies that dominate the game today. Jana wore her emotions on her sleeve, and, after losing one of her three Wimbledon finals, sobbed on the shoulder of the Duchess of Kent.
Jana won “only” one major singles title, arguably two if one counts the year-end championships on the professional tennis tour. To be honest, until I read about her death, I had not thought about her a lot in the last few years. Every once in a while I would watch a clip of her playing a major final in the ’90s. “Boy,” I would think, “I miss that gritty style of play. I miss Jana.”
And then I would move on, quickly, to helping my young daughter get ready for her next weekend activity. As most parents know, watching anything for more than a few minutes on television with a young child awake can be a challenge!
I hope my daughter will be like the Jana I saw on an off the court: fearless, smart, confident, modest, tenacious, gifted, sensitive, agile. I wish I had spent a little more time appreciating Jana when she was alive instead of missing her now.
How is that for a headline!
And what does it mean?
My husband looked at it while I was typing and said, “Oh no, your readers will assume the worst!”
I told him I would let readers know as soon as possible I am just fine, that I could have fun with this post.
I’m a middle-aged guy who recently reconnected with many of his high school classmates. I sent them an early holiday picture of my beautiful family: my husband of 15 years and our gorgeous, seven-year-old daughter.
In high school, I was easily identified as the skinny kid with blond hair who wrote poetry, and played tennis and the bassoon. In fact, I’m still skinny, write poetry, play tennis and the bassoon. My hair is pretty much the same as way back when. The blond is being overtaken by gray, but I still have the same bangs and haircut!
I was also the gay guy who dreaded the torment — verbal and physical — I faced almost every day. I couldn’t wait to escape the small village, small high school, and long winters of my youth. I was convinced my writing skills and determination would help me find my place in a larger, more accepting world.
Guess what? It didn’t happen overnight! It took decades.
Part of that, of course, was accepting myself and learning forgiveness.
As I wrote my high school classmates, I made it through many painful, but also great miles to be able to send that picture of my husband, daughter, and me, to share gratitude for still being part of a community I left behind years ago to land where I am now: a middle-aged guy finding peace with the convoluted but exciting roads that took me to Hawaii to savor life with a family who is the reason I get up in the morning; a worthwhile profession I’ve been in for 20 years with a new goal of joining a small group of colleagues with actual licensing in our field; a 20th marathon in a few weeks I will finish with my husband who is doing his first; poems I want to publish; and a bassoon that needs to be taken out again to fill our home with strange, wonderful sounds!
So why did I purchase my last piece of clothing yesterday, a pink buttondown shirt purchased on Black Friday, a real deal!
The deal is this: with age comes an understanding of what really matters. I still wear clothes I’ve had for 30 years, shirts, jackets, pants, even ties from my grandfather and father. I take care of them. They are keepers, just like poetry, the bassoon, my family.
My family lives pretty modestly in Hawaii. I went through clothes this holiday weekend I will probably never wear again, that have seen their better days, that have no family ties, that I no longer need. They fill up space I want to leave open for my daughter as she grows, discovers life, and weaves her own coat of many colors.
With the miles ahead, I’m sure I’ll need a new pair of shoes now and then, but nothing fancy. As for shirts, pants, running clothes, a few ties (not widely worn in Hawaii), I’m fine. What I have now will likely last another 30 years. I learned from my father how to keep them in good shape.
To celebrate, though, I ordered my last real new piece of clothing: that pink shirt. It’s a color I feel proud of wearing, and I know I will like the fit.
Good Sunday morning, Readers of Tennis, Trisomy 21 and Taking in Life Together!
It occurred to me yesterday, five months into the second year of writing this blog, that it’s time to request your direct input, especially as I am now posting only on Wednesdays and a weekend day in year two (rather than every weekday during year one).
What topics covered in this blog do you enjoy the most? What would you like to see more or less of? How are the pictures? The writing style: one reader in Great Britain wrote she looked forward to my “ruminations” about life. Should I keep ruminating away about childraising, growing up and being gay, tennis, children with extra chromosomes, royalty, my life’s journey, my hopes to give people who feel left out courage to believe in themselves, community, faith, Quakerism, distance running? Would you like to see more poems?
Let me know, and as we head into the holiday season, I will strive to be mindful about what you prefer to read in this blog.
Thank you for all your support and for encouraging me to keep the blog going a second year. I’m grateful for your readership!
As I’ve written in this blog before, I’ve been fascinated by royalty a big chunk of my life. I never quite realized who was Queen or King of what country until Princess Diana married Prince Charles. (Yes, I know, Lady Diana Spencer became Her Royal Highness The Princess of Wales and, after her divorce, Diana, Princess of Wales. Royalty experts are quick to point out that her correct styling was never Princess Diana.)
I even was once married to a baroness, or at least the granddaughter of one. Technically, the title passed on to her. We did not live in a castle. We looked for bargains in supermarkets. I did notice, though, that she had a far more relaxed approach to money than I did.
After all, I am the first son (of three children) of the first daughter (the oldest of six children) of the first son (the oldest of 16 children — yes, my grandfather had 15 siblings!) and many men in my family hunted deer to feed themselves and their children. I wore hand-me-downs. I paid for a decent chunk of my college education, one of the reasons why I made it my goal to finish college in three years. (I succeeded.) To this day, I have never owned a credit card. I live only on what I know I have.
But to relax late in the evening, I read about royalty, castles, who is related to whom. I subscribe to a German version of People magazine, Bunte, and have read it faithfully for decades. My cousins in Bavaria, some of whom still live on the small farm that has been in our family for centuries, used to tease me royally (no pun intended) about my reading Bunte or speaking fondly of Queen Silvia of Sweden. Don’t get me wrong: I have also read Nietzsche, Schiller, and Goethe, and not just to make my cousins happy! But to this day, nothing feels better than cozying up with my Bunte, a nice beverage, and a leisurely half hour!
So one of the many unexpected pleasures of living in Hawaii is discovering the omnipresence of royalty. Museums have entire wings devoted to past kings, queens, princes and princesses who once ruled the islands. Schools, hospitals, and streets bear their names. A few short miles from where we live, a palace has been restored to honor Hawaiian national identity. Real-life princes and princesses still play a prominent role in Hawaii.
A few weeks ago, my family and I met Hawaii’s last queen or at least a wonderful teacher and actress who represented Queen Lili’uokalani in an anniversary celebration of her life. We spoke with her for about five minutes. During that brief time, she quickly realized and encouraged my daughter’s ability to speak three languages and her potential for contributing to society. I’ve met a pope, and current or former barons, baronesses, even a few earls and countesses. When I was a tennis journalist, I had an extensive interview with Evonne Goolagong who is true tennis royalty. But I had never met a queen.
Just like after my conversation with Evonne, I felt lighter on my feet after meeting Queen Lili’uokalani, as though I had traveled to a more noble form of consciousness. I wanted to go out into the world and do better. My daughter was also a bit transformed. We went to her favorite museum in the afternoon and looked at the permanent exhibit about royalty. For two hours, my daughter was poised and radiant in her pink dress. Later we went home to our tiny castle where we live so close to the neighbors we can hear them sneeze (and say “Bless you” through the window, after which they usually say “Thank you, neighbor), dined on fish sticks and chicken nuggets, and fell into a gentle, resplendent sleep.