I had decided to take the day off from the gym today, but changed my mind when I woke up. It was a beautiful, dark morning. The birds weren’t even awake yet. The great thing about the gym on Saturdays is that they don’t open until six a.m… So I get to sleep in a bit. I arrived about 10 minutes before they opened and was standing outside with some other early morning health freaks. Here we all were standing there, anticipating our early morning workout at 5:50a.m. on a Saturday, while many people were at home in their cozy beds. You could feel the energy emanating from the group. It was fantastic.
  I have always found something invigorating about working out when it’s usually time to be asleep. When I first started working out originally in 2006, I would rise at four a.m. because I was embarrassed about how I looked, and didn’t want others seeing me. After awhile I started to enjoy the solitude and feeling of doing something healthy at an hour where even most healthy people aren’t awake. In fact, I started to feel a bit smug. Not that I would brag about it, but internally I was getting a bit cocky.
  After a time, I started having to close where I worked, and getting home around 11p.m. was just not going to work for a four a.m. wake up plan. So I started running around 11ish when i got home. I am sitting here this morning, recollecting a specific run of mine late one night.
  It was 11:30p.m. on May 16, 2006. My father had succumbed to terminal brain cancer in February. I was still grieving. I had wanted him to live… Obviously. I thought about him often, as I still do. This was the eve of my birthday. In 45 minutes, I would be 26.
  I stepped out into the crisp evening air. I was exited about my birthday. It’s the one day a year, where it’s all about me. A few cars passed on the lonely, dark streets I was running, but not many.
I checked my watch. 11:40. Only 20 minutes I thought to myself with a smile. I pushed a little harder.
  Watch check, 11:43.  A dog was barking in the distance. And the house I was passing had someone in the kitchen window, doing dishes. She looked up and smiled. I smiled back.
  Watch check, 11:45. “Jeeze,” I thought, “I have too stop checking my watch.”  I saw a homeless man sleeping in the park I was now passing. I rounded the corner to home and was on the final stretch towards home. This was the point where I would usually sprint, and then take a small five minute walk up the street and back for a cool down.
  Watch check, 12:06… I stopped dead in my tracks. It was my birthday. 26 years ago today, my father held me in his arms for the first time. He stopped partying, stopped drugs, and started working harder because of me. It was my birthday. 26 years ago today, I opened my eyes to see my biggest hero in my entire life.
  Standing there in the middle of the road, I realized that it was my birthday. No bells or chimes went off. The stars didn’t magically spell my name. The world was asleep around me. Nothing had changed. Everything was just as it had been five minutes before. I was finishing a run, my wife and kids were still asleep, my father was still dead, and I was still greaving. I sat down upon the curb and covered my face as I broke into tears. The cold concrete soothed my overheated body as I lay back and stared skyward through tear stained eyes. It was my birthday, and today would be the first one that my father didn’t call and sing me happy birthday.
  I finished my crybaby session, and slowly jogged up the street. I went inside and quietly got undressed for a shower. Looking at my reflection in the mirror I realized something. My father wasn’t gone. He was in the mirror staring back at me. He was in my face, my hands, my heart and soul. He would always be with me… even if he couldn’t call and sing to me on my birthday.
  A tear fell from my eye as I stepped into the shower smiling… It was my birthday.

R.I.P.  Harold Wayne “Behr” Rupe
   Taken too soon, I love you poppa bear.

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