26 years ago today, I was constantly checking my dress shoes to make sure one of my brothers hadn't written "SAVE ME" or "HELP ME" on the bottom of them. Father Fernandez told me to be vigilant, that such wasn't good when I was kneeling at the altar exposing the bottoms of my shoes to friends and family at the church.
I wasn't a Catholic at the time, and I remember Father Fernandez particuarly addressing me saying he didn't expect me to listen to church hymns in the car, so don't expect him to allow Neil Diamond music in his church. I didn't have any Neil Diamond LPs, so this was OK with me. Kelly's friend Kathy Wilson was a classically-trained singer, and she ended up playing the piano and singing Ave Maria so beautifully that even the statue of Mary was weeping.
26 years ago today, my brother insisted we needed a limo to take us from the church to the reception. Kelly and I were the last to leave for the reception, waiting outside almost 30 minutes in the August 6th heat for the limo to arrive. At the reception, my brother took me off to the side and whispered that I needed to write a check and give it to him to pay the limo driver, and to make sure I included a generous tip.
26 years ago today, whoever got to the reception first insisted they start pouring champagne (even though, on our shoestring budget, we had decided only to have enough for one toast.) When we arrived, the champagne was flowing, and my sister-in-law was already slurring her words and dirty-dancing with one of my co-workers. I never saw my groom's cake -- it was all gone by the time we got there. I hear it was a delicious German chocolate.
Fred was at the reception. Kelly and I met at the grocery store -- she was a checker, and I was a courtesy clerk. When I got promoted to checker, and thus had a future, she agreed to go out with me. Fred was one of our regular customers. A sweet and salty old man. Lived right across the street and walked over. Came in the mornings to drink coffee in the snack bar with his buddies. If one of us were on break, he'd pull up a chair. We visited Fred when he was sick. Checked on him from time to time at his apartment if we hadn't seen him for awhile. Fred is gone now, but we remember him when we look at our wedding pictures.
26 years ago, I was green. I wasn't so gentlemanly, and modest, as I am now. Kelly has trained me well, coached me along, turned me into an infinitely better man than I would have been otherwise. And, I'm still a work in progress. I know that. I don't try to kid myself.
(Note to my running girl-friends: We men don't come pre-packaged and ready-to-show. We're pretty much hairy, spoiled little boys whose Mama has tended to our every need for the past 20 or more years. We're yours now. It's your job to coach us, teach us, mold us, turn us into the men who are going to be good fathers for your babies, God-fearing and dedicated husbands, reliable providers for your family, and community-serving citizens. It's pretty much up to you now. If you need some advice or tips, feel free to contact Kelly, or meet up with her at the August 15th Team Sprinkles get-together. She'd be glad to help you.)
So, what does this have to do with running? As marathon runners, some of us are also green (I know I am.) We're on week 5 of a 23-week program. But, think of how far we've already come in just 5 weeks since our initial run on 7/11. In just 5 weeks, our fitness level has improved exponentially. In just 5 weeks, I have met some new people whose company I enjoy immensely, and who I genuinely miss between Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Considering the progress we've made in just 5 weeks, imagine who we are going to be at 23 weeks.
My old boss, who convinced me to run my first marathon in 1997, was also a mountain climber. When the going was particularly treacherous, his group would tie themselves together with a long rope so that if one person fell, the others would catch him so he didn't fall off the mountain, and then he could get back up and get going again. That's going to be us at this year's White Rock Marathon.
26 years ago today. Happy Anniversary, dear!