Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Last Kiss

"Never regret. If it's good, it's wonderful. If it's bad, it's experience." -Victoria Holt

Have you ever reflected back and realize you missed out on the last opportunity of something truly meaningful?

No, not the last donut in the dozen (otherwise that would be every weekend in my household of three children) and not filling your tank with gas before the prices raise twenty cents while you were sleeping.

I'm talking about the last opportunity that you didn't realize was the last.

This happened to me early this year when I hugged someone good-bye that at the time I didn't realize was a "good-bye."   This experience reminded me of another very important moment I have often regretted "missing."  However, recently I realized that this "moment" from the past was actually a wonderful experience.

I remember the moment so clearly.  It was the last kiss I shared with my husband, Brian.   Funny, I remember this kiss more clearly than our first kiss.  Don't get me wrong, I remember the first kiss....on the Ithaca Commons in the middle of January while all my friends were waiting for me to head back to campus.  In true upstate New York fashion, it was snowing and quite cold.   I also recall Brian gave me some lame line that I knew was a lame line at the time....he really didn't need to use a line.  I had hoped he would kiss me.  But, that wasn't the last kiss.....it was just the start of a lifetime together.

No our last kiss is so much more vivid to me.....because I didn't realize at the time I wouldn't kiss him ever again.  Perhaps this is what has caused me to replay it in my mind more often, causing such clarity....and regret for not recognizing it's importance at the time. 

Brian had been admitted unexpectedly to the hospital days earlier and he was headed off to surgery to determine what was causing his medical concerns.  This was prior to our confirmation that he had cancer.  Brian was very worried - I think he watched Paul Newman's The Verdict a few too many times - for those of you not familiar with one of Brian's favorite movies, Paul Newman's character is pursuing a malpractice lawsuit after a woman goes into a coma when going under antheshia for a surgery.  If you knew Brian well, you certainly should not be surprised that he was worried about this scene being reenacted.

Anyways, perhaps it was his worry but I was certain that I'd see him a few hours later.  The kiss was in a hallway leading into the surgical unit and he was on a gurney in a hospital gown.  Not nearly as romantic as Ithaca, NY with snow falling around us.  However, it was this kiss that I vividly remember - and it was this kiss that was filled with the sparks that reminded us both how in love we were with one another.  Not that we ever doubted our love but I think we all can agree that once life gets busy with work, kids, etc, your relationship with your spouse goes into an unplanned "holding pattern."  All the more reason to make an effort to not let this occur!

Brian survived that surgery however the news was terrible and he never left the hospital again.  There were numerous tubes, oxygen, etc. that  wouldn't allow any more than a quick peck on the cheek.

I will spare you the details of those last few days, however they were filled with both joy and sadness.  At this point, we were preparing for the end.....however, again, I still didn't realize that the kiss we shared in the hallway prior to his first surgery would be his last.

Why am I remembering this now?  My realization that I missed an ending I wasn't aware of made me wonder what other endings had I missed.

Which made me wonder....am I bad at anticipating change in my life?

Am I too optimistic?

This reflection has really peaked my sense of observation.....and I will wonder a bit more with every encounter I have.  I certainly do not take life for granted but now that I have put more thought into this, I will no longer take individual actions or encounters for granted either.

"Never regret. If it's good, it's wonderful. If it's bad, it's experience." -Victoria Holt

A new guiding principle for me.  After losing several loved ones much too young, I really don't take life too seriously.  I also realize that regret isn't necessary - it's either a wonderful life experience or it is a learning experience.  If I keep my eye's open, hopefully future experiences can be both.

Please no pity party for me......just an observation that I need to be more observant of life - and we should all appreciate the unexpected a bit more.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

My Love of Sports - A Father's Day Tribute

Written by my daughter for her father, but my sentiments exactly for my own father

The Boston Bruin's Stanley Cup win this week was very fitting for Father's Day.

My father was a HUGE Bruin's fan - and shared his love of all Boston sports with his family....along with his love of hockey.  We may have been born and raised in New York, but there isn't a Yankee or Met fan among his children - and anyone we brought home to meet him that was, was greeted with a bit of suspect.

My father unfortunately passed away in 2003 after a valiant battle with cancer....never witnessing the Boston Red Sox winning a World Series in his lifetime.  They ended that 86 year drought the following year in St. Louis (I, along with all our local Cubs fans, were thrilled with that win).

I give my father credit for my love of sports and competitive spirit.  He encouraged his children to participate in sports - and back in the 70's that was not as popular as it is now for our children.  Although he wasn't able to attend many of my field hockey games and track meets, he always was willing to drive me to/from practices, camps, and support me in my quest to play in college.  He also was very supportive when I decided to quit playing field hockey - after all those practices, camps, etc.  It was my decision and he never once asked me to reconsider or make me feel regretful.

My mother passed away when I was 2 years old - again a loved one lost after a battle with cancer - and my father was left with his own grief, 5 children and in a city without any family support.  I had no appreciation for what he endured and sacrificed for the five of us - although I suspect all children lack this ability.

How ironic that 36 years later, I was placed in the same situation.  Sadly, my father passed away the year prior to Brian's passing.  I have lost count of the number of times I have wished he were alive so I could ask him how he did it, for advice in raising children alone, how he overcame the loneliness, how he juggled all the parenting tasks so effortlessly.  My father NEVER appeared to be drowning - never appeared to be filled with the anxiety I have on occasion been paralyzed with.

I am so regretful that I never appreciated what an amazing father he was, how he prepared me to be independent and thrive regardless of what life throws at you.

Earlier this month I wrote a tribute to my husband, Brian, for our anniversary.  I would be remiss to not mention him on this important day as well.

Brian did get to see his Phillies win a World Series back in 1980 as a child,  however, the remainder of his life, he was forced to see them viewed as hapless....and just missed out on their most triumphant years.  He would be pleased that his boys and daughter are diehard Phillies fans - and especially baseball fans.

Just as I am a hockey fan because of my father, Jay and Nolan are 100% fans of not only the Phillies but the game of baseball because of Brian.  Any vacation we took involved baseball.  It didn't matter what city and what teams were playing.  Spring Break trips at Spring Training became a tradition for Brian and the boys.....one that we've done without him once and it was actually difficult for my older son to not have his dad there.  So much that he asked we not do it the next year.

I know that my children miss their father as much as I miss mine....and I am absolutely grateful for the lifetime of memories I have of my father.

What interest do you have that you credit your father for? 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

June 10th - The Day I Married the Man I Couldn't Live Without

"Don't marry the person you think you can live with; marry only the individual you think you can't live without." ~ James C. Dobson

June 10th.  

Just another day to most but it is a date that will always have meaning to me.

22 years ago, I walked down the aisle to begin a life with Brian.  A life of better or worse, til death do us part.  Brian was the man I couldn't live without.....the love of my life.

The past 7 anniversaries have been difficult but with each passing year, they become more of a day of reflection instead of a day of intense sadness.   As a matter of fact, it kind of crept up on me this year.

The first anniversary after Brian's passing, I was filled with sadness and a heavy heart once the calendar changed to June.  I dreaded the actual day however life didn't change on June 10th....the world didn't end...the sky didn't fall.  Instead, I had a nice long cry and was filled with an awful lot of regret.


That first anniversary would have been our 16th anniversary....which made our last anniversary together our 15th.  A pretty big milestone - 15 years of being happily married.  Wondering how we celebrated? 

Hmmmm.....I wish I could remember how we celebrated.  I suspect it was a day spent at work, then rushing to pick up three kids, swim practice or maybe a swim meet, and perhaps dinner at the baseball field concession stand.

I remember us talking about taking some time for us to take a weekend together but Rachel was just 10 months old and we really weren't in a position to take time to spend anytime just the two of us.

Hence, REGRET.

I have wonderful memories of Brian....we had a wonderful life together.   That I do not regret.

However, I beg all of you to please make time for your spouse.  Make time for each other....we are all busy but as I can attest - as can many of my friends - life can be SHORT.  When we take those vows, the priest never actually tells you when "death due us part" will occur.

Tomorrow will be here in just a few hours, and I will spend time reflecting on the loving, caring husband and father Brian was.  I'll remember how he never got my sense of humor....I always had to let him know I was joking....then he'd catch on to the joke.  I'll remember the way he looked at me as I walked down that aisle, how he hugged me when he saw the look on my face walking into our house each time I learned my sister and father died, and how he calmed me when I was nervous during my pregnancies.  I'll remember how we first met, how he made me feel confident in my abilities, how he was my biggest supporter.  I'll remember how he gave up his career as an attorney in Philadelphia to follow my career opportunities in Bloomington - as he shared with my brother-in-law, "because Barb sacrificed a career to support me through law school.  It's her turn now."

I plan on being on this earth a long time but I cannot wait to meet up with Brian face to face again someday.  I know he is with me and the kids each and everyday.  There are little signs here and there, so I'm certain of it.  But until then, I'll continue to reflect about the wonderful times and try not to think about "what could have been."

Happy 22nd Anniversary Brian.  I love you.

An addendum to my original post - I rarely leave the office or my desk that matter for lunch.  Today I had to run out for a few errands.  When I turned on the car, my wedding song (Just The Way You Are by Billy Joel) was playing on the radio.  Made me pause and smile.  I'll take that as a sign of Brian letting me know he was with me today.

Also, I made a $22 donation to LIVESTRONG today to honor Brian's memory and the 22 years since we had married.  If you would like to do the same, please click on the link below:
LIVESTRONG Fundraising Page

The LIVESTRONG Chics Annual Swim, Bike & Ride to Kick Cancer

This past Saturday was the third anniversary of the LIVESTRONG Chics racing in our local  TriShark Triathlon as a relay team.

The LIVESTRONG Chics - me, Kelli & Christina

Several years ago, a fellow local LIVESTRONG fundraiser - and multiple Ride for the Roses qualifier - had obtained donated entries by the race director for him to create relay teams with the purpose of raising funds for LIVESTRONG.  A few years ago he mentioned to me that he would like a female team.  "What about me?" I asked.  I am a female after all, I fundraise for LIVESTRONG and have friends that I knew I could coerce into participating with me.

So the LIVESTRONG Chics were hatched.

All I needed to do was convince one of the Chics to complete the swim leg.  Yes, I can swim but I haven't swam laps in years.....and I would prefer to run or ride.  The past two years, my dear friends Christina and Kelli have taken turns swimming.

Our first year, Christina swam, Kelli rode my bike and I ran.  The next year we rotated roles - Kelli was our swimmer, I was the biker and Christina the runner.  This year it was my turn to swim but Kelli and Christina were willing to swim again.....so who was I to protest?
Off they go....

Turns out Kelli decided to attempt the entire triathlon.....so she was our swimmer.  For the record, the three Chics are all runners.  We have run numerous half marathons and several fulls together.  As a matter of fact, the Chics took LA by storm with me....and were greeted by quite a storm as we ran the LA Marathon this past March (that's a separate blog post itself).  So, although many of you may think big deal, she decided to complete the entire tri....to us runners, that is a HUGE deal!  (Kelli completed the full race although she had been sick the weeks preceding the event.....I am so proud of Swimmer Chic!).

Just before Swimmer Chic was to brave the cold lake water

In addition to the Chics, there are a few other LIVESTRONG relay teams.  Over the past few years we tend to see these guys just on race day....but the common bond of swimming, biking & running while fundraising for LIVESTRONG has created a sort of kinship.  We may not see each other often - once in awhile bumping into one another at the store or at the ball fields - but when all the LIVESTRONG teams converge under the our tent and don our LIVESTRONG gear, it's like old friends meeting up.

There is quite a different vibe under that LIVESTRONG tent.  We are ready to race but the intense pre-race nerves running through the blood of the other athletes seems to be missing with us.  However, underneath our calm exteriors and joking with one another is the true reason we are there.....all of us are there to honor someone we know that has unsuccessfully or is currently battling cancer.  It is personal to all of us....we are there to swim, ride and run for those that cannot.

This year my 7 year old cancer hating daughter decided to join us and be our cheerleader.  She wore a Team LIVESTRONG jersey, signed the LIVESTRONG banner, made a "In Memory" card for her father - which she proudly wore on her back, put LIVESTRONG stickers on people, and most importantly, she decided she wants to participate next year.

How completely awesome is that?  My 7-year old was inspired by all of us and wants to be part of a relay herself next year.  She is an example of someone effected terribly by cancer - her dad passed away the day before her first birthday.  Yet this little girl doesn't let anything get in her way.  She is NOT going to let the fact that cancer stole a lifetime with dad slow her down in anyway.  As a matter of fact, I think it has done quite the opposite.  She is more adventurous and never thinks anything is impossible.  Take that cancer!!

With my cheerleader, cancer hater & future triathlete!

But, Rachel certainly got me thinking......maybe I should create a kids triathlon here in town as a fundraiser for LIVESTRONG?  Hmmmmmm.....2012???

I am still reaching for my goal of raising $10,000 and am really close to breaking the $7,000 mark.  Won't you please help me support LIVESTRONG and the community of support and hope it creates for those like my daughter?  If so,click on the link below to go directly to my on-line LIVESTRONG fundraising page.