Running, Grandpa and Kurt Vonnegut

This past Saturday I went on my first long run. I figured it’s been a month since I last ran, since Pelotonia training and then having my mom out at the end of the July took priority. As well as Pelotonia weekend itself.

This past Saturday was also Grandpa’s birthday. There’s a lyric from Kacey Musgraves’ song “Justified” – “Healing doesn’t happen in a straight line.” Which describes grief perfectly and this Saturday when I was thinking about Grandpa.

Half of me accepts reality, that he has passed away. He’s not here in person, he’s just here in spirit. The beauty of a spirit is that unlike a person, it can be anywhere with you or within you. I’ve felt my grandpa with me whenever I’m hiking in Hocking Hills or driving through town. His love of people watching and quietly sharing observations about the way people dress is cemented in my mind whenever I’m out and about. Hell, the little voice in the back of my head, when it’s not my own, is Grandpa’s. He lives within his family and he’ll always be with us.

And at the same time, I know that’s denial talking. Because his presence when he was alive was so large over us, it really doesn’t feel like he’s dead. He and Grandma’s house is still the same, and the bedroom he slept in is still set up like it was back in December, as though someone is still sleeping in there. It almost feels like Grandpa’s in line at Frisch’s and the only reason he’s not home yet is because the newbie is working the register.

I’ve been to visit the grave with my mom a several times, and whenever I see the grave, reality smacks me right in the face. The spirit is here, but the man isn’t. The headstone is my stark reminder and eight months later, it still bothers me to go visit it. I don’t want to believe my grandfather is there. I want to believe he’s on a camping trip, or taking a drive in his Corvette. I don’t feel like he’s there, and the fact he is doesn’t seem right or believable. I haven’t been ready to visit the grave on the times I’ve been there, and I’m not sure I ever will be.

So his birthday came and I decided to share a post about him on my Instagram. I didn’t cry, but when I scrolled through my camera roll and looked at the pictures of him, a sob got stuck in the back of my throat. It never came out.

Then it was time for me to put my phone away for a little bit and head up to Grandview Heights.

I started my run a little later than I wanted, but to my pleasant surprise it wasn’t oppressively humid. I felt strong as I ran south on Yard Street to Goodale Blvd. The first mile didn’t seem to take long, and before I knew it I was running up the hill on Grandview Avenue. Well, trying to – I haven’t fallen out of love with the hills from this spring, but they still don’t like me at all.

From Grandview Heights to Marble Cliff across Fifth Avenue to Upper Arlington I ran. A couple weeks back Mom and I were running errands, and I decided to take her through Upper Arlington to show her the beautiful homes. It’s a calm neighborhood and easy to get lost in, which is part of what makes running there so fun. There was a time when I was joking with Mom that if a lonely ‘n wealthy man who had luck with any other women was willing to tolerate me, I wouldn’t be opposed to being a real housewife of Upper Arlington.

I made my way up Tremont Road and turned around at St. Agatha School to head back. At this point I started to get a little hot and realized I should not have chugged the Gatorade at the start of my run. I even got lost in the neighborhood, during one of the rare times I didn’t want to get lost.

But then once I got across Fifth Avenue and back into Marble Cliff, I had to stop in my tracks. Marble Cliff isn’t too close to any woods, and yet there was a buck in someone’s front yard eating a bush. I see deer all the time walking along the water at my complex, but you never see them in Marble Cliff. I wound up taking a ten-second video, and then it was time to get back to the car and get home to Marina.

Ten miles were done, and I felt accomplished. I also had a migraine, but that’s not the part I’m focusing on now. Ten miles were done, and for the first time, I felt normal, like the old me. Running on Saturdays was my normal for years, and over the past two years – and really since losing Grandpa – Saturday runs had become sporadic. I started out Saturday with a heavy heart, and even though the sadness was still there, I felt lighter and something like happy again.

When I started writing this I didn’t know how Grandpa’s birthday and running would tie together. Then I got to thinking about a third person – Kurt Vonnegut. Admittedly I haven’t read any of his work (which is bad, I know), but after going to college in Indianapolis, I’ve definitely heard of him. My cohorts out there love him.

There’s a quote from Vonnegut that I never thought about too deeply. But then Saturday night when I was retiring to bed and Sunday morning when I woke up, I thought about it and decided to look it up. The quote comes from his collection that includes wit, wisdom and commencement speeches, If This Isn’t Nice, What Is? I couldn’t put my finger on why it spoke to me, but it did:

“When things are going sweetly and peacefully, please pause a moment, and then say out loud, ‘If this isn’t nice, what is?'”

Eventually it dawned on me why I was thinking about Kurt Vonnegut from a run and my late grandpa’s birthday.

Life has its struggles and sadness, whether it be from unfortunate circumstances or an individual’s struggle to see any light in the darkness. But it also has happiness and happy moments. Grandpa’s memory is happy-making as a counter to the sadness of him not being here in person, and having known and loved him makes the past eight months bearable. Running reminds me how small I am in the grand scheme of things and serves as a centering activity, in addition to boosting the endorphins and making me feel like a badass. But most importantly and to put it simply, running makes me happy.

Saturday’s run and thinking about Grandpa while I was on it brought me peace and joy in spite of the hard day. I couldn’t let that slip by me unnoticed, and I couldn’t not write about it on here or talk about it offline.

So my reader-friends: when happy moments come to you, never fail to speak on them, to acknowledge them and to embrace them. Life can be sad, but it can have plenty of happy small moments if you’re willing to see them.

Yours in writing and running,


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