Monday, October 17, 2016

October 17, 2016: A Boy and His Dog

Zach driving Jim to Colorado last spring. En route to Jimi's new home. 

A boy and his dog.

I have thought of this phrase often observing Zach and his brothers with their dog, Jimi (the Hedrix version of the name). Although I have always loved this sweet dog, he was not mine. The boys' dad added Jimi to their family shortly after we divorced. But it didn't take long to fall in love with this amiable canine personality.

Introduced in the stands of a grade school baseball game, I instantly knew why my boys were so drawn to this sweet pup. An epitome of the lovable lab from the movie, Marley and Me, Jimi never met a stranger and affectionately welcomed everyone he encountered. Those eyes would look at you for acceptance and affirmation in the form of a quick pet and rub under the ear. That's all it took and you had a friend for life.

Jim was a good dog.

I distinctly remember texting my sister-in-law, Robbie, asking how the boys were doing shortly after beginning our 'every other weekend' divorced parent schedule. I was feeling angst, empty and alone. I missed my young sons and wanted a glimpse into their life without me.

Jim was a puppy. That particular weekend without me consisted of boating and lake time. The text back to me I will never forget.

"Grant has been playing with the dog. Throwing a stick on the beach, over and over. Just a boy and his dog."
I took this picture at a family reunion.
Zach could always be found with the dogs.

Although there was a tinge of pain knowing I wasn't part of the festivities, I felt great relief visualizing my child's happiness with his new puppy.

Zach, in particular, had a close kinship to Jimi. Through Jim's many trials and tribulations from clumsy household breaks to eating things he shouldn't, Zach always had a soft spot for his furry sidekick. The boys fought over whose dog Jim was, but Zach just stopped arguing. Jimi had a lot of love to give, but he ultimately always ended up at Zach's side.

This was no surprise to me. They were a natural match. Zach has loved dogs since a child. Especially big dogs. When he was young, you could always find Zach making friends with the hounds when the others were off causing havoc on the playground. Quick to join in the fun, but the dogs would come first.

Jim in the back of our car on a short drive during a recent visit
When Zach announced that he would be moving Jimi with him to Fort Collins, it was no surprise. I couldn't think of two better souls to be 'bachin' it together.

Jimi quickly became my 'grand-dog'. A lot more planning came into our visits with Zach now that his cherished dog was involved. Trips were planned to Fort Collins instead of meeting halfway. Jim didn't like to travel and preferred to stay at home. I understood. So we accommodated. Many fun trips to northern CO followed with the dog only in tow for short rides and quick hikes. Zach always catered to his sweet dog's needs.

I got used to my phone calls with Zach always ending in asking about Jimi.

"And how is Jim?"

Jimi loved the Colorado mountains and the reservoir where they lived. He and Zach basked in the glory of the Rockies with Zach often commenting on their walks and the freshness of the open door. And Jimi thrived.

A boy and his dog.

Until Jim wasn't feeling well. My phone calls to Zach now ended with my asking "How is Jimi? Is he any better?"

Some days were better than others. Then last Sunday, Jim didn't want to get up. Zach took him to the animal ER. Within 24 short hours, Jimi is gone. And my son is broken without his pal.

My typical call from Zach would be on a walk with Jim, describing their day in the mountains. Today was different. Zach was crying.

"Mom, Jim is full of cancer. I have to put him down."

My son's voice could barely give these words air.

Just like that, his buddy is gone.

As a mom, this was unbearable. His dad and I immediately talked, feeling the pain of loss and the grief of our child.

My sister-in-law, Robbie, has often shared with me some advice that stays front of mind. Although we are the same age, her kids are older. Her advice to me on what's ahead in the parenting road has always rung true.

"The older the kids, the fewer the problems, but the bigger the problems."

She's right (like always).

My youngest child's issues in daily high school life seem minuscule compared to the loss of a faithful companion to my oldest. Hearing my grown son's tearful pain was crushing. Upon reflection, I couldn't remember the last time I heard the kid cry. Three? Toddler years?

Life certainly gives us unexpected turns. Sad. Unfair. But so part of this journey.

Zach got to hold his buddy and say good-bye while Jim slipped away with no pain. The tears continued from all of us as this reality set in. Likely the cancer had been there for some time. Upon reflection, what a gift to both Jimi and Zach that they were able to enjoy the last six months of his life in the tranquil beauty of the mountains of Colorado. Not the ending we wanted, but a life well lived.


Home with his bud, Zach

The life of a gunsmith (or his brother)


A new Colorado friend

Sunday, October 9, 2016

October 8, 2016: Running Through Life

Post-run cheers on a sunny day in July a year ago. The reason for celebration ultimately turned into a bust. But the celebration of a friendship and being at each other's side every step of the way is real.

Garrett refers to my running friends as my gal pals. We wake at the crack of dawn to run, cutting it up through the morning darkness. 5:30 is our meet time. And depending on the meeting point and travel time involved, our average alarm wake-up call is 5:15 a.m.

"So what did you and your gal pals talk about this morning?" is a typical Garrett question.

I then brief my curious husband on our specific subjects over the approximate 55 minutes of run time together. They generally include analysis of our life while rehashing events from our last run and humor in our daily musings.

We certainly don't take ourselves too seriously. But we equally take very seriously our role in being each other's accountability partners; the most influential personal board of directors.

Today we ran both lakes of Zorinsky. Not only had it been a while since we ran this route, it had been a while since we collectively ran this distance of 7.5 miles. Back in the day, not only did we run this route weekly, it was with a crew of runners at a pace that put our today's pace to shame.

But there were no complaints.

In fact, our reaction to this morning's endeavor bordered on jubilant. Not too shabby for three 50 (or almost 50) something women. I always say we are doing better than those laying in bed or sitting on the coach.

Small victories.

Our morning running reflections centered on assessment of relationships in today's society. We later reflected on our earned wrinkles and the span of time since we started running together.

For Kristi and me, our first run together was with a group. I was the newbie. Kristi and I immediately found commonality, striking up a conversation on potty training and bed wetting. Our youngest were toddlers, months apart in age.

These same kiddos are now almost 21 years old. Potty training is a distant memory.

Tam was an add-on a few years later. One day she ran out of her driveway on a solo run and literally ran into our group. We asked her to join and she hasn't stopped running with us since. Everything happens for a reason. No doubt there was a reason we were put into each other's lives.

Morning humor and our quirky comradery are high on the list. This text exchange is a recent example.

Rule #1 for the gal pals: never take yourself too seriously. Really. Only a good friend would offer you their dry, but small, sports bra.

After my ACL surgery a few years back, I really never came back 100%. Without my gal pals, it would be likely that I wouldn't be running today. I would have moved on to biking and the gym. Running definitely becomes more difficult with age. But the draw of our morning runs and my favorite friends gets me out of bed in the morning. No doubt I move slower and run less often, but I can't imagine working through life without them.

There is no better therapy. Talking through daily challenges, joyful milestones, and life purpose can only be fully accomplished with the support and feedback of my gal pals. And purity of mind really does happen before coffee and normal waking hours.

There have been many others whom we have shared life with over runs through the years. From our days of a dozen strong on any given day, we are now down to our little group. The original Early Morning Miler's moved on with pregnancies, back surgery, physical moves, quests for faster times, and illness. We still stay in touch and have occasional guest appearances, but most mornings it's our little group of 2 to 3.

No doubt, I will keep at the morning shuffle while we collectively solve all the world's problems. And if we can't figure it out, it is certain that we will laugh. At ourselves. At each other.

And the wrinkles will keep coming, no doubt. But the joy of 5:30 am runs? Who would ever notice?

Spreading of holiday cheer post a run on ice that wasn't our best day of judgment

Attempted selfie. Fail.