The night before, the night before. I laid out my Hokas, hat, and gloves by the door; my shorts, compression shirt, reflective shirt, and socks on the floor of my closet. Off to sleep.
5:58 AM. The alarm goes off, stumble to my feet, everything assembled goes on and off to the kitchen. I fumble around making breakfast. Cracking eggs, sizzling breakfast meat, load the plates, then they go in the microwave – safe from the kitties – because you can’t run on a full stomach.
I almost glance at the temperature on the way out the door, but remember that I decided to run this morning last night.
“If you see me in a suit, it’s a bad sign,” I think as muscle-memory loops the tie in a Winsdor, and it slides up to my collar. I don’t mind suits, really. It’s nice to get dressed up once in a while, but it reminds me of the post-college months spent suiting up every day to work at the insurance firm.
Boy, both the firm and I were equally disappointed with my tenure there. Even lovely people couldn’t lift the soul-crushing bureaucratic burden my youthful spirit felt.
It was 1997, and I was not doing what I was meant to do. I worked every spare moment on a ridiculous idea – building a maze in a cornfield. I had one shot to give it a try, make it happen, create it from an idea.
Each funeral is now a solemn reminder that nothing is forever. How risky is business? I answer, “How risky is not taking a chance?”
I never button the collar’s top button until I get to the funeral home.
I watch my wife hug people. Her megawatt smile brings light to the grieving. She so genuinely cares it makes me feel like Jerry McGuire when he says, “You make me want to be a better man.”
Our dear friends were caught in the whirlwind of emotions at losing a parent, emotions I knew so plainly once. More hugs, encouragement, enjoying the pictures, the memories. They needed a break, so we gave them space.
“We’re dressed up, can I take you to dinner?” My wife’s a great cook but never minds skipping meal prep, so it was an easy “Yes.”
As we pulled into a lovely family-run Italian restaurant, we noticed the doors closed and the lights off. We looked at each other and laughed, realizing that Tuesday night was the least likely time in this day and age to find a decent restaurant open.
She looked across the street. “Honestly, I’m probably just as happy at Pizza Hut.” We giggled, drove across the street, and settled into a well-worn booth by the 1980’s pit-style fireplace – not another soul in the room. I look into her hazel eyes, and she flashes that smile again. We giggle.
Punxsutawney Phil ain’t got nothin’ on me. We share February 2nd as a birthday, we’re both diminutive and furry, and neither of us is very good at predicting the weather.
My birthday has routinely fallen during our national agritourism convention for more than a decade. (If you can imagine an entire conference of people as wonderfully weird as your Farmer Hugh.) It’s like having a party with 500 of your closest, silliest, and most gregarious friends – I loved it!
I welcome birthdays. No fear, no complaining, just savoring a milestone, a marker. I like to spend birthdays in thoughtful consideration. Did I accomplish enough in the year that was given? Did I help enough? Did I push hard enough? Did I relax enough? If I’m given another year, with what will I fill it?
A run, a funeral, a dinner, a birthday; each is part of my 47th year, each a lesson to carry forward.
I pre-decided to run, no matter what the temperature and I set myself up for success. It was the preparation that made it possible to get out the door and start. So often starting is the real challenge, so I set things up and pre-decide.
I wasn’t at the funeral because i like to dress up, but I love and respect my friends. I won’t miss the chance to show my love. I won’t hold it back. I’ll say the real words I love you to them, in person, so they know they are not alone when the wave of grief washes over them.
Right now is the time to go out to dinner, even dinner at a 1980’s Pizza Hut. Dinner with your wife beats anything on the to-do list. Sure, she had stuff to do. Sure, I had a million things to do, but none of it matters when you can share a meal that tastes the exact same way it did back in college when you met the girl of your dreams.
Birthdays aren’t a hassle that reminds you how old you are; they are a gift, a marker in the sands of time, and a chance to look back and forward. What if you don’t get another one? Would you like who you have become, or would you like to be different, a better version of yourself?
A powerful quote from Dr. David Abbott that stuck with me is, “God loves you just the way you are, but He loves you too much to let you stay that way.”
There are great things about me, and things need to change, too. I am thankful I was granted this past year, allowed to make it to this marker in the sand.
A run, a funeral, a dinner, a birthday; one each within 24 hours, each welcoming me to my 47th year with encouragement to keep moving forward.
Good health, encouragement and all the best on the way to your next birthday,
PS A beautiful new event is coming to the farm this June, stay tuned…
PPS It was 18deg F when I got back from that run. I figure I’m allowed to check once I completed the run.