Every morning, I wake up at 5:30 AM and prepare myself for my daily run. I spend about an hour having my coffee, checking and responding to emails and getting dressed. By seven, I am usually taking in a few deep breaths and preparing for the first stiff strides of my five-mile run.
As my feet start to pound the ground, I start to feel alive, like anything is possible, as if I could conquer the world. Then it hits me, and it knocks the absolute wind out of me.
I allow myself to feel the emotions of the loss of my brother, Gene, who passed away 6 months ago. I’m still struggling with the reality of it all. I still struggle with the knowledge that I will not get to give him a nice big bear hug any more. I will not get to grow old with him, and I won’t ever hear him tell me to, “Get your ass up, sis, the world isn’t going to wait for you to go conquer it.” Every time I think about what this loss means I need a moment to collect myself. The good thing about running is that the tears tend to dry up faster.
Once I collect myself, I start to talk to him and allow myself to feel his presence. I realize that the picture I must paint as I jog along looking as if I’m speaking to myself, exaggerated Cuban arm gestures and all, must be quite interesting. But I really don’t care. All I want is to spend these precious moments with him reviewing the previous day, reminding him how much I truly love and miss him and asking him for guidance.
I can’t say that I do not wish every moment of every day that my time spent with him were a phone call instead. I imagine myself barely being able to run, since I know he’d be cracking jokes the entire time. In fact, I have one last voicemail that I had saved with him on it that currently kills me to listen to it. But one day, I’ll be able to listen to it and crack up again for its sheer ridiculousness.
He taught me to be quick-witted and to have thick skin. He taught me how to be a geek and to expect success. He taught me to be authentic and proud of where we came from so I could see how far I’d come. Most of the things he taught me were from watching him. When we were kids I was his shadow. It was total and unabashed hero worship, and it never really went away.
He left me a few gifts in this life, a lovely sister-in-law and two amazingly wonderful little nieces. I hope to spend the rest of my years regaling them with stories of their dad as a boy and young adult. At the very least they will be able to see him through his little sister’s adoring eyes.
My only regret is that we didn’t spend more time together these past few years. We were both terrible at phone calls and catching up. When we did, it was always wonderful. I was always so full of pride when I listened to him talk about his work, the wife and kids and life in general. We’d make fun of each others politics and basically anything else we could rib each other about.
Sometimes I spend the entire five miler talking to him and sometimes it’s a 30-minute conversation. Sometimes, I can’t even form real words through the sobs. But every morning, if I have breath in my lungs, I get up and I run with my angel.