Saturday, May 26, 2012

#408: One for Homer

Yes, I had to move to Kentucky to meet a man named "Homer." But I haven't met many like my friend. I call him "friend," because we knew one another and worked together. We liked each other and  he bucked me up a couple of times when I was having a rough time with a part or a play I was directing. He was a great guy, but we weren't really all that close. We did have a couple things in common. We both loved theatre. We both loved Mrs P, (they went to college together in Bowling Green.) And we both had cancer. His was bad. Much worse than mine. I visited him in the hospital. Tried to call a couple of times to let him know I was thinking of him. I sent him my copy of It's Not About the Bike and some other books that helped me when I was sick. But the truth is, he had much closer friends than I. I stayed where I belonged. on the outer circle, respecting his privacy while trying to get word to him that I was here if he needed me. I hope he knew that.

When he died last weekend, I had the strangest feelings. Sadness at the death of a good man. Guilt that I hadn't been more present for him. Happiness that his painful battle was over and that he had died mercifully in his sleep. Anger at the disease I have come to hate so much that words fail me when I try to express it. There was also a sense of resolve. Fighting cancer isn't a metaphor for me any more. It is a real battle, a full time job, a holy vocation. 

I felt great at the end of this morning's run.

70° 6.01 mi/1:1:25 @ 6:07 AM. John's with Striders. Lime Pegasus. BPM 146 (161 max). Tempo Run. Splits: 11:00, 10:38, 9:53,(31:31) 9:51, 9:50, 10:09.(29:50)
As I walked around the block to cool down, I saw two raggedy looking men sitting on a bench, waiting for a bus, I guess. One of them called out to me. "You been jogging?"


"How far?"

"Six miles."

"Wish I could run."

"You can," I told him with a smile, turning and trotting backwards for a few steps.

"Nah," he grinned sheepishly, holding up his cigarette. I felt something rise up inside me. I was mad. I stopped, and walked toward him, pointing my finger in a manner that could only be described as rude.

"Listen. Two years ago I weighed 400 pounds. They told me I had cancer, and gave me a 50% chance to live. Two weeks ago I ran a marathon. Don't tell me you can't run."

Then I turned and walked back to my car. I wasn't even a little bit ashamed of myself. As I drove home, I remembered Homer. I thought of all the people I love who smoke; who work too many hours; who abuse their bodies. I wish i had told them all what I told that stranger on the street. Maybe losing such a good man to cancer will give me the courage to do that. 

I smiled and thought of his beautiful deep voice and his heart-warming laughter. I remembered how thin and frightened he looked the last time we hugged one another good bye.

"That one was for you, Homer."

And God help me, it won't be the last.


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