I’ve never been much for keeping material things. But, as Bib No. 2184 will attest, when it comes to “keepsakes” involving matters of the heart, I confess to being a bit of a hoarder.
Nearly a dozen years ago, my daughter, Ashley, was involved in what easily could have been a catastrophic horseback riding accident. As it was, she suffered a severely displaced fracture of the right femoral head, very near the hip socket, that required several hours of surgery and the insertion of two titanium screws to realign and repair the bones. At the conclusion of the surgery, doctors placed Ashley in a “Spica” cast – a full body contraption likely designed by the Marquis de Sade that typically is reserved for infants with dislocated hips. Ashley spent two months in that cast relegated to either a wheelchair or a reclining hospital bed that we had rented before beginning several weeks of rather grueling physical therapy. Remarkably, thanks to the incredibly skilled hands and care of her surgeon and a lot of effort and support from friends and family members, Ashley was back on her feet after 4 months and a short time later she and her “hardware” were back on a horse! Thus, it probably should not have caught me by surprise when she approached me a few weeks later and asked if she could “join me” at that year’s “Corporate Run” – an 5K run/walk that winds its way through the streets of Downtown Miami. After consulting with her surgeon, I reluctantly agreed, thinking that if worse came to worse we could simply walk some, if not all, of the route.
Ashley had other ideas, telling me at the start of the “race” that she planned to run the entire course.
True to her promise, Ashley ran the first 2.2 miles of the race as if she had been running and training for months, though the actual lack of training clearly was taking its toll on both of us as we approached the most difficult obstacle in the course – a rather steep bridge strategically located at the 2.5 mile mark designed to separate the “men from the boys.” Don’t get me wrong – it was hardly Mt.Everest, but given the state of my lungs and legs at that particular moment it might as well have been. I was squarely in the “boys” camp on this one! Of course, I was not about to admit that to a “girl,” especially one who was matching me stride-for-stride on a surgically repaired hip that would make an airport security checkpoint light up like a Christmas tree. So I decided to try a more “clever” approach. “Ashley,” I said. “You’re doing great! In fact, I’m amazed at how well you’re doing, given everything you’ve been through. I’m really proud of you. But, it’s okay to take a break. You don’t have anything to prove – to me or anyone else. No one would blame you for walking over the bridge.” Translation: “I’m dying here and I really need you to give ME an excuse for quitting – pretty please!!!”
She would have none of it. “I’m fine, dad,” she insisted, though clearly she was laboring. “I promised myself I was going to run the entire race and I AM GOING TO RUN THE ENTIRE RACE.” “Well, then I’ll take a break for both of us,” I said, eager to concede the point. “I’ll see you at the finish line.” And with that, she was off. I’ll never forget the tears that welled up in my eyes as she looked over her shoulder half way up the bridge and smiled back at me, before disappearing over the crest. It certainly wasn’t the first time in my life that I had witnessed her courageousness and resolve to accomplish something she had put her mind to. But, I’m not sure I fully appreciated the full measure of those gifts until that moment. Little did either one of us know, of course, the extent to which that courage and resolve would be tested in her young life or the integral role both traits would play in saving it. I must have had a premonition, however, because as soon as I reached the finish line to find her waiting for my “dilatory self” with an even bigger smile – one no doubt borne, in part, from her having once again achieved what she set out to do and, in part, from having “beat” her dad in the process – I removed her “runner’s bib” and tucked it safely away in my pocket. “Why would you want to keep that?” she asked.
“Because, I never want to forget this day,” I responded, having no idea at the time just how important remembering it would be.