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"Running Commentary"

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Therapy Session

    For over 30 years, writing has been my personal therapist.
    Once a week in several newspapers, I spill my guts about whatever enters my peanut-sized brain. After minimal contemplation, the contents are regurgitated on these pages. Sometimes silly, sometimes funny, sometimes solemn – but always sincere and honest. Never didactic. I report; I don’t preach.
Everything you read here is the product of a deranged mind and I take full responsibility for the pretty flowers as well as the smelly garbage. For the price of this newspaper, you get both, no extra charge.
It’s therapeutic to confess and bare your soul. Like taking a hot shower and washing away the dead skin. I have no significant secrets – none! I’m the proverbial open book. What you read is what you get. C’est moi.
    Many years ago I went through a difficult period of depression. Anyone who knows Mr. Positive Plus finds it difficult to believe someone like me could be depressed. I’ve lived a charmed life. What was there to be depressed about? It was a bunch of things – tumbling dominoes resulting from my decision to divorce my first wife and walk away from a successful law practice.
    When you make life-altering decisions like those you can bet the farm – dominoes will fall. Lots of dominoes. It’s as if my life was a house of cards, and I removed the ground floor. Splat!
You can’t build a house without a foundation. And sometimes you need to destroy a shaky foundation in order to build a stronger one – starting over from scratch. I needed to reassemble the building blocks of Roy Michael.
Who was I? Where was I going? What the hell was I doing?
A midlife crisis? Jeez, I dunno. I didn’t ponder things. I just reacted.  
My marriage wasn’t working. I had become disillusioned with my career choice. Ergo, I accepted whatever flowed from those decisions, and that included a debilitating period of depression.
    I had three means of surviving that dark period. One was the weekly dinner with my children. I put them through hell. Perhaps selfishly, I banked on their resilience. There will always be scar tissue, but our abiding love carried us through the quagmire. We survived … and ultimately thrived. I’ve never been closer to my kids than I am today.
 Meanwhile, running became my raison d’etre. I was an obsessive, running maniac – whatever energy I could muster each morning was invested in my two wheels. I was fast. I was good. Running gave me a small but significant form of validation. If I could run fast and win races, I had value as a person. It kept me going, moving inexorably forward. Slowly, but steadily.  
And lastly, I had my weekly column, writing for a chain of newspapers in suburban Philadelphia. Whatever I wrote was published. Pretty much like today. It’s rather ironic that I often wrote humorous columns even when I was breaking-up inside. My emotional compass was off-kilter. Humor represented an escape from that reality. Writing kept me grounded.
Eventually, I pulled myself out of that emotional black hole. I began to reassemble the building blocks of Roy Michael. A new foundation grew. It reassembled the old Roy Michael, but was different – forever changed. I’d like to think I held onto the good and eliminated the bad. A better and wiser person emerged.
Depression became a memory, not my existence.
Why am I sharing all this mucky muck? Because two weeks ago, the brightest light in my life was extinguished and it helps to talk about these things. Therapy … remember?
 Two months ago on the occasion of her 100th birthday, my mother was vivacious and vibrant. After everyone left the party and flew home, Mother fell off a precipitous cliff. It’s often said that people sometimes hang on for a significant anniversary and go quickly downhill afterward. Was that the case with Mother? It seemed so.
 Mother was the guiding light and the steadfast rock each of her three children rested upon. She was always there … and now, she’s not. Just acknowledging that each morning is a punch in the gut.
She’s gone. It’s so hard to believe.  
When one foundation cracks, it’s time to build another. I’m going to wallow in my pity-party one more week – giving myself this much time to come to grips with the most significant loss of my entire life. Then, I’ll move on.
Shame on me for the doom and gloom. Mother wouldn’t like that – she left this world gracefully. Her breathing had become labored. She was ready and wanted to go. With her two boys and a beloved granddaughter at her side, Mother breathed her last. With a wrinkled smile, she uttered her last words – “My two sons.”
It was heartbreaking and sad.
It was hauntingly beautiful.
Know this well – our loss is nothing compared to the thousands upon thousands of people who have lost a loved one due to Covid-19, without the ability to be with them. Without the ability to hold a loved one’s hand, as we did with Mother. Compared to them, we had the best going away party anyone could ask for.
Several days ago, I went to the mortuary and picked up the cardboard box containing Mother’s ashes – an intelligent and generous life filled with love, vitality and adventure, reduced to a brown box 10x6 inches.
 I set the cardboard box on the seat of Mother’s recliner.
Somewhere, Mother was smiling.

Epilogue:  Feeling blue? Give someone a hug today. Tell them you love them.



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