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The End Of Days

29 Dec

Laura might have been dying, but she wasn’t stupid. She chuckled inwardly as she listened to Peter and Holly talk in hushed tones at her bedside. Along with everyone else, they assumed that because she was non-responsive, she couldn’t hear or comprehend anything that was going on. She could not see anymore, and that put her at a dreadful disadvantage, but her hearing was just as keen as it had ever been.

Laura was 93 years old and cancer had been eating away at her body for over a year now. As soon as she had been given the deadly diagnosis, she had checked herself into this private nursing home. Peter and Holly had vigorously opposed this move, saying that she would be better off staying with them. They had made her read articles and statistics about how badly sick old ladies were treated in nursing homes, but she was having none of it. Peter and Holly – her son and her daughter-in-law – did not care about her. They just cared about her money, and they wanted to protect their inheritance.

It was no secret that Laura was a woman of means. She had always had a knack for managing finances. She had known when to take risks and when to be conservative, when to save and when to spend. Over the years, her wealth had grown slowly but steadily, with only the occasional minor setback. She had planned it all just for this eventuality. She did not care about big houses or expensive cars, but she had always known that she would want to spend her final days in a place where she would have her own private doctors and a bed with the best linen money could buy. This place cost an absolute fortune – hence the disapproval of her so-called family – but where she was going next, she wouldn’t need her money.

It was funny how Peter and Holly had ignored her for the last twenty years, only to conveniently reappear in her life when it became apparent that her death was imminent. Peter was her only surviving family: Emily had been cruelly taken by ovarian cancer twelve years ago, and Frankie had only been twelve when the drunk driver had slammed into him while he was riding his bike. Laura’s husband was long gone, and so were her sisters. She didn’t have anyone else to leave her money to, really. But she loathed the idea of her greedy son and his greedier wife getting their hands on it. They had always had more regard for her wealth than for the person she was. It saddened her to think that she had raised a man who expected the world to provide for him without giving anything in return.

Now, as she lay listening to their chatter, she knew that her time on this planet was very close to being at an end. She didn’t mind. She had lived a good life. She had been happy and she thought she had treated her fellow man in a way that would guarantee her entrance into Heaven, if such a place existed. She was ready to move on.

Peter was going to get the surprise of his life when she died and her will was read. He knew that he was the only person his mother would logically leave her fortune to. She wasn’t the eccentric type who would leave everything to a cat shelter, like the woman in the newspaper article a few weeks ago. But little did he know that the money would come with conditions, that he would have to prove his worth as a human being before he saw a dime of it.

Laura’s son might be 56 years old, but she didn’t think it was ever too late to teach him some values. If the promise of money was what it would take to make him give something to the world instead of taking all the time, then so be it.

It’s never too late, she thought, moments before she died. It’s never too late to be a good human being.

This week’s Indie Ink Challenge came from Niqui, who gave me this prompt: "Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first." – Mark Twain
I challenged Michael with the prompt: "Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so." (Douglas Adams)

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Three Generations Of Runners

2 Nov

James preparing for his first run

One of the best races I ever ran was my first-ever 10K event starting at Mel Lastman Square, on the northern fringes of Toronto. This was back in 2001, before my long hiatus from the running scene. The run was called the Ismaeli Run For Charity, and although it was a small event with only 300 or so runners, it was festive and well-organized. This particular race stands out in my memory not because of the run itself (I actually remember it being a very hard run: race day coincided with the start of an intense heatwave in Toronto), but because my dad was there. It is the only time my dad got to send me off at a start line and cheer me on as I crossed the finish.

Dad played a pivotal role in my running. Having been a top-class marathoner in his youth, he became my mentor when I first took up running, way back in 1996.  He gave me advice on everything from race-day strategy to the importance of having the right socks. He showed me how to tackle hills and demonstrated how incorrectly laced shoes can make your feet hurt. He advised me not to rely too much on technology in my training, pointing that in his youth, the only tool a runner really had was his own body. He told countless stories of the races he had run and the people he had encountered on the way.

He was immensely proud when I started running. Passing on his stories and his wisdom to me meant a lot to him, and the day he stood waiting for me at the finish line was absolutely momentous.

Now, I get to pass on the legacy as a third generation is added to the line of runners. My son James, who is all of five years old, has been taking an interest in my running for the last year or so. He wishes me well as I set out for my long runs, and stretches with me when I get back. He fussily makes sure I have enough water to drink, and for some time, he has been talking about going running with me “one day”.

Recently, when I registered for the upcoming 10K event at the Whitby Waterfront Races, James asked if he could be in the race too. Deciding that he was ready, I registered him for the 1K kiddies event. And this weekend, his dream of going running with me came true as I took him out for his first real run.

I did not have any real expectation for the run. I just wanted to see how James would do over a full kilometre, and more importantly, I wanted to get a sense of whether he would really enjoy it. I made it clear to him that he could stop anytime he wanted, and that he didn’t have to do it in the first place unless he was sure. This earned me an eye-roll so intense that I thought his eyes would fall out of his head, and he said impatiently, “Mom-meeeee! Can we please go now?”

I needn’t have worried. Although he briefly slowed to a walk three or four times, he ran the kilometre I had measured out with no trouble. I marvelled at his natural form as his body just fell into the posture and rhythm that articles in running magazines are always saying we should adopt.

I also needn’t have worried about whether he would enjoy it. He loved it. He wants to go again, and as the day of his first race approaches, he is getting more and more excited.

I realize that anything could happen: the kid is only five and he could lose interest tomorrow. But by all appearances, he is really interested in running being a part of his life, and what I do as a parent could either cement that or dissipate it. I feel that I am witnessing the emergence of a new runner: a runner who I get the privilege of nurturing and mentoring, just as my dad did for me.

I feel that in guiding my son, I am a part of something big, something special, and something that I consider to be a great honour.

I only wish my dad could see this. Who knows? Maybe he can.

Welcome, James to the world of running. I hope you choose to stay here, and if you do, I hope we get to run many miles together.

(Photo credit to the author)