My mother, Marilu, pictured next to my father, Stan, is a women of much complexity. She encouraged my three sisters, my brother and myself and my father into finding the things that gave them life. She did the same in her life. I remember her studying Calculus while we were doing homework at the dining room table, when I was in middle school. Having quit college as a freshman to get married, Marilu promised her mother, Violet, that she would graduate. In 1983, Marilu got her bachelors from Santa Clara and a few years later, she finished her Masters in Family & Child counseling. My grandmother, Violet, was at my mother's graduations.
Our conversations, over the years, were fascinating. She knew when I was not happy, and she encouraged me to ask my own questions on why I was not happy. She challenged me from the time I could think on my own, to think on my own.
Recently, as I would return from travels, she wanted me to tell her about my travels, the cities I went to, the cafes I wrote at, the meets I visited, my new friends. I would sit on the sofa and talk for awhile most evenings, over the past three years, as I shared a home with my parents, their home.
Here are a few stories about mom and my running, a life long passion that she encouraged...
I began running in the fall of 1972 at De Smet High School in Creve Couer, Missouri. I ran cross country and track. I was in the very back of the pack, but I enjoyed it, so Mom encouraged me. My first two years, I ran in low cut tennis shoes from K-Mart, as I did not really know about real running shoes, and they were quite expensive with five children in a family and all in private schools.
Mom would cart all three of my sisters and my brother to track meets. I remember running 6:18 for a mile as a freshman, when the winning guy ran 4:57. This was at Saint Louis University High school, I believe. She would have us all go to brother and sisters' sporting or extracurricular events, because she wanted us to know about each other and be close. There were many meets where my family was the near complete fan base for these events. I have always been grateful for their presence.
In the summer of 1974, after having been told by Father Devlin, coach at Bellarmine Prep, to "run more" when asked how I could improve from my last postion in the league 2 mile, I ran 12-18 miles a day most of the summer. Mom figured out how to curb my leg cramps with Orange Juice, bananas and salted pretzels. She also purchased my first real running shoes, Onitsuka Tiger Cortez's , which cost $36 at the time. Somewhere, in my treasures, I have a bunch of pages stapled together, noting date, amount run, and sign off by Mom. I ran to Vasona Park each day from my parents house, and had to have my running done by 11 in the morning. 90 minutes to two hours each day of running each day was the norm and that simple act of running gave me confidence in myself. The self knowledge I gained from running has assisted me in most of my life decisions.
In the spring of 1975, she was there when I challenged for the lead in a mile race, finishing third in that one. She was happy with me then, as she had been happy with me when I finished last. For my Mom, it was about her kids being happy. It was an important lesson. That day of the mile race, my Mom and my brother, Brian were there, and I just remember knowing they were there.
I did not win a race until my senior year in college, eight years into my running life. In my first senior year (another story, 1981), she was there, with my father to see me win a race, after having run a few hundred. It was a cross country race against Loyola Marymont and USF in the Almaden Quicksilver park. It was great seeing her there with my Dad. They had just come from seeing my brother, Brian, run a race at Crystal Springs.
When I took up marathons, and after a half dozen, finally qualifed for Boston, Mom and Dad were there, along with other members of my family. On the day that my neice, Tess was born, I saved a medal I had won and gave it to her on her first birthday. My Mom liked that one, she was always for unique gifts (and long birthday celebrations ). I dabbled in ultra running, one day running 45-46 miles, and stopped at Mom's for an orange juice, before I continued. It was a long, tiring day, but it was fun and inspiring.
As I moved through the publishing world, from magazines to digital to social, Mom has been there, listening and asking questions. It was wonderful to have a sound board like my parents.
About four years ago, for one day, Mom joined me for my daily two hour walk. She was 76. We talked and she just walked away with me, down Curtner to Lincoln, to Willow Glen and back. We called our talks, "solving the world's problems," as nothing was off topic.
Over the last three years, I have lived with my parents in San Jose. Every few weeks, we would go to Carmel, CA for a day, visit a few restaurants, sit by the beach and enjoy the views of the ocean. We did that for three years, in between my trips. Those were nice days with my parents.
I think that, as I watch her near the end of her life, how fortunate I have been to have someone who loves me unconditionally. I have thanked her for it. And, I have tried to share some of her beliefs to another generation.
I will miss our talks, most of all.