Good Bye, Dad

On Tuesday, July 4th, my father passed away.

Here is what I read at his memorial service:

Dad and Odie

Dad and Odie

When I was a child, my dad was my hero. I suppose that is true for many children. We envision our fathers being strong like Superman, brave like Batman, and inspiring like… Superman and Batman. Like so many other children, I built a pedestal of epic proportions for my father to stand on. As those of you who know and love dad know all too well, the archenemies he fought were epic in their own right. These enemies were powerful enough that I was still just a child when they managed to knock dad from the pedestal I had created for him. But we all know what happens in a hero’s tale–in spite of the setbacks, the hero will win in the end.

I knew my dad was strong when I was a child because he could walk on his hands. He could hold my sister up on one hand while she stood proud as wonder woman, arms out at her sides. Dad gave us piggy back rides and taught us “dog pile on Spencer!” Dad could pick us up in the pool and throw us to the deep end like we were rag dolls. Later, I saw how strong he was in how he endured setback after setback. Sometimes, the mistakes were his own doing. Superheroes who go looking for their archenemies aren’t always well prepared for the fight that follows. There were other times, though, when the enemies showed up unannounced, and they brought kryptonite. After every battle, he got back up again. With his scrapes and bruises, he picked up the pieces and trudged on.

That was how I saw his bravery. No matter how badly he’d been injured in his battles, he got up again, reached out to his close friends and family, and asked for help to move on. Fighting with enemies takes a great deal of courage in itself; crawling back to your family and friends, cape in hand, and asking for support requires an entirely different sort of courage. Some of his battle scars never went away, and other wounds took years to heal. All too often, the people who loved him and supported him most were also injured in the crossfire. Sometimes his bravery showed in how he ventured off on his own, changing jobs and changing cities like he was retreating to a fortress of solitude.

Through all of this, dad served as an inspiration to many. During my childhood, he inspired me and my siblings to dream big and chase those dreams. Especially in those times when he was able to soar, he made us believe we could fly. Dad inspired others, too—he made friends everywhere he went, and nearly every person who knew him could say that he made them believe in themselves, even when he struggled to believe in himself. Dad was our father, but he was a father figure to many others, as well. Dad was a brother to his sisters, who loved him deeply, and to his brothers, who were also his closest friends. But he was a brother to many others he met along the way. People who knew Dad were able to see both his struggles and his successes—he had plenty of both, and he would tell just about anyone about his life if they’d listen for a minute… or an hour. Dad’s troubles and triumphs inspired the people who knew him, and helped them believe they could overcome their own challenges and achieve their own dreams.

I must admit, when Dad got sick, it had been a lot of years since I had let myself see him as a hero. Those final days in the hospital, though, proved to me that he still held on to the same qualities I admired so much as a child: strength, bravery, and ability to inspire. No matter how hard it was for him to breathe or even sit up in bed on his own, he had the strength to insist on coffee at 2 o’clock in the morning. He showed his bravery, insisting that we take him outside for one final look at nature–his grandson playing in the grass, and his dog Odie coming to lick his face one last time. Sure, I know he was really just trying to get outside so he could duck back behind a corner and smoke a cigarette. Last, but not least, he also served as an inspiration in those final days at the hospital. Each time the hospital staff changed shifts, a new set of nurses and technicians who knew him well would come in and joke with him like they’d known each other for years. That was just how he was–no matter where he went or what he did, he was a father, a brother, and a friend. His hero’s journey was completed early in the afternoon of July 4th, and Dad finally achieved the freedom every hero deserves. Dad is free of his enemies and free of his suffering. His strength and bravery can inspire us all–not just to fight our own enemies, but to be good fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers, and most of all good friends to the other heroes we meet on our own journeys.

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A Lot Can Happen in Two Years

It’s been just over two years since I posted here, and quite a bit has taken place in my life since then. Around the time of that last blog post, I had recently completed my first Ironman in Cozumel, Mexico. In the year that followed, I completed a term as president of the L.A.Leggers, I made significant progress on a book project for the organization I was working for, and I trained for and completed a second Ironman event (this time in Louisville, Kentucky).

Right around the time I did that second Ironman, I had recently started spending time with an awesome woman, Aisha. She called and left me a voicemail the night before the Ironman, and out on the course, whenever my willingness waned, I simply thought of her voice on that message.

A couple months later, we were on the road to becoming parents together. My book project was finished, I was in the process of applying for a full-time teaching gig, and we were trying to figure out how long we would be able to make her one-bedroom condo work for the two of us and the baby on the way. That was December of last year.

Fast forward another year. Baby Eugene is almost 19 weeks old and passed the 19 lb mark sometime last week. Aisha and I have been married since April. I’ve got one semester under my belt as a full-time, tenure-track English professor, and we’ve been living in a 3 bedroom 1 bathroom house in Reseda since early November. A reality tv personality is headed to the white house. I’m running 2-3 times a week, sometimes pushing Gene Bean in a running stroller, and I’m signed up to do the LA Marathon again in March 2017.

And I’m blogging again.

Overall, life is good. Stay tuned.

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Keep Moving

Capture

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Corndog vs LA, round 2

2014-03-09 06.14.30

You can watch a video of my limping across the finish line here.

I showed up to Dodger stadium nervous but determined. I didn’t know how my ankle was going to feel once I started going, but I was willing to try it out. For about 14 miles, it was good and so was I. I was on pace for a personal record and beating up the LA course the way I wanted to last year.

But then the adrenaline wore off, and I began feeling the discomfort in my calf. Continue reading

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Recap of 2013

Rocky

I did it! I made my 1000 miles in 2013 goal, in spite of the late-year bout of plantar fasciitis, which nearly knocked me out of the running. (groan) A few of the miles were on a treadmill, and a few were on an elliptical machine, but every mile counts in my book.

Here are some other accomplishments from the year:

  • Ran my first marathon. Then a second in my goal time of under 5 hours.
  • Raised over $2000 for Camp Kesem by harassing my facebook friends endlessly.
  • Ran my first half marathon. Then a second in my goal time of under 2 hours.
  • Bought a condo.
  • Was elected to the board of my running club.
  • Ran every single day in August, including some Rocky-inspired running on the streets of Philadelphia.
  • Went to Europe, crossed the Mediterranean on a ferry (with my passport), and went to Africa.
  • Started teaching English at my local community college.

I suppose that’s enough for one year, don’t you?

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An Absent-Minded Professor

2013-09-05 14.54.06

August was a long month.

And it wasn’t just because I decided, at the suggestion of a running buddy, to run every single day in August.

Or, having announced to the Facebook world that I made a commitment to run every day in August, I was coerced into setting a goal for myself of running 1000 total miles in 2013. (And by coerced, what I mean is that someone made a casual suggestion and I jumped right in…)

No, in August my workdays were growing longer as each day brought us closer to a convention of roughly 20,000 members in Philadelphia, PA. And, back in April or May (before I’d made my first mortgage payment), I’d purchased a ticket from Philly to Spain, where another smaller convention would take place afterward. One of the selling points for that trip was my friend from Spain telling me, “Chris, you can take a nearby ferry from where I live in Spain over to Morocco. You will have a chance to visit Europe and Africa in a single trip!” How could I argue with that?

So in early August, I was preparing for our convention, and preparing for my vacation, and running every single day.

Continue reading

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Marathon Man

illegal

illegal

I was certain I had made a mistake by signing up for the OC Marathon.

And I felt that doing so was just the first of a series of bad decisions related to running. And other fitness.

I purchased my OC Marathon registration shortly after my previous blog post (about running the Hollywood Half, joining the Leggers board, and buying a condo), mostly because a few other runners from my pace group said they were going and that I should come along, too. Some small voice in the back of my mind said, “You know, you didn’t really run the LA Marathon, since you walked the last 9 miles of it. Running this one could be a great way to redeem yourself.”

Of course, every single person with whom I’ve discussed my LA Marathon experience has simply looked at me funny when I described my experience in such a way that might suggest any need for redemption. But, you know, they just don’t understand.

Signing up for OC was only the first mistake. Continue reading

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