February is the shortest month of the year. This year it’s been extended by one day to 29 days. As much as anyone can fear an entire month, I fear February. Six years ago this month my mother passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. I was 20. I’m now 26 and every day since I’ve thought of the day she died, moment by moment, minute by minute so even today it feels as fresh as it did the day afterward. What more could I have done? There was nothing. Could I have seen it coming? No one did. And I hate that I can’t change it. I hate that two weeks before when I was home from college I couldn’t have changed things. I hate that on January 25th (one month until she died), when I received the last package at school she ever sent me I couldn’t do anything. I hate that the night before, I couldn’t tell that something was different, drastically different. There is no blame, no forgiveness, no fault.
It is because of my mother that I am who I am. And it is because she isn’t here that I’ve often forgotten who it is that I am. I’ve been playing catch-up to the first 20 years of my life the last six, forging a new identity on the based off an old with little guidance.
I would be lying if training for this marathon wasn’t some grasp at control of my life. I’ve rarely ever finished the things I’ve started. I’ve quit too easily early on, relying on my potential for the future to outweigh my underperformance of the present. My whole life I’ve left passion and talent abandoned. One could argue training for Boston helped me settle an unforeseen breakup, a stressful career, the constant fear of alcoholism that can keep me on opposite poles. But, the truth of it all is something I know I’m capable. Something I have potential and can maybe even surprise myself in. The race starts in Hopkinton and ends in Boston. I can control what happens from those two points and everything leading up to them. I couldn’t control what happened to my mom. But, this, this I can manage. I want to finish something I start with the same passion at the end as at the beginning.
I ran track in high school. I was mediocre. I never wanted anyone to watch me run, I disappointed myself, adding others in to the mix seemed too much. My mother only came to one meet. She didn’t tell me she was coming and she left before the meet was finished. I don’t remember what event I ran or my time. But, when I came home, my mom hugged me and told me how proud she was that I was out there. The time place and time didn’t matter.
I miss my mom. I miss home in New Jersey. I miss the life I had that ended so abruptly the morning of February 25th. And I wish many of the choices I made I could remake. But, I cannot. I know I can run. I just hope I’m not running away anymore. And along the way, wanted to enact some change, some good greater than my own.
Each year on the anniversary of my mom, my sister, Peter, and I go to the Fireplace in Brookline and have dinner. After dinner, I go home and I am alone. But, music was of maybe an absurd importance in my family’s life. I tie music to my memories more than most anything else, and I have been gifted or punished with a ridiculous memory. Spring cleaning in my house was the sound of The Beatles. Driving to North Carolina for family vacations was Neil Young’s Harvest Moon and Sting’s Ten Summoners Tales. The music of The Band was a constant presence growing up, and it was through the songs of The Band that I believe helped get us through the months after my mom’s death. After dinner, these are the five songs I tend to play that remind me of my mom – family vacations, stories on the screened in porch, coffee boat rides, summer cicadas and winter hot chocolates, these are the songs that I listen to make sure I can still feel what I remember.
Next weekend, I will be running a half marathon on the cape on the 26th. My mother’s favorite place in the entire world was Wellfleet on Cape Cod. Being on the cape gives me a sense of peace that few places give me.