Tuesday, December 3, 2013

A Different Kind of Thanksgiving

Last year, Sal and I ran in a local 5K Turkey Trot together, after having trained for weeks on end. We  never ran before we started training, and after a few weeks, I felt invincible. Of course, there were many times when I wanted to give up, but I didn't. We made it to race day, and ran our hearts out. This year was a little different because Sal was unable to run, though he was signed up. It turns out that Sal injured his leg and the doctor suggested (actually, he demanded) that Sal not run any more. When I heard the news, I was slightly devastated, and not because he was injured, because I know Sal will just persevere and push himself past the injury, but because I had lost my running partner. I laced up my shoes that morning, put layer upon layer on, and popped my earbuds in place, going through the motions I'd go through on any race morning. We waited at the start line together until we were about to start; that's when Sal headed to the sidelines, and I knew I had to give it my all. Despite the cold temperatures, and the empty space at my side, I ran. I ran even though I hadn't run in weeks, all while repeating in my head, the faster I ran, the warmer I'd be... the faster I ran, the sooner I'd see Sal. He was my motivation during that run, just like he's my motivation during many days.

When I made it to the finish line though, I didn't see him, and he didn't see me... there were thousands of people at the race. It was my fastest recorded 5K - 29:02. I was shaking, so I kept walking and grabbed a bottle of water, an orange slice, and a roll. I quickly decided my body needed liquids more than solids, after a quick bite of bread. I searched frantically, until I saw the back of his head in the crowd. I ran to him, as fast as my already sore legs would run, and called his name. We were both upset that he hadn't seen me cross the finish line, but he smiled and said he was so proud that I had finished, especially without him. I'm glad I didn't just roll over when I heard my alarm go off that morning, glad I called Sal to wake him up that morning, and glad I had finished yet another 5K on my own. You are stronger than you think you are. You don't always need someone there by your side, but having someone at the finish line is an indescribable feeling.

We quickly left because by that time Sal's feet were frozen, and he could no longer feel his hands. My heart was still racing, and my blood was warm as the adrenaline was still coursing through me, but I knew it would wear off fast, so I didn't hesitate when he said let's go home! I finished off a water bottle, and talked with Sal about the race, as we drove home. We were both looking forward to spending Thanksgiving with our families... Sal at his house, and mine at a formal restaurant. We decided a few years ago that we would see each other at some point during Thanksgiving, but that we would spend it with our family separately. I am all for spending holidays together, but Thanksgiving seems like an important holiday to spend with your own family. It works for us. I had some time before we were going to our dinner, so I took my time, enjoying watching the Thanksgiving Day parade with my brother and mom, while chowing down on pumpkin muffins she had made for us while I was running.

When we arrived at the banquet hall, we were greeted with 'Happy Thanksgivings,' and while I was sad that these individuals were all working, and my being there was not helping them be with their families, I hoped they'd be able to see them after their shift was over. The spread was incredible, from butternut squash raviolis, turkey, and a mashed potato bar, to pies of all kinds and chocolate covered fruit! While we tried to take our time, pausing after appetizers, and again after dinner, we were stuffed at the end of our three course meal, that ended up being four or five for my brother and dad. The atmosphere was perfect, and I truly felt like I was enjoying dinner with my family at home. We cheered with champagne, that might've been the best I've ever had, and then drank wine during dinner. It was relaxing, and it felt right, unlike many holidays prior to that ended with everyone in different rooms. I enjoyed having my family right there with me for a few hours. No cell phones were brought out, and the conversation never lulled. There was no stress in the kitchen, and even though there were no leftovers, I kind of consider that a blessing. Not being able to stuff your face with turkey and mashed potatoes all night, is definitely a good thing for me. I counted my blessings sitting at that table together, and my family is definitely at the top of that list.

When we got home, we relaxed in the living room, lighting a fire, and turning on a movie. We sat on the couches, and laughed for what seemed like hours. I could not have been more thankful, could not have been more blessed.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving with their loved ones. 

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