Nicholas Lazzaro

Helping You Write Your Story

6

2

Harold- Example Project

43 years. For 43 years, Harold had gone to work and gave it his best shot. For 43 years, Harold tried to be the best husband and father that he could be, even as his hair thinned and greyed, and even when his best wasn’t quite enough.

And where did that land him?

Clutching his chest as he writhed his way to the ground under his desk.

He gasped and clawed as his left arm went numb and his chest flared in pain. “Help me,” passed from his lips, more whimper than whisper.

As his world dimmed into abeyance, Harold regretted most of the choices he was too much of a coward to make. Mostly though, he regretted getting a large fries with lunch today.

 

                                                                  ***************

Hours or days later, Harold gurgled his way awake, unsurprised by his sterile surroundings and the warm family portrait looming over him, preparing to crash. A wave of hellos and get-well-soons ready to suffocate him. Elaine sat beside him, her wizened hand over his brow. After the tumult of familial chatter subsided, she turned to him.

“How dare you!” Her once brown hair waved as she shook her head. “Not a year from your retirement and you up and try to abandon me.” Harold lacked the strength to respond, so Elaine’s smile brightened the silence until a doctor strolled in without a care in the world, sucking the joy from Harold’s.

In a tone that matched the hospital, he droned on about Harold’s weak heart, his high levels of visceral fat, and how they almost lost him twice during the surgery. “You battered yourself on the way down. Between that and the heart, you will need a few weeks of physical therapy before I’d feel comfortable with you leaving. Just to make sure your heart can handle day to day activities.”  Harold frowned at this and his whirlwind tour of physical torment began.

Muscles that hadn’t seen use in 30 years and lungs that hadn’t been so full since ’77 enflamed themselves. Harold struggled and griped though the first days of the therapy, cursing and sighing his way through the hour and a half daily dose of “rehabilitation.”

The first week of this was torture. The second was Hell. Sore muscles redoubled their efforts to put Harold down for good. Each balancing exercise brought the hope of slipping and falling on a conveniently placed chair, Million Dollar Baby style. With each water aerobics class came thoughts of just drifting off into the middle of the pool and going limp.

Sometime during the third week, Tuesday, or maybe Wednesday, something astounding happened.

Harold awoke from his restless sleep without the normal sour face. Maybe it was a dream he’d had, or maybe he’d finally accepted the way of things, but day after day, as his muscles shook off their caked on dust, his mouth curled into a smile.      

                                                         **************

            “I’m sorry, you know,” Harold said to Elaine as she wheeled him out of the hospital.

            “For what?”

            “I wasn’t living before the attack. I hadn’t been for a long time.”

“Don’t be silly, Harold. I love you, and you’ve been a great partner. Just stay healthy.” She kissed the top of his head. Harold smiled and looked out towards the rising sun.

“I think I’d like to keep exercising.”

            “I know you will because you’re not going anywhere anytime soon. I thought we could enroll in yoga classes, you know, to lower your stress?”

            “No,” Harold blurted, “I mean thanks, hon, but I think I’d like to get back into running. Like when we were young.

            And so Harold started running. At first, it was once around the block. And it left him gasping and sore. And he didn’t go back out for three days after that. But once he picked up steam, Harold quickly moved on to two times around the block, then three. After his 69th birthday two months later, he took the new odometer that Elaine gave him and started planning routes. First it was one mile, then two, then three, and finally 3.1.

            Elaine cheered at the finish line for his first 5K. Finished in 29 minutes flat. And that was only the first. Over his 69th year, Harold ran three 5Ks, each better than the last. His daily run grew to a whopping six miles.

It was late-October when he told Elaine that he intended to run a marathon.

“That’s a bit… grueling, isn’t it? I don’t want you to hurt yourself.”

“I look at it as a completion of the work I’ve done.”

“But we said that we would finally take that trip to Bermuda now that you’ve retired.”

“How about this: we plan a week around a marathon down there? I can run and then we can relax the rest of the week in the sun, out of the winter cold.”

Elaine brightened the room again and said that she loved him.

 

                                                                *********

            Weeks turned to months as Harold beefed up his regimen. By the time the marathon was a month away, he had worked himself up to a half marathon once a week, but he couldn’t bring himself to do the full run before the event. His soreness came in waves, but it was welcomed now, a breath of fresh air into his retired life. Soon enough, they boarded a plane to Bermuda and stepped into the heat and sun of a tropical paradise that Harold only dreamt of.

It wasn’t some famous marathon, like New York or Boston, but it took him around the whole island, through palm trees and small towns and beautiful Atlantic beaches. He wasn’t in the first set of runners, or anywhere else special, but when his cohort stood on the starting line and the officials set them off, a thrill ran up his spine that he hadn’t felt in a quarter century.

The first 5 miles flew by, a whirlwind of sweat and endorphins. He ran alongside the beaches and boardwalks, heard the pelicans and seagulls flapping above him, squawking and fighting over food. Some runners passed him and some trailed behind, but even as his thighs began to burn around mile 10, he kept running, his smile shimmering in the sun.

As he rounded the bend of the island by the 15th mile, his breath began to falter and his pace slowed to a crawl. Sweat poured down his face, and the endorphins hadn’t brought another runner’s high quite yet. Harold felt his feet fall out from under him at the end of mile 17 as he tripped over a crack in the roadway.

He laid there for a half minute, scraped and bruised, as other runners passed him by, looking down at him. As one man in his mid-40s came over to help him up, Harold struggled to his feet. Blood trickled down his arm, but his smile continued on, unabated. The 20th mile passed by without difficulty as his heart beat faster and harder, straining against the length of his journey.

Time slowed to a crawl as the last tenth of a mile plodded by. Harold stared up at the sun and around at his tropical environs. Birds glided above him. Waves lapped at the shore, breaking against the rocks interspersed in the shining sand, furthering their never ending march against the island. His eyes fixed on his wife smiling brighter than everything else, and Harold beamed back at her as he crossed the finish line and collapsed as his heart, joyous and exhausted, gave it last beats.

Comments

Please sign in or sign up to comment.