"He was a good man and now he's gone." - M. Ward, Requiem
You know when I fell in love with him? He hung a punching bag from a tree in his backyard. One chooses a moment among moments, snaps a memory to stand in for the whole experience, picturesque. Makes the abstract concrete--to hold onto it. To bid goodbye to it.
He finished his first Ironman this August. I admired how he set a goal for himself and met it. I read that particular race as the climax to emotionally processing his divorce two years before. His plan to recover showed determination and discipline, which I trust. Of course, the body, the heart, the psyche, all have plots and timelines of their own.
After those rigorous months of training, he devised a lighter regimen for fall to accommodate a busier schedule. Even though he's a triathlete, he isn't gym buff, biceps polished by mirrored repetitions. He cut his muscles hefting bags of photography equipment, running stairs, wrestling a Labrador or dolley full of a friend's furniture.
I sat in the house typing one morning at a desk overlooking his backyard. Between us were blackberry bushes, a henhouse, and the hen pecking for her breakfast. I stared at my screen, thinking how to excise a darling my editor had asked me to kill, trying to summon the brutality.
I caught his running form out of the corner of my vision and let my eyes follow him around the yard. His backyard is maybe a third of an acre, pretty small, but surrounded by enough trees to provide some privacy. He would run a lap before dropping to the ground for push-ups on cinder blocks. He lifted the cinder blocks over his head several times and lowered them to deliver punches to the bag. It was adorable. He was so serious. I felt the proverbial heartstring snap, and like when I tore my acl, knew I was in trouble, would still have to make my way back down the mountain.
When I was a girl my father would say, if I bragged about something: "You want a medal or a chest to pin it on?" My father is a good man, a kind man, but not a particularly observant man. He must not have noticed how my twelve year old cheeks would redden at his mention of my chest. God! My father has taught me consistently over the years to laugh more, give myself and others a break, be light.
There was a time when a man running circles in his own backyard, playing himself out, would have given me permission to be myself. If relationship is a mirror, he reflected that part of me that drives forward, inventing my own stakes, all will and motivation. He looked like the hopefulmost thing, like secular faith. Like knowledge that he was rebuilding himself and could. I got it. I mean, I get to keep that.