Tuesday, April 16, 2013

I love Marathon Monday.

It's hard to compare Patriots Day to any other holiday or explain to non-Bostonians what it feels like to celebrate with my fellow city-men and women.  But I'll try.  On Patriots Day, I wear jeans and sneakers, I spend the day frolicking outside with family and friends, I eat hot-off-the-grill hamburgers and hot dogs, and I even drink a beer or two.  It's a day of fun and celebration and happiness and excitement and cheer.  And everyone, from young children to college students to moms and dads and grandparents, are outside enjoying the fun-in-the-sun together. 

I have truly great memories from the last ten Patriots Days that I've spent in this city.  And by far, my favorite part of the day has been standing along Beacon Street in Coolidge Corner or Boylston Street in Boston watching the Marathon.  It is a thrill to see the runners on the route, track my friends who are on the course, and cheer along the men and women who spent months training for the special 26.2 mile journey. 

But this year, the Marathon had added meaning for me.  More than just eating barbecue and spending the day with friends, I felt it was truly my duty to be there.  Thousands and thousands of runners raised money for a variety of charities, and I wanted and I needed to stand and cheer on my friends running for CJP and my "family" running for Children's Hospital and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute

The 12 runners who comprised Team Ari this past Fall may not have been participating in yesterday's race, but all of the other runners who raised funds to support the doctors and researchers and institution that will save my son's life were.  On Monday, they were all part of Team Ari. 

And from my perch this year atop Commonwealth Avenue in Newton, I waved and woo-ed and encouraged them all to keep going until the very end.  Fitting, I thought, as they were making it possible for Ari to do the same. 

After we watched the Elite men and women run by, Ari went home to take a nap, and I drove back to the course with baby Alison.  I felt myself get choked up as I watched the countless Dana Farber runners make their way past me.  Every one of them who saw my sign gave a smile, a thumbs up, or a wave.  And then there was the man who stopped to thank me.  Under my sunglasses, my eyes welled with tears.  I was standing there to thank him and thank all of them.  They don't know me or little Ari, but they were out there on a mission to keep my family alive. 

And yet, the eery, sick, horrific irony of the day was that it was these generous, selfless runners whose lives were threatened yesterday.  It was their friends and family and themselves who lost their lives, who suffered debilitating injuries, and who now lay in hospital beds and in surgical suites.  Yet Ari is outside today playing in the sunshine, digging dirt with his toy trucks, and running to see lawnmowers.  While I stay glued to the news on the TV, hoping and waiting for updates and arrests, he is unphased (as he should be) by the tragedy.  He is too young to understand.

I used to tell Ari I would never let anything bad happen to him.  And then he was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 19 months old.   I couldn't protect my baby from what I thought was the worst thing ever.  Yet, I learned quickly, that there are things that are far worse - medical conditions, school shootings, Marathon bombers, and more.  While I cannot make sense out of these random acts of terror, nor can I prevent them, I can and must continue to live my life, to enjoy my children, to celebrate blessings, and to complete our own marathon. 

I cheered on runners at the very top of Heartbreak Hill this year.  And I only wish for the runners, for their families and friends, for all of Boston, and of course for my own family, that it is all down hill from here.


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