October fell flat this year.
Normally it’s got so much going for it — my birthday, crisper weather, autumn color — that I sail through in high spirits.
Not this cursed year.
At the start of the month, while wrapping up a home exercise session with Cheryl, I let her seduce me into doing a series of one-legged contortions.
A bad, bad mistake.
I was turning 70 in two weeks. People who are 70 operate within narrow physical tolerances. How had I not known this?
The day after my foot gyrations with Cheryl, one of my wheels fell off. It happened during my morning jog.
My left knee. Ouch.
I wasn’t confused for a microsecond as to where this pain originated. It came from lithe and limber Cheryl who thought it would be a lark to do a jig with an old man.
As a long-time jogger, I accept the occasional injury as the price of doing business. Run long enough, far enough, and some part of you will break down. Only this wasn’t a running injury. It was a crazy dance injury.
The timing was inopportune. In seven weeks I intended to run my beloved Davis Turkey Trot. I hoped that was time enough for me to heal and resume conditioning runs.
A week passed. My knee still felt unhinged, but I did a test run anyway. The pain returned, but I kept running.
I took off another week, then gingerly went back at it. I broke down within two blocks of my house. The walk home was a sad, sad walk. When something this tragic happens at Churchill Downs, they shoot you.
I could see Turkey Trot slipping away as I committed to yet another convalescence. I suffered quietly. At work, I tried not to call attention to my broken spirit.
As far as anyone knew, I was suffering from the presidential election. I did not let on that my pain was far more personal.
Cheryl sympathized with me, yet she seemed to welcome her own break from pre-dawn jogging. If I wasn’t running, neither would she.
I appreciated the facade of solidarity even as I questioned her motives.
More days passed and still the knee would not heal. I could feel a weirdness just walking to and from the office copier.
Turkey Trot was four weeks away. Then three.
Circumstances forced me to look deep into myself. Was I such a shallow person that I would despair over the state of my existence just because I could not run a Turkey Trot?
I told Cheryl I loved her even if I never ran again. I still loved her taco salads, our Pandora stations, certain aspects of the cat we were babysitting, autumn leaves, my job.
And on the day when the horn sounds and the runners launch through the streets of Davis, I would be a big boy and not sulk in bed back in Napa.
Mine was not heroism on the scale of a made-for-TV movie, but it was something. I was coping with adversity. I was rising to the occasion.
And still dreaming of Turkey Trot. Hope does not easily die in this human breast.
Last Sunday afternoon I geared up for one more test run. If I broke down two blocks from my house, at least I’d be walking home in sunlight, not in predawn murk.
Cheryl asked if I wanted her to run with me. I demurred. If the run ended prematurely, I wouldn’t be fit company.
And off I went. Slowly. Tentatively. Bravely.
Two blocks — nothing bad happened. A mile — still OK.
I cut off my test after two miles. Only a fanatic would press his luck.
Cheryl was waiting for my verdict. Right off she could see a new jauntiness.
We can plan a trip to Davis, I said. Got my wheels back.