An old man was a severe alcoholic. His son followed in his foot steps. An old man ran multiple Boston Marathons. His son is about to follow in his foot steps once again.
Did you hear that knocking? It was me. Thankfully you never answered just like when I would knock at your door as a child. But this time I am very grateful for you not opening the door. For if you did, you and me would be reunited. Sorry, but I don’t want to see you anytime soon. I have responsibilities down here that I am no longer running from. I have pain that I can no longer hide from that I must handle. I have many wrongs that I must continue to make right. As much as I have always yearned for that father-son relationship it’s simply not the time.
What I would like from you though, is to look down on me and lead me away from the bad I witnessed pain you caused over the years. Please give me strength to finally choose to live for myself and not for you, nor anyone else. I ask that you please always remind me of what I have lost when my actions coincided more and more with those that I saw from you.
But Dad, please don’t take this as any form of anger or resentment toward you because it is the furthest thing from either. You’re my old man, always have been, always will be, regardless of the turbulence of our past. I need you now more than ever, I feel your presence every day. I know you are looking down on me, guiding me toward greatness, and steering me away from the desolate alcoholic life I was stuck in for far too long, and not too long ago. Shit, we shared the lifestyle together until that Christmas morning when your body finally had enough. Man, what was it, forty plus years of submitting that poison into your body? But hey, at least we had that quality father-son time together during those last few years after all, right?
From Hercules to Wheelchair Bound
I will give it to you, old man, even as your body deteriorated from Hercules to the point of being wheelchair bound, strapped to a dialysis machine three days a week, four hours each day, you still managed to make every single one of those hospital staff members smile. I’ll always remember each time I would pick you up from a facility after another stint for lord knows what illness that time, before I wheeled you on out to the car, a nurse or two would tell me how much you made everyone laugh in the building, from fellow patients to all the staff. It didn’t matter if you were only from a day to two weeks – you made a lasting impression. These were the times I like to remember, because you were always happy and I got to see the real Hoggy, the one free of the poison, even if only for a short time.
But I’m not stupid, I know the smiles were a façade, hiding the tremendous pain you were dealing with, inside and out. I don’t know how you survived as long as you did. I don’t have enough fingers to count all the surgeries you had during your last couple years where I took care of you. Staples, staples, and more staples. Scars the size of rulers consumed your body and endless amounts of prescription bottles filled up entire trash bags, all of which I still have to this day. I saved them as proof of what will undoubtedly happen to me if I ever even think about having a sip of alcohol at any point in the rest of my life. I need those reminders because like I said, I don’t want to visit you any time soon. I have this new life down here, and damn dad, I think even you would be proud. But I am pretty certain you already are playing a part in it…
I know you are behind this Boston Marathon opportunity that I have been blessed with. Yeah, you, the man who legend has it, ran upwards of 6,7, or maybe even 10 Bostons. We shall never know the real answer. What I do know is that you did complete quite a few and just the other night I found many of your certificates of completion, as well as some newspaper articles. I know that’s you popping down to remind me that I can do this. I vividly remember as a little peanut hanging up those shiny foils they wrapped you in upon completing the 26.2 on my bedroom walls.
You had a funny way of telling me it was my turn to run Boston, when I got asked to run this year’s marathon, it was a few days before Christmas, the very day you left me for good two years ago. During those last minutes of your life here, when only you and I shared that hospital room, did you really think I would have the ability to run a marathon? Because there is no way in hell I would have. I was well on my way to cruising up and down hospital corridors in my own wheelchair before inevitably succumbing to the same fate as you.
For that, I want to give you a big ass high-five because you knew this challenge is exactly what was necessary to kick my ass back in gear, furthering me away from knocking at your door any time soon. I needed to regain discipline in my life because even though I was 18 months sober at the time, I knew I was falling back into old habits, and no one else could see it, but me. Here’s another air high-five because, Dad, your timing was impeccable.
Well, guess what Hoggy? The marathon is only a month away. And, I am actually doing it! I reclaimed that discipline I thought I lost and since then I have been working my tail off every damn day to ensure I cross that finish line on April 15th. This shit isn’t easy, man. How in the world did you do it all those times? Yes, you looked like the Incredible Hulk every time you came home after some time in the can. I knew that as a garbage man you were always in phenomenal shape, running like a mad man throughout the streets of whatever town you were tossing trash in, but still? I guess all those urban legends of 20 mile runs from your work’s headquarters in Gloucester back home to Beverly were true, huh?
I am not going to lie, after my first training run back in late December, I thought there was absolutely no way on God’s green earth I would be able to complete 26.2. But I just kept on running and I haven’t stopped since. Aches and pains in places I didn’t know existed, 4:30AM wake-ups for 5AM runs, whatever it takes because I know what needs to be done. I haven’t seen the scale read this low since high school. But, none of that matters, it is all part of the process.
I selfishly could say I am running the Boston Marathon to complete a bucket list item, which is partly true (the actual item is completing an Iron Man triathlon), but it is not why I am pushing to levels of uncomfortability I have never met before. I am not running this for you or me, either. This is different. I am running the 123rd Boston Marathon for the millions out there struggling with their own demons, who are hopeless, lost, in dire need of any sign of inspiration; like I was less than two years ago. I must finish this race for them. They deserve to see what is possible and they WILL see me cross that finish line. And once I do, they will realize that if he can, they can, and that anything is possible.
Alright old man, 4:30AM is right around the corner and as you know, marathons don’t run themselves. When I take those first few strides in the morning, I am going to still curse bullshit and say, “How in the hell did he do it?”, but then I’ll begin chasing you down. When I feel like I am about to give up on a run, suddenly I envision you zooming by me in your wheelchair, before stepping off it ahead of me to wait. When I catch up to you, my white Nikes turn to neon green like your favorite ones and we start running together. And with that, I know we got this! I got the heart of a Hyland and we cannot be beat!
Rest ya neck.
I am running the 2019 Boston Marathon, representing my non-profit company Bay Cove Human Services. For more info on how you can help support the mental health and recovery communities of inner city Boston please click the link and DONATE today. Any amount goes a long way. Thank you!