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When Life’s Race Nears the End
Posted By Al Martinez On July 31, 2013 @ 4:00 am In Notebook | Comments Disabled
When Cinelli and I married in 1949 I was 20 years old and could run like the wind. Life was a thunder clap back then and my very existence was packaged in a race to a goal I never bothered to define.
There was a kind of glory to the rush that trailed fire and dust; we were young and strong and loud, raucous children of a hurricane that never stopped forming. That is no longer the case. Time wears down and softens; time weakens. Old age is the godfather of minutes and time a metaphor for passage. It moves at a slow and deliberate pace.
Never was the contrast clearer than at our 64th wedding anniversary party atop the Space Needle in Seattle. We had brought members of our family there to simultaneously observe both our wedding anniversary and my 84th birthday.
Seattle is a beautiful, grownup city whose downtown is lined with forest trees, casting the stores and tall buildings in a green haze. Locals call it Emerald City.
I came to the party not at the blinding pace that had once characterized me but in a wheelchair where a lung disease called COPD has put me. I don’t run anymore. I hardly walk. Admitting this is almost as painful as the disease itself, which robs one of oxygen by doubling up with chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
Cinelli has her problems but her attitude has always been one of cheerful resistance, leaping into an ice cold river with a burst of laughter, then swimming out shivering in the cold air to do it again. She could run if she wanted to. Her pace might be slower at 83 than it was at 81, but she could do it.
Do not get the idea that she’s there to wait on me. “Up with you,” she cries, heading for the door, “a little walk won’t hurt! Hurry, before the sun goes away!” So we walk in the cool of a Topanga evening, she with a grace unaltered by time and me with a limp and a drag that has become my legacy of a time lived wildly if not well.
We will redeem the rest of our years in the manner we lived the first 64: loving each other, helping each other, being near each other but clinging to our own individualism: she still running with the wind, and me still feeling the wind, hearing its message and aching for the race just one more time.
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