In an effort to keep my good cholesterol up, I started jogging a few months ago. It’s slow going and sucks but, after getting up to three miles straight on my gym’s treadmills, I decided to put on my big boy shorts and start running outside. I wish someone had told me that pounding the pavement al fresco was much harder. “It’s always miserable,” an accomplished marathoner told me upon learning of my efforts. “But if you keep up with it, you’ll still be miserable, but find yourself going farther and faster.” He was right about the misery part at least. My pace is what could be charitably called a “car valet jog.” 

Before I went for my run Saturday morning, I was still trying to dispel the foul mood I woke up in. The night before, my mother phoned to tell me she’d fallen in her suite and was unable to reach the call button. Hanging up, I called the nursing home. “Yes,” I said, “My mother fell in room 265 and can’t summon help. Can you send someone up there?” 

“Uh,” the witless aide said. “That’s like on the second floor. I can’t go up there.” 

“I don’t care,” I shot back. “Get someone up there.” 

“I’ll transfer you to the second floor,” he said, sounding like I’d inconvenienced his iPhone time. Of course, no one answered. 

Angry, I called the nursing home administrator’s cell and got sent straight to voice jail. Now approaching supernova levels of rage, I called the home phone of the nursing supervisor who luckily answered and got a nurse to mom’s room.  Fortunately, mom was unharmed but, before I went back to bed, I fired off a text to the administrator, stating that the home’s response to this incident was unacceptable and wanted a plan of action so it would never happen again. I ended with, “I expect your call tomorrow.” Then I went to bed in a funk. 

That funk was there to greet me when I woke up early the next morning. I’d liked to have slept in, but I had to take my daughter to get fasting bloodwork and then take her to roller-skating lessons at 8:30. “Why can’t I eat?” Natalie whined when I woke her up. “Do I have to get a shot?” 

“It’s nothing,” I said.

“It’s gonna hurt.” 

“Natalie,” I said, thinking how a blood test saved my ass, “Sometimes you have to go through a little pain to avoid a lot more later. “

Arriving at the lab at 7:15, I was ticked to find the waiting room packed to the rafters. I hadn’t made an appointment, assured by the clerk that walk-ins were welcome and all I had to do was sign in at the kiosk. Judging from the multitudes, however, it seemed like everyone with kids was using this school free day do the same thing. Knowing we’d miss our roller skating appointment, I bailed, making Natalie was very happy. After a pitstop at McDonald’s for breakfast, we showed up at the roller rink and it all went downhill from there. 

“Daddy,” Natalie, said. “You brought my figure skates. Not my freestyle skates.” 

“You can’t do your lesson in your figures?” 


In an effort to foster a sense of responsibility, I’d asked Natalie to ensure she had the right skates before we left the house. Like any parent, I’m mystified by my child’s mastery of complex digital tasks but seeming inability to do a simple thing correctly. “That’s it,” I muttered angrily, stuffing her skates back into her bag. “Daddy,” Natalie said. “My freestyle skates were in the purple bag.”  

“They’re both purple!” 

Driving home, I knew my wife was going to give me the business over this fuckup. Sure enough, the moment I walked in the door, she laid into me. 

“I thought we had the right skates,” I said. 

“Did you tell the coach what happened?” 

“No,” I said. “We just left.” 

“What? You didn’t tell her? Who’s the adult here?” 

Upon hearing this, I lost my temper and kicked some books piled on the floor complete with a litany of obscenities which my daughter unfortunately overheard. “I’m just leaving you alone” my wife said, disgustedly. Let’s just say I didn’t do adulting very well that morning. 

Now deservedly feeling like an asshole, I changed into my workout clothes and headed to the park, hoping exercise would help me sweat out the badness. When I got there, another jogger around my age was making the loop, festooned in workout tights, a slick Day-Glo shirt and brightly colored sneakers. He looked ridiculous, but from the spring in his step, I could tell he was much better at running than I. Aggravated that I didn’t have to whole place to myself, I warmed up and then began plodding at my amateurish pace. Three circuits of the park made a mile but, by my fifth loop, I was winded and decided to walk for a lap. That’s when Day-Glo almost ran me over. 

“Sorry,” I said, hopping out of the way, but the sneer the guy threw over his shoulder fanned the flames of my temper again. “Asshole,” I thought to myself. 

As my heart rate began to settle down, I thought about why I was so angry and letting small things infuriate me. “I just lost my dad,” I told myself. “And I’ll be godammed if I’ll lose my mom because some shithead at the nursing home didn’t do his job.” Sounded reasonable, but I knew that wasn’t what was powering my animus.  Ever since my dad died, half my brain doesn’t seem to be working right. I’m so forgetful that I find myself constantly misplacing my keys, wallet, coat, and even my morning cup of coffee. Just last week, I ran my Bluetooth headphones through the wash, forgot to pay a credit card bill, and mystified why I couldn’t find my car outside the supermarket. If I wasn’t grieving, I’d have thought I was suffering from early onset dementia.  But truth be told, my mind’s been relieving Dad’s last moments over and over and I feel guilty that, if I had to do it over again, I wonder if the mercy of just getting a phone call at 3:00 AM would’ve been preferable.  But I was there when he died and, oddly, didn’t feel as upset as I thought I should’ve been. 

“You’re the glue,” my therapist said a few weeks after the funeral. “You got through this by being the guy you’ve always been, the one who keeps his cool when everyone loses theirs and gets things done. You set aside your grief so others could feel theirs, but now that it’s hitting you, you’re wondering who’s there for you.” Being fatherless has unmoored me and dealing with all the details of settling his estate is trying, and I do have help, but it’s exhausting. But I promised my father on his deathbed I’d take care of things because that’s what an adult does – and I’m sick of being an adult.  No wonder I resented being called on the carpet by my wife this morning.  I don’t want to be an “adult” because, after all the serious responsibilities I’ve been handling. I just want regress into childhood for one moment – yearning for the security I felt lying in the backseat of my Dad’s old Maverick as he drove me home from a long trip, listening to Phil Rizzuto do the Yankee play by play.  But those days are long gone. 

“Fuck me,” I said, stopping to lean on a fence. “Fifty-six and you’re still an asshole.” Then I saw the horse. 

Though I’d run past him several times, my mind had failed to register the chestnut roan placidly grazing in the green pasture next to the park. As I looked at him in shock, the horse raised his great head and looked at me unperturbed, switching his tail gently from side to side, as if saying, “I have always been here.” Filled with wonder, I felt like a kid again, delighted that the beautiful had once again made its appearance – no matter how I felt, what was happening, or whether I deserved it or not. Exactly what I said during my father’s eulogy. An impossible mercy.

“You okay, buddy?” Day Glo said, stopping next to me. 

“My dad died,” I said, unaware I’d been crying. 

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I know what that’s like.” 

“But I”ll be okay.” 

“Yeah,” Day Glo said. “You will.” 

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