I like the privacy of running in a park because, shielded from casual onlookers by trees, less people can see my embarrassingly slow pace and sweaty middle-aged mug. I’m also an oblivious sort of fellow and that’s not a good thing when you need to be aware of oncoming cars, pedestrians, and other runners. Today, however, I didn’t feel like driving to the park and started running on the street where I live. One of my neighbors did a double take, but screw what people think of me. 

Slathered in SPF 50, I carefully navigated two highway on ramps and made my way into town, striding past the stores, bars, and restaurants lining Main Street. The smells of baking pizza almost made me want to chuck it and start carbo loading but I pressed on; running past my bank, through residential neighborhoods, and then onto a long, slightly hilly avenue that most of the local joggers seem to favor. Feeling good and jazzed from the tunes on my playlist, I jogged past the library, flipping a small salute to a young woman who zipped past me. Noticing she was wearing sporty sunglasses; I made a mental note to pick up a pair for myself. Normally I wear eyeglasses to see but, after my expensive specs slid of my sweaty face a couple of times, I switched to contacts when running – but the sun’s glare was annoying. 

When I reached the park I usually run in, I glanced at my heart rate monitor and saw twenty minutes had elapsed and that my ticker was still below the red zone. Reversing direction, I began the trek back and ended up running past the funeral home where we held services for my father. His ashes are still there, waiting until we finally find a place to inter them. “Hey, Dad,” I said, trotting past the entrance. When the mortuary was behind me, however, my mind started chattering about all the paperwork I still had to do to settle my dad’s estate. As thoughts of pension plans, insurance claims, real estate, and long term financial planning for my mom flooded my brain, I felt myself tensing up and my form faltering. Shaking my head, I let the sensation of the warm sun on my face banish my anxious thoughts and concentrated on my breathing, feeding oxygen into my body to power the muscles in my legs. 

By the time I hit Main Street again I felt a tad winded and looked at my wrist monitor to gauge my progress. My heart rate was inching close to my personal max but, to my surprise, three miles was only a short effort way. Grunting, I dug in and picked up the pace, and, by the time I passed the smell of pizza again, I hit the magic number. “Just a little bit more,” I said, feeling suntan lotion beginning to sting my eyes. “5K is only a tenth of a mile away.” Then, after some discomfort, I was done, accomplishing something I’d never done in my younger years – time elapsed, 34 minutes. Settling into a walk, I felt my body readjust as my breathing and heartbeat slowed, made my way past the treacherous highway entrances again, and soon found myself home. 

Guzzling a bottle of water I left on my porch, I stretched and then checked the mailbox. Sure enough, a dozen letters concerning dad’s affairs were waiting for me. Opening my front door, I sat down in the dining room, slit open the envelopes, and began sorting the letters in order of importance. One of them was a fundraising appeal from President Biden. “Jesus,” I said, remembering my father was born only a couple of months after the Commander-in- Chief, “My dad’s dead and this guy’s running the country.” Then again, Mick Jagger is eighty and still rocking it in concert with The Stones, prancing on stage like age had no meaning. Somehow, I found that strangely reassuring. Dad might be gone, but that a group he’d listened to as a young man was still belting it out to enthusiastic crowds meant, in an odd way, that part of him was still alive too. Don’t ask me to explain it. 

Feeling proud and the pleasantly tired from my athletic endeavor, I hit the shower to wash of my hard earned sweat. Then, as the hot water began to loosen up my muscles, I had the mysterious sense that everything – everything – would eventually turn out okay. Maybe it was the endorphins talking but, as water sluiced soap away, I started joyously singing “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction.” Move over Mick. 

There’s still life in this old dog yet. 

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