Sunday, November 03, 2013

The Long Run

I high-fived the whole world today and then took a walk through time.

The New York Marathon charged through the five boroughs today and once again I joined my sister to watch more than 50,000 runners race down Fourth Avenue in Bay Ridge on their way to the finish line in Central Park.

I can’t believe I almost didn’t go this year. I seriously thought about staying home and looking through the Sunday Times while athletes from every corner of the earth were running just a few blocks from my house.

Luckily my sister called last night and inspired me to get off my butt and away from the Sunday papers.

I slapped palms with so many runners today my hand went numb—and I didn’t care.

It was worth the momentary sting to connect with such a diverse group of people.

We marathon spectators are really ambassadors for a day, representing our city and our country to throngs of speeding visitors.

“Thank you,” one woman said to me as our hands connected.

“Thank you,” I replied.

This year’s event is especially poignant, since Hurricane Sandy scrubbed last year’s event and the country was rocked by the Boston Marathon bombings in April.

We started getting cold and my sister suggested we swing by our old home, which was less than two blocks away. I haven’t been down that street in so long and I wondered what the new owners had done with the house, which we sold two years ago this month.

I was also hoping to see some of my former neighbors, including the old Chinese lady who lived next door to us for so many years.

I always refer to her as “my buddy” because that’s what she is—my buddy, my friend, a sweet, lovely person who means the world to me even though neither one of us can understand what the other is saying.

She was always after me to get the garbage out on the proper days and insisted on carrying the empty trashcans into my backyard even though I was standing right next to her.

I’ve been worried about her because she’d had open-heart surgery a few years back and I was hoping she was all right.

Miles Away

There didn’t appear to be anyone at our house today.

Most of the people on our block now are Chinese, including the owners of our house. And, like a lot of other people on the block, the new owners have replaced the small steps leading to our front door with a massive brick staircase.

There was also new front and side doors and what appeared to be a huge air conditioning unit on the side of the building.

I thought I would be devastated to see anyone else living in the place where I grew up. And I figured I’d be outraged if someone dared to make any kind of changes to my ancestral home.

But standing out on the sidwalk with my sister, I realized that it didn’t bother me to see the place occupied by new people and I wasn’t at all fazed by the alterations.

I carry the memories of my time there in my heart wherever I go; they’re not bound to any piece of property.

I was hoping we’d somehow magically run into my buddy next door and my sister came up with the brilliant idea of ringing her doorbell.

We did that very thing, her husband answered the door, and my sister flagged down a woman walking by and asked her to act as a translator.

Then my buddy came out. It was so great to see her after more than two years. She and her husband are in my parents’ general age bracket, so seeing them makes me think of my mom and dad.

I gave her a big hug and a kiss and told her I missed her, language barrier be damned. I know she understood me.

They very kindly invited us inside but the conversation was understandably brief and we left a short time later.

I’m thankful that we got to see my buddy again. And I can finally accept that the house on Senator Street no longer belongs to us.

Like marathon runners, we see many memorable things on our journey through life, but we must keep on going until we finish the race.


Ron said...

"Like marathon runners, we see many memorable things on our journey through life, but we must keep on going until we finish the race."

What a beautiful finish, Rob!

And I know I've told you this before, but I'll tell you again, you are SUCH a wonderful writer. Truly buddy, you have such a gift with words!

This post brought back a lot of memories for me when I went back to see the house I grew up in, right after I moved back to Philly 12 years ago. And I felt just like you, I thought it would bother me seeing the place occupied by new people, but it didn't. Like you...

"I carry the memories of my time there in my heart wherever I go; they’re not bound to any piece of property."


And I am soooooo glad to hear that you and your sister attended the NY Marathon this year. One of these years I need to come to NYC and witness that myself.

Fantabulous post, bud! Have a super week!

Rob K said...

Hey, Ron, thank you so much for those lovely compliments.

I've often said how much I appreciate your support and kindness, but I can never say it too many times. I'm really grateful that I've got you in my corner.

Seeing your old home under new management, so to speak, is a strange experience, but it doesn't have to be a devastating one. It can a time for healing and reflection. And gratitude.

Thanks so much for stopping by, buddy, and have a great week!

Rob K said...
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Bijoux said...

I agree with Ron.....great finish to the story!

I have driven by my childhood home three times since my parents left in 1991. It's always shocking to me. I thought the yards seemed huge as a kid. Now they seem quite small to me. And I can't get over how rural it seems now. I've lived in city suburbs ever since.

I'm glad you got to see your buddy!

Rob K said...

Hey, Bijoux, thanks so much!

Isn't strange how our view of these places change over time?

When we're children, the family house looks enormous, but it grows smaller as our sense of the world grows bigger.

Take care!

Jay at The Depp Effect said...

Well, I HAD to look up Senator Street on Google Satellite view, and wow .. what gorgeous houses! Did you have the whole house when you were young? That must have been quite something.

I love the story about the Chinese lady and I'm glad you met her and managed to let her know how you feel despite the language barrier. That is such a sweet story.

The marathon must be a great event to witness. I'm not so fond of crowds, but the endorphins must be pretty thick in the air!

CrystalChick said...

And I agree with Ron and Bijoux... your ending is perfect. And so true!
I'm glad you had such a wonderful day. Seeing your 'buddy' again must have felt so good.
It's hard for some of us to give up our childhood homes. My sister is the owner of ours now. Part of me is thrilled that she is there and I can visit, but, she's made changes to much of it so I have to go to the memories for how it all used to be. I wouldn't have kept it the same if I had been the one to move in there either.

Rob K said...

@Jay--how's it going?

We had a two-family house and we rented out the top floor to tenants. But the rooms in the house are huge.

It was great meeting up with my buddy. I've yet to meet, though!

And I share your dislike of crowds, but my sister and I found some good viewing spots that weren't too populated.

Take care!

Rob K said...

@Mary, hey, there, how's it going?

It's great that your childhood home is still in the family, but it is difficult--and probably unhealthy--to preserve things exactly as they were.

As painful as letting go can be, I'm slowly seeing that it can be our best course of action.

Take care of yourself!

Anonymous said...

I have to say this is a very inspiring post. Being from MA the marathons have a special place in my heart. As you said the bombings really rocked the country and being that it was soo close to home it really affected a lot of lives around me. There are such a diverse group of people that run and to being able to see them one by one as they go by is an amazing thing. Glad to hear your buddy is doing well and you got a chance to catch up with her.

Rob K said...

Oh, thank you so much!

Marathons bring people together in such a special way--I love (watching) them!

The marathon bombings were such a horrific event. I can see why you would find the attacks particularly upsetting.

Stay safe and be happy!

v said...

what a sweet and beautiful story rob. i totally loved this line

"I gave her a big hug and a kiss and told her I missed her, language barrier be damned. I know she understood me."

great job being out there supporting the runners.

Rob K said...

Thanks, Val! It was quite a day. Take care!

Calamity Jen said...

Another perfectly crafted post, Rob.

A few years ago my childhood home was on the market and I was able to view photos online. There wasn't a single room in the place that resembled what I remembered. (It was a lot nicer!) I'm glad that I have my memories, as modest as they are.

Rob K said...

Thanks, Jen!

It can be hard to accept that our childhood homes are just property to other people, something to be bought, sold, and renovated.

Your memories aren't modest at all--they're pure gold!

Take care!