Four days until surgery – four last runs. This morning I did the standard route down Rinella Street that I fondly refer to as “Runella.” I’m seeing all those familiar neighbor faces, many of whom are still nameless. There’s Leo, Johnny, several Mikes, Paula, a few Karens, Kathie, Big Jim, Diane, Steve, Rich, Maddie, and Nick to recall a few. Last names are not so easy. I run by the dog park, pickle ball courts, clubhouse, playground, basketball courts, and home after home. A big green utility box marks the mile mark, and a concrete garden monolith with holes is the half-mile gage. When I stretch it to three miles, a half-way pathway takes me over a Venetian-like canal bridge. I always add on that extra tenth of a mile to accommodate any GPS inaccuracies.
I started watching the Lawman Bass Reeves series on Paramount last night. My interest was a result of a recent Ban(n)ister Family post. My birth name was Jerry Lee Banister. Apparently, Texas Ranger, John Riley Banister (1854-1918), Sheriff of Coleman County, participated in the arrest of legendary outlaw Sam Bass. His brother Will was also a Ranger. I was mistaken in thinking that Bass Reeves (1838-1910) and Sam Bass (1851-1878) had a direct connection, but they lived in the same lawless era. Bass Reeves is believed to have been “The Lone Ranger,” with several key similarities between the radio & TV character and the actual legend.
My wife has the car today, tending to her substitute teaching duties, while our schnauzer Tally misses out on a trip to the dog park. A few of her buddies were there this morning as I ran by and waved. She seems content curled up in my office chair as I write this. Tally will go to Schnauzerville on Sunday, as I make final preparations for Monday’s surgery. Maybe there will be one final “Runella” before this streak finally ends?
I spent the past two days putting together the Barbie Dreamhouse for my five-year-old granddaughter. I was glad I had plenty of time, unlike years ago when you stayed up all night trying to get things organized under the tree. I ate my own cookies rather than save them for Santa Claus. I’m worn out from having to get up early since my industrious wife is substitute teaching this week. She does all the work, but I feel guilty enough just sitting at home watching TV, and certainly don’t want to lay in bed while she gets ready. It was too dark to let the dog out or run, so I checked all my news and sports sites and finished the daily Wordle puzzle. School is closed for the next week so there will be no early morning calls or scrambling to get ready. Our dog Tally will be back in her normal routine, and no longer depressed without “Mom’s” presence.
Gifts are wrapped, just a few gift cards to buy. We had a Winter Solstice party last night and have a cookie exchange on Friday night. She’s taking a neighbor’s family on a Christmas light tour of the edition on our golf cart tonight, while I have a Blue Breaks card shop Holiday party and Trade Night on Saturday. Date Night will follow. Christmas Monday will include a brunch and the Johnston family get together in the late afternoon. I still have several days to get the Dreamhouse finished and complete some last-minute shopping. Tis The Season.
Tuesday night I joined the Rinella Street gang for a Holiday toast at the Oak and Stone in downtown Wellen Park. These are guys that I see and wave at on my daily morning run, so I’d been invited as a welcome outsider. Even though I don’t officially live on the street and am identified as part of the next-street-over Borrego Boyz, I’m as visible as any of their neighbors. After a few drinks and appetizers, I stopped at a house just down the street from us for a “Stooge-A-Thon.” We watched several “Nyuk, Nyuk, Nyuk” short films together while our wives conducted their monthly Book Club meeting nearby. Curly, Larry, and Moe were a great diversion from the traditional Holiday songs and movies.
I’m pretty sure that everyone within a mile radius, if not world wide, is now aware of my upcoming heart surgery. It’s exhausting answering questions or discussing rehab. There are two last neighborhood get-togethers before they “crack me open like Humpty Dumpty.” A New Year’s Eve progressive dinner and a Clubhouse Meet-And-Greet will certainly mean additional good-spirited curiosity about my looming hospital stay. Fortunately, we have guests from Portland, Indianapolis, and Decatur arriving next week, so they will make the time pass quickly, as I count down the days until January 15th. My running streak will end early that morning at 15-years and 17-days. (5,496 consecutive daily runs). It’s been long, strange trip!
Today was Race Day – my last 5k of this soon to expire running streak. What was the routine 3.1-mile distance just months ago was a bit of a push this morning as I finished on the warning track of Cool Today Park – the spring training home of the Atlanta Braves. It was my second Tomahawk 5k finish. I will return to 2.1 miles tomorrow, feeling a bit light- headed – one of the reasons I had cut back my mileage this past summer in anticipation of open- heart surgery. The 15-year streak will continue until January 15th, as months of recuperation will probably follow before I can start a new one. I had to laugh at myself as this now 72-year-old body slowly lumbered along the course, being passed by or never catching up to those older, younger, heavier, or even a woman limping along while wearing a boot. It took me 51-minutes to finish. Two years ago, I did it 8-minutes faster, earning my first of now two heavy medallions. At the end, I could barely pick my feet up, nearly tripping over the finish line strip at 249th out of 300 participants.
I’m not sure how a bad heart affects my breathing and performance, but something just isn’t right. I will certainly know the difference after that recovery period. It feels like a bit of a chore breathing in and out, but I may not even remember what normal was like after years of monitoring the aneurysm that may even date back to birth. I remember having trouble breathing as a child after spending weeks in a hospital oxygen tent with bronchitis. I haven’t really been sick since, but I should be in better shape after all the miles I’ve put in. I’ve noticed that the hardest part of even chair yoga is trying to synchronize air intake and output with exercise. This could be even psychological after learning about this heart issue years ago, even though I’ve had few other symptoms.
I didn’t sleep well last night, despite using Vick’s to help sooth my breathing. My wife often complains that I have some annoying breathing habits, including some occasional snoring. I was certainly wound up after watching I.U. basketball win their first BIG conference game against Maryland. It was their best performance of the season. I was also monitoring #1 Purdue in their loss at Northwestern, and still struggle with the IU-PU rivalry, despite a career connection with both schools. To add to the adrenaline, former IU quarterback, Michael Penix Jr. prevailed in a Heisman battle with Oregon. I should have been rooting for the Ducks, but I have some good memories of Penix, rare in IU football history. I remember his last second dive into the endzone pylon that gave the Hoosiers a key win against Penn State. I guess once a Hoosier always a Hoosier!
I should have been supportive of the Purdue Boilermakers last night, but I would have rooted against any team that might threaten the unbeaten season of 1976 Indiana National Champions. Their 32-0 record has now stood for 47-years as the last team to survive both the season and tournament without a loss. It’s meaningful for me to hold on to that glory for as long as possible, because all records eventually get broken, just like my streak. However, today I celebrate another successful Race Day.