The Dreamsicle-colored sun rose slowly as I entered my fourth mile at the high school track. I've just completed the first week of an 18-week training for the 2011 Chevron Houston Marathon, my second attempt at the 26.2-mile run.
My first and only marathon was in 1995, a month before my 40th birthday.
As I round the 13th lap, I recall encountering my small fan base -- my husband Tom and our sons Nathan and Matt -- on that beautiful winter day 16 years ago. I remember the photograph Tom took of me waving as I rounded the curve from Main Street onto University Boulevard.
They were waiting for me again at the halfway point on Weslayan Boulevard.
Then, further down the path, under the arches along Post Oak Lane, Tom and Matt greeted me. "Nathan stayed in the car," Tom said.
The next time I saw Tom, he had only his camera in tow. This was on Memorial Drive, near the park where I'd prepared for this personal feat.
"Where are the boys?" I asked.
"They wanted to stay in the car," he said.
My loyal companion
Tom and I joked early on in our relationship that we had an imaginary "silly old sheep dog." We were like that for one another, loyal to a fault.
But for a while after Tom's surgery to remove the cancerous tumor and his left kidney, I felt abandoned and alone. He had other things to deal with, and they seemed to be more important than me.
In the days leading up to his operation, Tom knew he was facing mortality. This was between him and God. But once he was back home recovering, Tom conducted phone conversations with colleagues and others in a "business as usual" manner, and gave me the proverbial silent treatment.
I was perplexed and hurt. Could it be just my imagination?
The final straw came one Saturday afternoon while I worked in a flowerbed on the far end of the yard. Tom returned from an errand, got out of his car, and made a slow, deliberate approach to the door. Our yard is large, so he wasn't that close, but at least within distance to wave to me.
"Why isn't he looking this way?" I wondered.
Not acknowledging me may not seem like a big deal to most people, but it struck a harsh chord with me. In the past, Tom would always either look up, smile and wave, or even walk over and catch me up on things.
To get over this impasse, I gave him a creatively-framed scripture verse from Psalms 91:11: "For He shall give His angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways."
After that, he let down his guard a bit, but I still felt I needed to confront the issue. I can't recall the full conversation, but I do remember saying, "I'm still here" -- hoping he would once again include me in his thoughts and feelings. That may sound a little selfish considering what he was facing, but I wanted to emphasize that we were both alive and should be available to each other.
From then on, it became our journey, not just his.
Seventeen years later, as I train for and eventually run the marathon next January, I know that Tom's spirit will be present, not only at strategic points along the course, but every step of the way.