Changes

Chapter Thirteen: Life is a Marathon

 

 

I was still on top of my snoring husband, where I had collapsed earlier, when the phone started to ring. It felt so nice, his warmth on my cheek, the scent of him; I did not want to move. He stirred beneath me, his right arm holding me as he hunted for the warbling handset with his left. Just a short lift of my chin allowed me to kiss and nibble his neck, I moved my hips, rubbing myself against him.

He groaned, softly squeezing me, and then said, “Where is the fucking thing?” He finally found it and answered. “What! Do you know what time … Now? … Already? … Should we come?”

I listened, held in place on Don’s chest, trying to make sense of this one-sided conversation.

Where would we be coming to?

“No? Okay. Well, tell her I’m proud of her. Kiss our nephew if you’re allowed, and we’ll show up at visiting hours … bye, Mom.”

“Nephew?” I said into his warm neck. Then it hit me, jarring the fuzz out of my brain. “Miriam! Is that who you are you talking about? The baby is two months early; it’s only May!”

“Calm down, just a little early it seems. She got her dates mixed up or something.”

“So, they are okay?”

“Yes, six pounds something. Mom and baby are fine, father is coping!”

“And we don’t need to go yet?”

“No, we’ll go later during proper visiting hours.”

“Oh, okay. That all sounds good.” I snuggled down again. “Back to sleep … love you.”

Donny’s hands slid down my body to my ass. He grabbed both cheeks and ground against me. “I think you were doing this earlier. I don’t think you wanted to sleep then did you? In fact, now that you’ve woken both of us up, and I don’t mean you, I think you better do something about it!”

I tilted my head up again. I could feel him getting hard. As I kissed his jaw, he turned and his lips were on mine; I rose up to more easily kiss him.

He grasped my face firmly and held me still. “Now, let’s finish what you started so we can go back to sleep.”

***

We arrived at the hospital around 1:00pm. We brought fresh fruit and chocolate, a new nightgown for the mom, flowers, and a Tim Horton’s gift card for Dad. Donny had insisted we stop at Toy Depot to find something for our new nephew ….

***

I held up a tiny blue bear. “How about this one?”

Donny appraised my choice. “No, too small … needs to be one he can use when he’s a kid. You can’t keep switching bears you know.”

Can’t you? I didn’t know that. I held up a larger blue teddy. “This?”

“No, still too small.” Don rolled over to a section that held much larger-than-life stuffed creatures. Most of them were enormous!

“Um, Donny these are …”

“Too big, yeah, but this one …” Don pulled a four-foot bear from the pile. He wasn’t blue, but a tawny golden colour. “Is perfect.”

We paid for our new friend, added a bright blue ribbon and then loaded the bear and ourselves into the van.

I pulled the van into traffic and started toward the hospital. “What did they say they were going to name the kid?”

Don’s eyes were on me, I just knew it. “You forgot?”

I glanced in my mirrors. “Um, not sure I knew.”

“James. They are naming him, James.”

Don sounded a little indignant.

“That’s a great name. Strong.” I pulled the van into the far-right lane, preparing to get off the highway. “Kids should never be named, like, Jimmy. Always the full proper name, in my opinion.”

“Yeah, I think that too. Nicknames will happen anyway. Right, Lous?”

I flashed him a grin. “Right.”

At the hospital, I parked the van, got Don out and loaded all the presents into his arms. Then I pushed him into the building.

A volunteer was near the entrance when the sliding door opened. She took one look and said, “Maternity, sixth floor.”

I smiled at her. “Thanks!”

People smiled seeing Don under all the gifts and his child-sized bear. One woman asked if this was his first.

“Our first nephew, yes,” he replied.

She looked at me and then at Don. “Oh, you’re … together.”

“Yes, for eleven years now.”

The woman replied with a genuine smile. “That’s wonderful. Elevator is over there, on the left.”

We got on the next upward-bound car, and Donny pushed the button. The elevator stopped on the sixth floor. I rolled Don off the elevator. “What room?”

“Um, 614.”

We looked at the sign and followed the directions. I could hear Rena’s voice as we drew closer. I turned Don and entered the room.

“Afternoon, sister dear, Mom.” Don was grinning happily.

We shook Doug’s hand; he seemed somewhat shell-shocked, but he was smiling.

There were hello’s all around and gift’s handed out.

“The bear is for James.” Don said as he sat the bear upright on the end of the bed.

Miriam was sitting up and smiling at her brother. “Oh, Donny, you guys did not have to bring so much. The bear was enough.” She had tears in her eyes. “But thank you very much for everything.”

Robert, who had run out for coffee, returned and we sat for an hour, talking, and met our tiny nephew. Hairy, wrinkly, and red best described him. I held him for a few minutes, and I found it touching as he gazed up—unblinking—at me. I whispered to him that his Uncle Don had a great secret. I told it to James, who swore to me he wouldn’t tell.

Rena was talking to Miriam and Don while I was confiding in the baby.

“Do I have my dates right? Your marathon is on Sunday, isn’t it?”

“Yes, and we are all set. We registered last week, got our bibs and are ready to run.”

I gave James back to his mom for a feed, and said to Don we should go and get in a light run before dinner.

“Yeah, we better.” Don kissed his sister’s cheek and his mom’s. “He’s a great kid, sis. We’ll see you in a few days, right?”

“Yes, sorry we’ll miss the marathon.”

“Oh, don’t worry about that. I’m sure Mom will film the end.”

My turn now to say goodbye and I got an extra squeeze from Miriam.

She whispered to me. “I saw you talking to James.”

“Yes, I had a few things to tell him, but he promised he wouldn’t talk.”

Miriam smiled. “Good, I’m glad he’s trustworthy.” She reached up then to hug me and said, “Good luck on Sunday. I know you two will do well.”

“Thanks. You look after yourself, and we’ll see you soon.” I kissed her cheek.

We went home, quickly changed and left the house to jog for an hour. Once we returned, we took the elevator upstairs, stripped, and I took Don into the shower. He slid off his wheelchair onto his shower seat. I pushed his chair out of the shower room to keep it dry, and returned to my sweaty husband.

I adjusted the water and then turned on the shower.

“Want me to wash your back?” I lathered up a washcloth with soap.

He grinned at me. “Can you do the front after that? Something here needs some good, firm, stroking to get it clean.”

I glanced down and said, “Does it now?”

“Yeah, it does.”

I bent to kiss him. It was like being kids again, always horny, and always ready. “God, I want you … like all the time!”

“Let’s shower and, um … go look after our, um, needs. I seem to remember telling you this would happen.”

I scrubbed his shoulders and down his back. “Oh, yes, so you did. I love it when you’re right.”

***

 Marathon day finally arrived.

I’d eaten a light breakfast, but my nerves were paying havoc with my belly. We’d changed, and I was about to pull on my shirt when Don handed me two Band-Aids.

“What are these for?”

“Put one over each nipple. Trust me.” He wasn’t smiling.

I took the two packages, opened them, did as Don had instructed, and then finished dressing.

We got everything stowed in the back of the van, including Don’s racing chair.

I drove to the designated parking area; we unloaded and made sure Don’s water supply was aboard his chair. We were there the required one hour ahead of our departure time to check in, and then milled around with others in our grouping.

As we stood talking, I heard someone calling Don.

“Don McPhee … Don!” I stopped and we both looked around.

Don smiled. “Art! It’s good to see you.”

Art approached and shook Don’s hand. “It’s been a long time, Don.”

“It has. This is my husband, Louis.”

I shook Art’s hand. “Hello.”

Don said, “Art is a sports writer, like me.” He turned to Art. “You still freelance?”

“Yeah, works for me. I’m doing an article on local runners.”

“It’s nice to see you.” Don shifted in his chair.

It’s good to see you too. I’ve heard … I’m sorry.”

Don looked down at the chair. “Yeah, it’s been rough, but nothing keeps me down for long.”

“That’s a good thing, my friend.” Art jotted down some notes. “You’re a participant in this; that’s great.”

Don smiled at me.

I said to Art, “We both are.”

“Even better! Good luck today.”

“Thank you very much.”

“Nice meeting you, Louis.” Then to Don, Art said, “Glad you’re doing so well. I’m sure I’ll see you soon. Take care.”

“You too, Art.”

Art took two steps and turned back. “You know this would make a great story.”

Don smiled. “It will. I’m sorry Art, in this case I’ll be writing it.”

“I kinda figured, but had to ask. Good luck again.” With that, Art wandered off through the growing crowd.

We saw a few more sports writers and reporters that Don knew and we had the same conversation with each of them.

I kept doing stretches, to keep myself warmed up. “Oh, baby. I am soo nervous. How much longer do we have to wait?”

“They’ll start us soon. Breathe; it won’t be too much longer.”

Finally, we moved up. The elite racers would be sent first and then the rest of us following. After another few minutes of waiting, we were on our way.

Donny got off to a good start, and I was right behind him. I moved up to run alongside of him. Suddenly, I wondered why I was here doing this, running thirteen miles.

Was I crazy?

“Lous … Lous!”

Don’s voice interrupted my negative thoughts and I looked over at him.

“You okay, Don?”

“Calm down, remember our pacing … we have done this.”

He was right, we had done this. “Right. I’m okay.”

“Good. So let’s do this.”

The first couple of miles felt good, easy. By mile three, we seemed comfortable with our pacing. Don had water onboard, but I had to make sure I started to drink, even though I didn’t feel thirsty yet.

Thankfully, the temperature was comfortable. It was cool running through the city in more ways than one. People were lining the route. They waved and cheered us on.

I knew that I had to start taking on fuel, which I did in the form of energy gels and chews; Don had fuel in his water, but I gave him energy gels also. I grabbed water at the next water station. This was something we hadn’t practiced so I worried until I actually moved through the wrongly named ‘water stop’. It was set up with the runner in mind.

There were both water and refreshment stations, which handed out cups of the sponsor’s sports rehydration and fuel drink, as well as first aid stations along the route.

By mile five, I was starting to get a little paranoid; I had to keep reminding myself we had done this. I glanced at Don who seemed to be moving well.

As I ran, I worried about every pain, and twinge, hoping they wouldn’t stop me or develop into something that could.

One thing I’d found when I ran with any seriousness, when I actually let myself go, was I’d slip into this place, this groove, where my body seemed separate from my mind. It just ran, mile after mile, as if it was on autopilot, and now and again, my brain would shift into body-mode and check on it. If all was okay, I could go back to whatever I’d been thinking about. It was a weird but interesting experience.

We were getting close to mile ten, when Donny called to me and then started moving off to the side of the road. I went with him, and we slowed to a stop. I was worried.

“Donny? Are you okay, you need a medic?”

“It’s my left hand, fucking blister and it feels like it’s a mess.”

I leaned on my thighs, “You want to get a medic to look at it, and wrap it?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay. I’ll push you to get you moving. The next first aid station should be close.”

Racing chairs don’t have a wheelchair’s usual back, so I could only push Donny by his shoulders, which is not the most comfortable of things for him. It wasn’t too bad once we got moving.

We stopped at the next health/water station, and the medic had a look. Pulling off the glove couldn’t have been a nice experience, and it was a mess. The medic cleaned it.

“That’s pretty nasty. I can wrap it for you, but it’s going to hurt.”

Don told him to do it.

I glanced at it while the medic wrapped it. It was open and bleeding. I knew it must be painful.

I got us some water, and we were having some more energy gels, when a race volunteer came by.

“Are you okay? Able to continue?”

Don nodded. “Yeah, we’ll get moving now.”

The woman smiled. “Good luck.”

“Thanks.” Don gave her a small wave.

I helped Don get rolling, but there was no way he’d be able to move at the same pace now.

We were much slower and we were falling off our pace quickly. I ran with my hand on Don’s shoulder. We’d just passed mile marker eleven and a half, when Don said, “You should go on and finish, Lous.”

“Are you stopping, babe?” I kept my hand on his back.

“Yeah, my hand is nearly useless and my shoulder and arm are compensating. I don’t want to end up hurting myself.”

“I’m not going on without you, Don.”

I heard him sigh. “Damn it, Lous, you trained for this. Finish it.”

“We have less than two miles. If we argue about it long enough we’ll be done.”

“Funny. I’m pulling off. I want you to finish, Louis.”

“Nope, you go, I go.” I moved so I could keep my hand on his shoulder. “I’ll push you.”

“We’ll be disqualified.”

I pushed harder. “Just hold yourself up, because I don’t fucking care Don. We said we’d do this together. So, if you quit, I quit, or I push you and we finish it. Officially or disqualified, I do not care.” I could feel him pushing back against me and we moved on.

We’d lost time, and running this way slowed us even more, but I was determined we do this. I pushed, and while the chair moved easily, it was still extra work for me. I was weary and contemplating what it would feel like to stop, when I looked up ahead I could see the finish line.

I shouldn’t have looked because I just wanted to stop now. I must’ve slowed because I heard Don saying don’t quit.

“We can do this, Lous. Look, we’re right there. Come on, baby.” He started to push his chair. “Let’s finish this right.”

His effort and words lifted and energized me somewhat, and I ran with a hand on his shoulder.

“Come on, Don and Louis!”

I looked at the crowd and saw Rena and Robert waving and smiling there. As we drew closer to them, they’d disappear and move closer to the finish. They were our carrot!

Then finally, there it was. The finish line banner; it was the most beautiful thing I’d seen all day and I just wanted to run under it.

Once we had, we slowed to a stop, but Don said keep walking. I just wanted to lay down, not walk.

“Louis, keep moving with me, come on … we need to cool down or you’ll get cramps.” He looked up at me and smiled, that beautiful Don smile.

“We did it!” He reached for my hand and squeezed. “Come here.”

I bent down, and we kissed. I could hear people cheering and clapping. I’m sure I blushed. We waved at the small crowd and continued moving.

“We did do it, didn’t we?” I felt tired but elated that we’d gotten through this.

We moved up the finisher’s corral, and Rena came with two bottles that contained our preferred rehydration mixture, and loose sweats for me and a blanket and shirt for Don. “Here you are. We’ll be waiting.”

“Thanks, Mom.” We pulled on our clothes and kept moving.

We handed in the tear-off portion of the bib that contained the timing chip to the officials. The elation of finishing was starting to wear off and all sorts of pain seemed to take its place. There was another great need that had to be taken care of before anything else; I had to pee, badly.

We looked at the mass of people in front of us.

“Don’t you remember me complaining about this when I used to run, Lous?”

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I did. Right now, however, not pissing myself was my main concern. Don had joined the wheelchair lines, while I tried to think of anything else but my bladder.

Finally, after an eternity, I was able to take care of that business. I don’t think I remember ever having been so relieved. I left the porta-potty to the next poor bastard and went to find Don.

After more cooling down, stretching, more liquids and some fruit, we met with Rena and Robert; they were excited for us.

“You did so well. I’m proud of you both!” Rena kissed us. “Are you not staying for the awards?”

Don answered, “No. We aren’t in the running for them. However, you know, I don’t care. We did it and I’m happy.”

We smiled as we plodded along toward the parking lot. As we walked, I realized that I didn’t think I could drive.

Robert put his hand on my shoulder. “I’ll drive the van, and Rena will meet us at home. We’d already sort of figured you’d be tired, Louis.”

    ***

I don’t remember the ride home. When we got there, Don and I shuffled into the house. Rena had prepared a bunch of small healthy snacks for us, which we gratefully nibbled on.

They also put away Don’s chair, cleared the inside of the van and came inside. Rena had tidied up the breakfast mess we’d left as well.

We were sitting in the living room with Robert when she joined us.

“Okay, you two. Everything is done. You can just rest for today. Your dinner is in the fridge. All you have to do is dress the green salad. We’re going to go. If you need anything, call us. You should rest.”

I got to my feet, which I was amazed I could still stand on. “Thanks for everything, you two. I didn’t know I’d had enough spirit left until you showed up and cheered us on.”

“Oh, Louis, you did. It was there, but a little help never hurts.” Rena kissed my cheek, and then Don’s.

They left through the backdoor.

Don found my eyes, which I’m sure looked bleary. “Let’s go shower and go to bed for a couple of hours.”

This day I was profoundly grateful for the elevator; I wasn’t sure I’d have made it up the stairs. We showered quickly. I rewrapped Don’s hand and then we climbed into bed. I snuggled back against Donny’s warmth. He put his injured hand over my waist and hugged me albeit carefully.

“Baby, you were brilliant today. Thank you for doing this with me.”

“I’m glad we did it too.”

Don pulled me tighter and I could feel his erection against my ass. “Seriously?”

“Sorry. Can’t help it when I’m close to you, but as willing as my mind is, my body, other than my dick, is not.”

“Good, because if you really wanted sex right now … I think you’d be banging a zombie.”

“I’ll bang my husband later. Right now I just want to hold him and sleep.”

“I love you, Donny.”

“Love you too, Lous.”

***

 

epilogue

 

That was our first half-marathon. We continued to train and later did Boston, the full marathon, finishing respectfully. After Boston though, I had no desire to do it again. We still run and work out together, but prefer shorter runs for fun or charity.

As I get older and look back at our lives, I play connect-the-dots with all the events that got me to where I am. Don and I are happy. Don walks around the house with his crutches, but uses a wheelchair still. If he’s unhappy about his lot, he never says or let’s on.

Doug and Miriam have a good marriage, enough to give James a sister, Millie. We could never decide about kids of our own. We get James and little Millie often when their parents need a break, and love having them with us. Don follows them in his wheelchair, so that he can pick them up easily and hold them.

We added another small barn where we keep a couple of horses. Don and I are both fond of riding, as are the kids.

Rena and Robert live together in the granny cottage, and we enjoy having them nearby. They love to be close to the grandchildren and us also.

Harry and his husband Gareth are regular visitors. There are still looks I get from Harry, which make us both smile, but the four of us are simply good friends.

I sit outside today watching Don and the kids play a very bad game of croquet, but they are laughing and enjoying themselves.

As I watch their game, I think about how much love I have in my life. I think about how lucky I am. I know that I’d never have gotten here without the bends in the road, without all the people I’ve known, and all of the changes.

 

the end

 

 

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Thanks for reading. I hope you liked this story and  Don and Louis.  I appreciate your time.

tim xo