Our one wild and precious life
By Henry Howard
I recall my Dad saying, “In my next life, I will … “ Sometimes those were jokes, like a wish to be taller. Other times they would seem more serious. I don’t really know if he believed in reincarnation. But I don’t.
We have one beautiful, amazing and wonderful life. Or — as poet Mary Oliver asked at the end of “The Summer Day” — “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
I’ve become emboldened in the wake of my dad’s recent passing and thought more about my one wild and precious life.
For my dad, it was just over four years ago when he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and dementia. I wrote about his decline and our relationship in this previous post. As his power of attorney and health care proxy, my last four years were packed with securing the care he needed, dispensing with way too many items hoarded over the years, selling two large homes and managing all of his affairs. It was a twisty, nonlinear roller coaster that came to its final destination Jan. 24.
During his lifetime he instilled in me a lifelong love of baseball, a deep appreciation for education and more. I’ve always prided myself on learning from my elders and using their experiences to shape my own future. I remember clearly when he retired from playing softball for his company team in his early 40s — an age when I started my running journey. He traded in his glove and teammates for the remote control and fictional TV characters.
It was like he gave up overnight, resigning his future to a number based on the calendar. In contrast, I’ve parlayed my late start with running into a younger, healthier and stronger version of myself. Perhaps a side benefit will be holding off dementia or other diseases. Perhaps not. But regular exercise should allow me to have a greater health span, if not lifespan.
I know full well that there will come a day when I will no longer be able to run. Today is not that day.
Feeling rejuvenated, I’m going to approach my running with the goals to have no regrets. My dad had wanted to visit all 50 states but fell a bit short. I have a similar goal, just two states shy right now. As the dust settles, I’ll be looking for a race in or close to Vermont, state number 49.
I’ve also recommitted myself to achieve a longtime goal: running and finishing Western States. After I failed to get a qualifier in 2023, I started having second thoughts. Doubts set in. I considered chasing other goals.
But there is something about Western States. I know if I give up and don’t try to pursue that goal, I’ll regret it.
And when that day comes when I look back at my one wild and precious life, I don’t want it to be marred by missed opportunities.
No second chances at life.