Saying thank you for 45,000 mountain steps, one healing ER visit, and other vicarious banners of courage.

Post-hike wound

My son Charlie is braver than I’ll ever be which, of course, is the way the universe needs to work. Thus, we’ve formulated kind of a silent pact, which we seem to have mastered quite nicely: He never mocks my cowardice. I, in turn, try not  to let him catch me holding my breath when he heads off on his hiking adventures. Not that I have any reason to worry, of course (OK, I do; click here for why my heart tends towards palpitations).



Early, early, early on a recent Saturday morning, he and three friends set out on a hike called the Mummy Marathon — 20 miles and seven peaks in the Mummy Range of Rocky Mountain National Park. (Charlie somehow neglected to mention the hike’s other name: Mummy Kill.) He rented spikes for ice, took two box lunches, plenty of protein bars and his usual generous supply of water.

“Let me know when you’re finished,” I said in what I hoped was a light tone. “I won’t start worrying till 8 p.m., which will be 7 your time.” (Plan your phone call accordingly, in other words).

He called about 5. He and his friends made it to the summits of five peaks before a hailstorm hit. It showed no signs of letting up, so they descended whatever mountain they were on (I’d have to check my notes, which I took when he first told me about this). He was a little disappointed, but more excited about being able to add more trail tags to his collection and for the 45,000 steps the trek entailed.


The group was getting ready to eat dinner, he told me. Then he added, almost as an afterthought, “Oh, and Mom, I may need to go to the ER.”

“Oh, OK, honey. ‘Bye!” I did not say. But I really did stay calm, even when he sent me this photo, which I think is shown plenty big right here:



I put into use my anti-fainting technique, took a deep breath and an even deeper gulp of wine (mercifully close by), and agreed that yes, after splitting open one’s head on a protruding rock, a visit to the emergency room was probably a good choice.

He went, accompanied by one of his loyal friends, and the doctor on duty closed the wound with three staples. By morning — let me add here that I never cease to be amazed at the body’s inherent healing power — it looked like this:


Charlie was given the go-ahead to hike, to shower, to do just about anything except submerge his head in a swimming pool — which he had no plans to do anyway. He also couldn’t shave his head, which drove him crazy until the stitches were removed a week later and he could be his happy, all-but-bald self again.

Charlie’s next hike is coming up in five days. It’s about as long as this one, with its own invigorating dangers and heart-pounding possibilities. He can hardly wait. In a way, I’m kinda tickled to be able to say…neither can I.

So for courage beyond my realm; for friendships honed in the mountains; for 45,000 steps and three staples in the head…The Grateful Runner says thank you.


Saying thank you for over marveling

birthday mom

Over the last couple of months, my mom has spent a Friday night and two Saturday nights with me. By the time my brother picked her up each following day, she had expressed delight in the following. It is a compilation, but some delights were expressed more than once. Way more than once, I might add:

A tree growing out of a crack in the concrete on a Central Expressway overpass: “Oh, honey, can you imagine? Can you even imagine how in the world it gets water?!”

Her glass of chardonnay.

Her pizza that went with the chardonnay: “Oh, honey, I can’t remember the last time I had a meal so delicious!”

Meeting my former and always beloved editor Mike and his I’m-crazy-about-her-too wife Melinda on our way out of the restaurant: “Oh, honey, they are just delightful! Now remind me, who is he again?”

How well she slept.

The coffee.

The individual container of oatmeal (maple and brown sugar, her favorite) I set out for her when I went to yoga.

The daisies we’d bought together that I’d actually planted (and not let die in their original container).

The Rose of Sharon bush: “Oh, honey, I don’t think I’ve ever seen blooms quite this color on these!”

The pillow with a bird on it at Lowe’s.

The lantana at Lowe’s.

My house: “Honey, I just can’t tell you enough how much I love this place!”

A tall tree.

A tall building: “Honey, how in the world — how in the WORLD was something like that built?”

A flower growing out of a sidewalk crack.

My writing: “Oh, honey, I am your biggest fan, your biggest fan!”

The wine and pizza (yes, again) on another night: “I can’t remember the last time I have enjoyed a meal so much!”

The Rummikub and card games we played (most of which, admittedly, she won): “Oh, honey, I just love playing games. Isn’t this fun?”

My sisters and I kid a little (and sometimes a wee bit more) about our precious mom’s, as we call it, over-marveling. But we know full well how lucky we are to be surrounded — not by any grouses by an 86-year-old about ailments or the heat or poor service or tepid coffee. Instead, we are treated to her cheerful, optimistic observances of often-overlooked details that make up this sweet, sweet earth we call home.

So for icy glasses for chardonnay, for life growing out of concrete cracks, and, of course, for over-marveling…the Grateful Runner says thank you.