This coming Thursday, I am going to run a 5K Turkey Trot. It's sort of become a tradition for me. Every Thanksgiving morning, I get in my car, travel 20 or so miles, and participate in this race that benefits a local high school orchestra.
When I first started doing this over ten years ago, I used to run the 10K race. Did it for close to six or seven years. Then, one year, I injured myself in the summer, and all I could manage was the 5K that year. I haven't run the longer race ever since, although I keep promising myself that I will.
I think it has something to do with getting older. I know I am in no shape to run ten kilometers. I'm barely in shape to run five. I may end up walking a good portion of the course this year. Just haven't been running much. I'm getting older.
My father's recent fall at home has put me in a reflective mood. Mortality has been looming large in my thoughts. I'm not getting maudlin about it. I'm just realizing that I'm not longer in my twenties anymore, when running a 10K would have not even caused a cramp in my side. Nope. This Thursday, I will count myself lucky if I cross the finish line without a limp.
Richard Blanco understands this grappling with aging relatives. My dad will always be the guy who can tear a Detroit phone book in half with his bare hands, even if he can't walk across the living room right now without getting winded.
And Saint Marty will always be able to run a 10K without breaking a sweat.
Unspoken Elegy for Tia Cucha
by: Richard Blanco
I arrive with a box of pastelitos,
a dozen red carnations, and a handful
of memories at her door: the half-moons
of her French manicures, how she spoke
blowing out cigarette smoke, her words
leaving her mouth as ghosts, the music
of her nicknames: Cucha, Cuchita, Pucha.
I kiss her hello and she slaps me hard
across my arm: ¡Cabrón! Too handsome
to visit your Tía, eh? She laughs, pulls me
inside her efficiency, a place I thought
I had forgotten, comes back to life
with wafts of Jean Naté and Pine Sol,
the same calendar from Farmacia León
with scenes of Old Havana on the wall,
the same peppermints in a crystal dish.
And her, wearing a papery housecoat,
sneakers with panty hose, like she wore
those summer mornings she'd walk me
down to the beach along First Street,
past the washed-out pinks and blues
of the Art Deco hotels like old toys.
The retirees lined across the verandas
like seagulls peering into the horizon,
the mango popsicles from the bodeguita
and the pier she told me was once
a bridge to Cuba- have all vanished.
I ask how she's feeling, but we agree
not to talk about that today, though
we both know why I have come
to see her: in a few months, maybe
weeks, her lungs will fill up again,
her heart will stop for good. She too
will vanish, except what I remember
of her, this afternoon: sharing a pastelito,
over a café she sweetens with Equal
at her dinette table crowded with boxes
of low-salt saltines and fibery cereals.
Under the watch of Holy Jesus' heart
burning on the wall, we gossip about
the secret crush she had on my father
once, she counts exactly how many
years and months since she left Cuba
and her mother forever. We complain
about the wars, disease, fires blazing
on the midday news as she dunks
the flowers in a tumbler- a dozen red
suns burst in the sapphire sky framed
in the window, sitting by the table.