First I thought of visiting my favorite Coronado beach. Then two teenagers in the family suggested shopping. I, in turn, mentioned that MTV’s “TRL” was filming in Mission Beach – a less costly excursion they chose to ignore. I considered stopping by the traveling Vietnam Memorial at Balboa Park or maybe taking in the span of flags marking each tombstone at Fort Rosecrans. But in the end, I opted to stay home and just relax on a rare Monday off.
Sipping the last of my morning tea on our backyard patio, I thought of a lone woman idling in a very old, paneled station wagon that I passed on Sunday mornings for several years. She never left the car; she never looked at me as I ran by.
Sometimes her presence was a comfort, especially on a couple of occasions when I’d caught the attention of a coyote. Other times, I wondered if maybe I annoyed her, given I never was too sure I belonged in her presence. Did she see me stop under the sprinklers on really warm days? Move off into distant brush -- beyond the official grounds, mind you -- that time the restroom was closed in winter? Wonder who I was pointing to when the rare carload stopped to ask for directions?
My favorite running spot when I lived in Cape Cod was the National Cemetery adjacent to my military housing complex. When I didn’t run with friends in Falmouth or Bourne, I journeyed beyond the base’s borders to the final resting spot for thousands of veterans. I didn’t know a soul, but occasionally I’d stop to read some of the grave markers tenderly tended by groundskeepers and family. Moving along acres and acres of rolling hills, I’d distract myself by conjuring up war stories told by my late father-in-law, who is buried under a shady magnolia tree in a similar setting in Virginia.
But that enigmatic woman in that old car always made me feel a slight guilt. And that’s why I think she entered my thoughts today, not just because it’s Memorial Day. As I limp through these days with my injury, now even less convinced of a decent run next Sunday, I am reminded that recreational running is not nearly as important as we sometimes like to think, no matter how much time and effort we devote to it. Sometimes such dedication to a training schedule or need for a daily fix just seems out of place.