The summer I fell in love it was not like I expected. Girls pine for the day that some boy will become intrigued enough by the girl to begin pursuing her. In the mean time, they spend hours upon hours day-dreaming about what their current crush is doing or saying.
When I was little, I would lie in bed with eyes shut and imagine that boy kissing me. I even had God transport my little kisses to the guy that I liked. I wanted those kisses to touch his dreams so that he would awaken enthralled by me. He never did.
Who did I fall in love with this summer? Yeah, that should be the question that I’m answering right now, but I’m not sure how to answer it really. I want to give you a straight answer like I fell in love with Will, but I just can’t. You see, it’s just not that easy. Love is different than I thought it was. I thought love came upon you in a flurry of pigeon wings and butterfly kisses.
I was surprised by love.
“Lindsey, wake up! I’m waiting.” My father yelled through the door. I groaned and rolled over to check the clock. The red numbers of clock glowed 6:00 at me. My father’s pounding on the door was insistent.
“Okay, I’m coming.”
I dragged myself out of bed and quickly switched my pajamas to running clothes. As I pulled my hair into a ponytail, I walked out into the hallway to see my dad’s shadow on the wall as he stretched in the foyer. I sat down next to him and pulled on my tennis shoes.
This had become ritual. Every morning, he woke me up. Every morning, we ran. I hated exercise, but he never let me be.
Together, we left the house and the early morning light embraced us as we began to walk quickly down the driveway. At the end of the driveway, we broke into a jog. Mostly, we didn’t talk. We concentrated on breathing and nothing else. The pound of my feet on the pavement took on a rhythm that overwhelmed my tiredness. Although my muscles screamed and my lungs burned with the intake of oxygen, the pain made me feel alive.
After thirty minutes of running, we’d return to the house where he’d disappear into his room where my mom slept fitfully and I’d go to my room. I’d stretch, shower, and prepare for school. In the summer, I stretched, showered, and went back to bed.
My mom had never really cared. While she moped in her room in the dark, I did what I
wanted. I was fat. I ate what I wanted. My teeth rotted out. My dad never really took a look at me when I was young.
Then, one time, I came home from school with a note. It told my parents, “We’re concerned for Lindsey’s health.” My dad just shrugged and went back to work. My mom, she didn’t care. She was too busy trying not to succumb to her own monsters.
I didn’t realize that I was over-weight. Other kids teased me, but mostly I just ignored them. My parents didn’t care. I didn’t care. Kids would tease me. I would just go home and eat.
A month after my 12th birthday, I went to the doctor’s for my annual check-up. I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. My dad found out.
That’s when the early morning work outs began. I hated them. I hated him. After the first work out, I felt sick to my stomach. I threw up in the middle of the kitchen hoping that it would be a good punishment for him. It didn’t faze him. My dad handed me a rag and a bucket and told me to clean up. He left for work. Once he was gone, I threw the rag on the floor and left the mess. I decided that I would eat all of the sweets in the house to get back at him.
All of my comfort food was gone. I found only a bag of carrots. I hated him even more.
I refused to do anything. I didn’t pay attention to anyone. But, every morning, my dad would come to my room and bang on my door until I emerged to run. If I didn’t come out, he would come in and make me run in my pajamas.
I hated that even worse.
The kitchen continued to be bare of sweets, sugars, carbohydrates, and anything even a tiny bit unhealthy. Slowly, the collection of vegetables and fruits grew in the refrigerator. I had no choice. At school, I would try to trade other kids for their sweets, but no one would ever trade me for my healthy lunch. When kids brought in birthday goodies, I always ate my sweet before it hit my desk.
And still, every morning, my dad and I ran. I began to accept it. I lost weight. I gained friends at school. I began to like eating vegetables. My Type 2 Diabetes disappeared.
Before my dad could pound on my door in the mornings, I would be up and stretching in the foyer. Together, we’d hit the street jogging in step. He never was much of a talker.
That’s when I began finding notes on the kitchen counter. A couple hours after running, I’d go to the kitchen to get some breakfast and there would be a note for me. The note would read, “I am proud of you” or something equally encouraging. The writing was in my dad’s hand and a chocolate kiss would be sitting on the note.
By then, I had learned to savor each bit of candy that came my direction. I took each note and put it in a jewelry box next to my bed. At the end of the summer, dad and I were running farther and harder than we ever had. As I had grown and passed puberty, my body emerged as slim.
My mother rarely emerged from their bedroom and my dad slept on the couch.
One morning, my dad and I ran. It was a good work out. We’d become comfortable in our routine. Coming home, my dad stopped running a bit earlier than he usually did. I stopped, too, to look at him quizzically.
We never talked after our runs. Sadness hung in his eyes and he uncertainly opened his arms to me. Cautiously, I walked into his sweaty hug.
“Lindsey, I’m proud of you.”
I breathed in the odor of my dad’s body and happiness filled my heart. A drop of sweat fell from his chin and hit my head. I pulled back from his hug and then life resumed. He went to work. I stretched and showered and went to bed.
A couple of hours later, hunger woke me. Climbing out of bed, I went to the kitchen. I looked for a note and I found it. Teetering on the top of a pile of chocolate kisses, a note sat. Absentmindedly, I pulled all the chocolate kisses into a tighter pile as I opened the note.
It read, “I love you.”
I re-read those words many times within the next minutes. My hungry heart tried to
understand the meaning of those words. No one had ever given them to me before. That slip of paper went to my jewelry box and sat upon a whole slew of other papers written in my dad’s hand.
My dad never came home.
My mom drank herself into a stupor and killed herself.
The next morning at 6, I woke. I rolled out of bed and ran. I came home, threw up in the toilet, stretched, and showered.
Some days, I think my dad might come back. He hasn’t.
Every morning, I run.