“The bus roared on. I was going home in October. Everybody goes home in October.”  – Jack Kerouac, On the Road

My father died 10 years ago – 27 years to the day that the world lost Kerouac – on October 21st. That was the beginning of my loathing October.

On October 7, 2010, my beloved Wheaton Terrier, and running buddy, Malachy, died. He wasn’t even 9-years-old.

In 2014, the year I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I wrote this on Facebook: So it’s October and although I have felt this way for a long time, I have now earned the right to express my opinion. I HATE PINK! While the “pink ribbon campaign” certainly did something tremendous in terms of creating awareness for the importance of early detection screenings and raised a lot of money for research, the marketing of PINK, IMHO, has gone overboard. There are tons of companies out there making a lot of profit on the backs of survivors and victims. So all I ask is that before you deck yourself out in PINK as a means of “supporting” the cause, do your research and find out the *real* % of your purchase that actually helps the cause and how much is actually “supporting” the business that is selling it. 

Then five days later, when I didn’t think anything else could possible make me hate October any more, my husband died by suicide.

Between anniversaries and pink ribbons, October is an emotional minefield to be navigated with graceful precision. Somehow each year I succeed. And each year I get better at it.

This year I noticed how on a really foggy October morning the bold colors still penetrate the haze, making even the dullest day bright. This year I noticed how the setting sun magnifies the foliage so sky and landscape blend into a blazing fire.

I remember looking out the window in the CCU where my father lay dying and thinking, “It’s a beautiful sunny day. And look at the magnificent colors in the leaves!” When I left the veterinarian’s office the day Malachy died, I didn’t go home. I went to Saddle River County Park where he and I ran so many miles together. I soaked up the natural beauty of the season and cherished my memories. The weekend after Chris’ funeral, my daughter and I went apple picking with some family and friends. Someone took a picture of us hugging at the top of the hill in the orchard. It now hangs in a frame on my bedroom wall. It’s a symbol to me of the continuation of life. I ran a race that weekend too. I always run races in October.

We gather with friends on crisp evenings around the fire pit on the patio. We enjoy hot apple cider and donuts. We plant mums and carve pumpkins, and the leaves in hues of oranges, yellows and browns once again cover the lawn.

The bus roared on…the continuation of life.

For me, October has become a month to mourn those lost; yet be reminded that I am a survivor. With the warmth of sunshine and vibrant fall foliage, I find something to celebrate: the lives once lived and the rest of my life full of Octobers yet to be lived.

Ramsey, New Jersey. October 2015.
Refections from the road

Refections from the road

I’m sitting in a hotel room outside Boston, trying to think of a way to work in an 8-mile run today. I woke up too late for starters. Didn’t wake up until my 16-year old was demanding breakfast. So we ate at the hotel’s buffet. Now I’m too full to run and she’s got a day of sightseeing planned before we have to get back on the road for (what should be) a 4 hour drive back to New Jersey. It doesn’t matter. I’m enjoying a weekend road trip with my girl and I can run another time.

I love road trips. And road trip songs (My daughter’s favorite from the Cars Soundtrack: Life is a Highway; mine: Radar Love)…and road trip movies (my favorites: Easy Rider, Thelma & Louise)…and road trip books (On the Road is on top of both our lists). Since I was a kid, I always loved seeing everything along the way. Flying is certainly more practical, but there are times when the road is so much more fun. Of course I grew up as an only child so there were no backseat sibling squabbles. Now I just love the time in the car with my girl. We always seem to have our best conversations in the car. Plus we are creating memories that will last a lifetime…which is more important than ever now since this weekend’s road trip was for our first official college visit.

 “Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life” – Jack Kerouac, On the Road

I have road trip memories with my daughter dating back before she can even remember. There was the trip to Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee just after she turned one. I was so overwhelmed as a young mother that I left all her clothes in a hotel room in North Carolina (they shipped them to me at no charge). I wish she could remember the Smoky Mountains or the ferry ride between Maryland and Cape May.

When she was three we went to Folly Beach, South Carolina. And when she was 7 we did the road trip every family should do – once – to Disney World and the obligatory stop at “South of the Border” since she didn’t remember it from the South Carolina trip. Honestly, never need to do that again. Actually, I’d be okay with avoiding I-95 – forever. On my bucket list however is a road trip out west. She mentioned this weekend that we should do a cross country road trip (I’m 90% sure she said WE). So although my girl is growing up maybe there is still hope that she’ll still want to do another big adventure with her mom after the college-visit trips have run their course.

“Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.” – Jack Kerouac, On the Road

The University of Maine was this weekend’s destination. On the way back we took this side trip to Boston. I told her it was kind of like a trip her dad and I took over 20 years earlier. On that trip we detoured by Lowell, Massachusetts to pay our respects at the grave of Jack Kerouac. She asked where that was and I said it was off this exit coming up. She said, “lets go!” and we did. I know that would have made her father smile. He once told me I was the only girl he knew that actually liked On the Road, and a few years ago he gave his daughter his copy when she went to him looking for a book to read that would impress her English teacher.

The best part of the trip is sometimes the detours. The unexpected twists and turns.

“The best teacher is experience and not through someone’s distorted point of view.” – Jack Kerouac, On the Road

The road is always calling. The journey. An experience. Sometimes it’s on foot and sometimes it’s by car. Today it will be by car. Tomorrow I will run. Yes, Jack, the road is life.

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IMG_4853Edson Cemetery. Lowell, Massachusetts. August 2016