I’m on one of my jog/walk thingies on Capistrano Beach. Normally, I like to run on the hard sand where the tide has receded a bit, where you can get all the joy of running on the beach without the torture of trying to make progress on soft sand.
But on this particular Friday evening, tide’s in, so my options are to run in the surf (which sounds very nice and all Chariots of Fire-ish, but the reality is running in wet shoes is icky), run in the aforementioned tortuous soft sand, or run on the adjoining road (which is pretty pointless, I figure, because roads are all I run on back home in Utah).
So I’m straddling options 1 and 2 by running on the tide-packed sand when the waves are receding and jumping onto the soft sand when the waves get too close, and I’m pretty spent by all the east-west work in addition to the regular northbound work, and I’m long past my normal turnaround point, but I keep going because I realize it’s probably the last time I’ll get to run on the beach on this California trip.
And my phone rings. And it’s mom.
Dad’s pain has gotten worse. Can I come home so we can take him to urgent care?
I do a 180 and look at the long haul ahead and realize there’s no way I can run all the way back, but I’ve got to at least start and go as far as I can. When I see an opening between the houses, I make my way up to the road (chalk one up for roads) and keep running. It seems like the longest run of my life making my way back to the car. I keep hoping I’ll see somebody about to get in a car and who would believe that I’m not a crazed lunatic and actually just need a ride back to my car, but all I see are three teenage girls leaning on a car and maybe not even old enough to drive and probably wondering if the sweaty old guy running by them should slow down before he has a heart attack and I figure the odds are in favor of me getting back to my car sooner by just keep running over trying to get them to do anything besides leaning on a car looking at the old guy. So I just keep running.
I’ve got the MapMyRun app running, and for a second I think I should remember to save this run because it will probably be a new personal best, and the other part of me thinks I can’t believe I even thought that at a time like this, but the other part of me thinks I know I know but I should just look when I get back to the car out of curiosity if I think of it. Finally, I can’t run anymore and I have to switch to a walk, and I think that’s pretty pathetic in light of the circumstances, but what my body really wants to do is find a piece of grass to collapse on, so I figure the walk is a pretty good middle ground. Just for a couple of minutes until I can run again.
I call mom back as I’m walking and tell her between heaving breaths where I am and ask whether she should call 911 instead of wait for me. She says they’re still getting ready and it’s not to that level yet and to just come when I can but to not have a heart attack or crash or anything.
I start running again. I pass along mom’s note to my heart, but it’s pretty wrapped up right now in its work so I don’t know that it got the message, except that I finally make it back to the car and I’m not dead. I climb in the car, flip a U-ey, and race back to my parents. I’m about halfway there when I realize I didn’t check my MapMyRun time, and that if I check it now, my pace will definitely be a personal best on account of the speeding home in the car will be factored in there.
I finally get home and start to change. Mom tells me dad’s still getting ready and I have time to take a shower. For which I’m sure every medical person we’re about to spend the night with will be forever indebted to my mom.
We drive to urgent care. The medical people check dad out for awhile. It doesn’t look good. They send us to an emergency room. Not an ambulance level emergency, but Dad needs more than they can do at urgent care.
So we hurry down the freeway to the emergency room. We’re there for the next several hours. They give dad dose after dose of increasingly heavy duty pain medication. They give him more blood to replace what he’s lost due to internal bleeding.
When it’s clear we’re going to be there for a few hours, mom sends me home to get some rest. Dad asks, too. Several times. I go. After the beeps and sounds of the ER, the home is eerily quiet and still. I pace. I try to sleep. Nothing. I pace some more. I lie down on the couch. I actually manage to drop off for a few minutes. I awake. It’s 1:30 am. I head back to the hospital.
Mom’s at dad’s side. Blood is dripping into dad, but slowly. It will be at least another hour. Maybe two. I ask mom to at least go to the car to get some rest. She goes.
I talk with dad. About little things. About big things. About what-if things that we’d rather not talk about. Tears. Choking voices.
Some of the what-if things are hard to wrap my mind around. And I think about the Nephi Principle, and although I know there are probably a million different Nephi principles (like the blessing of being born of goodly parents, which I could write a book on), the one I’m thinking about has to do with why Nephi didn’t get the instruction to pick up a wife and the brass plates before leaving Jerusalem. It would’ve saved a lot of time and several chapters of scripture.
But no, he had to travel a long way out of Jerusalem into the wilderness, go back to find a wife, travel a long way back to the wilderness, go back to get the brass plates, fail, try again, have to do something nearly impossible for him to do in order to get the brass plates, etc. When I’ve looked at those chapters in terms of story adaptation, I’ve wondered about the back and forth bits a lot. Story-wise, it’s inefficient. Better to have your hero keep moving forward. (We don’t want Indiana Jones to keep going back to the university; we want him to go through jungles and caves and tombs and places where the Nazis are doing bad things.)
But it occurred to me that if Nephi could see the full extent of the road before him, maybe he wouldn’t go. Maybe there’s wisdom in letting us just see to the next milepost. Maybe the strength we need to get to milepost 2 comes from getting to milepost 1.
Mom, dad and I get home around 4 am. I write an email update to the family.
I lie down. I breathe. I sleep.