At Mile 18
We waited for my sister Angélica at Mile 18 along River Bend Dr. with other spectators and race helpers. I stood by the road camera in hand, and my mother sat in the car with the doors open so she could see the race. In her dementia, part of Mom’s obsessive compulsive behavior includes a need to shout at joggers and walkers anywhere, something that ordinarily drives me nuts. However, the El Paso Marathon in which my sister ran today seemed an appropriate occasion to let Mom shout with impunity, and she did. “Corrale, corrale, corrale!” she hollered at the passing runners. “Run, run, run!” Most of them waved or smiled at her, and one man blew her a kiss and shouted, “Gracias, mamacita!” which made her giggle.
After my sister ran by, shouting “Hi, Mom!” and Mom encouraging her with the mantra, “Corrale, corrale, corrale,” she and I went back home for breakfast. As much as I would have loved to check in at the finish line for the celebration, the crowds would have been confusing for Mom.
When my sister called me later to tell me she’d finished – 4:39, which is not bad for a first marathon, by the way – she told me that her approach to mile 18 was among the hardest points of the day. She needed to get to that point, she said. There was something about knowing that “I would see you and Mom there and she would be shouting ‘corrale, corrale, corrale,’” that would make it easier to finish the run, she said.
My throat tightened when she said that, because there is something uniquely human about needing a mother, whether she is sick, incapacitated, or even deceased. Even a mother who has Alzheimer’s and no longer understands why you must push your physical limits and by tomorrow will have forgotten that she shouted at you as you hit Mile 18 – even that mother is such a necessary part of your life that she can spur you to finish what you started.
And I’m grateful for even those few minutes of awareness when Mom saw her daughter run by on her approach to Mile 18. I know it helped my sister get to the finish line.