Triathlons and Mothers Knows Best

It was supposed to be a day of triumph.

My husband relatives love life, and live it to the fullest but…that hasn’t always involved diet and exercise. But then that changed.

I first realized it through FaceBook.

“Triathlon!” The post proclaimed. It seems that three teenagers and two near 50ers had decided to do the Hockomock ‘Y’ Triathlon with the proceeds benefit the Reach Out to Families Program. The teenagers had run track and all have ‘grit’, so this was not surprising. But I was surprised that my husband’s youngest brother and sister decided to join their children. I associated them more with heavenly meals than sports contests.

Then my daughter decided to join the crowd which did not surprise me. I usually try to discourage her good habits, but with little success.

“You don’t need to exercise. You need to gain weight.” I grumble.

She ignores me. Politely.

“It’s a quarter mile swim, a 9 mile bike ride, and a 3 1/2 mile run. I can do that, even if I am working a 40-hour a week job, running the church nursery, working 10 hours a week with an autistic child, and trying to fix up my house.” She assured me.

“You’re not my daughter” I mumbled, “You’re my mother. How did all that ambition totally skip a generation?”

“Mom.” she replied. “I think I want to hold a party after the race. I’ll do all the cooking and cleaning. Do you think you can help me buy the hamburgers?”

“I will always pay money to avoid work.” I replied quickly.

“Will you cheer me on?” she asked.

I frowned. The Triathlon was early in the morning.

My husband felt differently. “I have to cheer on my sister and brother and nephew and nieces!…Lake Pearl at 7:30 on a Sunday morning isn’t that early.”

So there I was early Sunday morning worrying about my daughter. She works too hard plus, my husband has bum knees, and my daughter has already had one knee operation. She had only done the swim once, and had only started training a couple weeks earlier.

Suddenly they all started swimming and I couldn’t tell her green swim cap from anyone else’s. What if she were struggling, I thought, and I couldn’t even tell?

But her swim was one of her strengths. I watched her get on her bike, and later I cheered when she started her run.

Meanwhile, I had in-law cheering duties. When “Betsy”, my husband’s youngest sister got out of the water, she looked all done in. But she must be related to my daughter. She was still game and we cheered her on.

One of the nieces had forgotten her sneakers and we cheered as she set off to do the bike ride in socks. Meanwhile an aunt drove home to fetch to get the forgotten footwear.

One by one they crossed the finish line as we cheered them on. Sometimes, the last runner in represents the real best effort.

Our daughter finished within the top 50%, and met her personal speed goal – 1 hour and 15 minutes, by a wide margin of 20 whole seconds. Meanwhile, my husband’s younger brother finished just a bit after his younger daughter but ahead of the older one.

The only discordant note was my mother-in-law’s apparently excessive concern about my husband’s younger brother.

“He doesn’t look good.” she insisted. “He should get seen by the paramedics.”

“Grandma Peg” we replied. “He’s 50. He can figure these things out on his own.”

At that point, we all went home to shower, update FaceBook, and get ready for the Tracy’s triumphant high-five barbecue.

We were on our way to her house, carrying a cooler full of beverages when we got the call.

“Have you heard from Betsy?” my daughter asked.

“No. Why?” we replied, feeling a sudden chill.

“Uncle John is having a heart attack.” she replied quietly. “On the way home, he stopped at Sturdy, and they sent him by ambulance to RI Hospital.”

Apparently, I had been worrying about the wrong people.

When we got the message, we were half-way to our daughters house, and we kept going, not knowing what else to do. Shortly afterwards, several other family members showed up. There were a lot of people at the hospital, and the rest didn’t want to be alone. Everyone wanted to make sure that Grandma Peg was surrounded by family. Then we sat and waited. We watched the two babies at the party, grateful that they didn’t know what was happening and that they needed our time and attention.

Thank God, this story has a happy ending. After an hour or so, we got another call with good news. My brother-in-law is expected to make a permanent recovery with no lasting damage to his heart. A ‘widow-makers’ clot had been successfully suctioned up. And time was expected to repair his heart walls. Cookies and a loving family may help as well, we were told.

“But,” his doctors stated bluntly. “if he had gone home and taken a nap, he might not have gotten up again.”

There is a moral to this story. It’s not actually the moral that I want. My moral would be simple. “Old folks, like me, shouldn’t do triathlons.”

But that wasn’t borne out by what the doctors said.

“Doing the Triathlon probably saved his life.” they declared. “If the clot had struck after a day of yard-work, or up on top of a mountain…he probably wouldn’t have made it. The race was a self-imposed stress-test, that he failed. But, when he got into trouble, he was surrounded by lots of concerned people.”

No, the moral is clearly much simpler.

Children should listen to their mothers.

“I’m so glad I insisted that he get help.” said Grandma Peg. “He just didn’t look right.”

Now, my brother-in-law may deny that this is the proper moral. He may claim that he was listening to his heart, or at least, paying attention to the pain in his chest, or the fact that he was still, an hour after the race, having trouble breathing. Or that he was thinking about his wife and daughters, and decided to be responsible, rather than macho.

But we mothers know better. Right, Grandma Peg?

Right Tracy?

And, because John listened, to his mother, or his wife, or his heart, it was a day of triumph. Even if it wasn’t quite the triumph that we all expected.

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