Sunday, January 29, 2012


People are motivated to run (and keep running) for a variety of reasons. Even though I am currently training with a goal in mind, each days motivation can be slightly different for me. Often, running is an outlet. It is often a time where I spend a lot of the best time in prayer and in thought. It is also a time where I do not have to think at all and can be completely silent. It is amazing where my mind goes.
On Friday morning, my grandfather, Anthony (Tony) Baal passed away. Although I knew he was declining rapidly, it happened much more quickly than I expected. He was an awesome grandfather who lived a life of service to his family and his country.
Many tears were shed at the fact that he is gone from this world forever. I spent a good portion of the day between my visits on the phone with various family members. At the end of the day, I was still in a funk (who wouldn’t be?), so I decided to go on a run. For some reason (probably because it was cold and dark and I was running alone), I decided to treadmill it up.
I went to the gym for a five mile run. When I got back to the locker room, it struck me that my grandfather is gone, but what had I thought about for the last 50 minutes? To be honest, I had thought about nothing at all, which is exactly what I needed to do. I was more at peace after that run.
Today, I went for another long run alone and outside. My mind went somewhere completely different. Memories of my grandfather came back to me (these often go hand in hand with memories of my grandma, who passed away last year). He preferred to be called Grumpa instead of Grandpa and for a period of time, that was all I remember him responding to.  He is the only person (apart from my grandma) who has gotten away with calling me Becky.
Grumpa owned a choose and cut Christmas tree farm. During the summers, we would go out and help plant trees and place fertilizer. In the winter, we would head up to the property on the weekends and help sell trees. He always smelled like dirt, not in a bad way, but in a way that was unique. His cheeks were always rosey. Grumpa had a very unique walk as a result of two knee replacements and years of damage to them. When he chose to talk about his time in the military during World War II, you knew you had better listen because he always had a great story to tell and you were not sure when or if he would talk about it again.
Grumpa used to get stuck on the couch at the end of the day. At least, he would pretend he was stuck so he could challenge two of the grand kids to pull him up to standing. I don’t think we ever succeeded. Grumpa always had a fire going in his pot bellied stove during the winter and during the summer, he would set up the hammock in the front yard.
Grumpa loved to speak German whenever he had the chance and loved to roll his R’s. The older he got, the more stubborn he became. I remember visiting one time with the whole family, and noticing he had taken his hearing aids out. When I asked about this, he informed me that he sometimes preferred to take his ears out and just watch. He was the best patient (so he said) and would always talk about the beautiful nurses he met.
I remember hearing stories of the trips to the mountains Grumpa would take with my mom and aunts and uncle and hearing about his love of the outdoors. I never did get to go on one of those trips, but I do think of him often when I look at the mountains.
Again, it is amazing where my mind goes when running. I did not get to say good-bye but these memories are worth having and worth being reminded of. Grumpa Baal, may you rest in peace.

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