Jay and I got down there late Friday night. John and Abby's flight was cancelled on Friday, so they were flying in on Saturday instead. Jay and I went to pick them up in the unbelievably clean, vacuumed, scrubbed, spot-checked Trooper. Yes, racers, that's right, the Trooper took a bath and even scrubbed behind her ears!
The anticipation was fun as we hung out in front of the little airport. There was no doubt as John excited the airport on the far end of the line....a man of great stature and presence not to deny. Abby impressed me with her beautiful smile and a very sweet side. We rode over and jumped out for instant hugs - forget the handshakes, we're family, eh? Abby and John were finally real - not just their wedding photos in Jay's keepsakes any longer. We met up with their parents at the Steak n Shake for a quick bite before the Relay. It all felt quite energized, people reuniting after a year, and meeting for the first time. John and Abby were so much fun! And Bob and Dorothy looked so happy and excited - it made every moment just memorable.
We all parted ways quickly, having lots to get done before the relay began. John and Abby returned to their hotel to get settled and ready, Dorothy and Bob went to the track to set up, and Jay and I hit the road on the bikes to get a solid work out in before we let yet another gorgeous day sneak away. The sun was high and clear, keeping the air in the mid 80's as we did a loop to the Sugar Bottoms and back on the Javelins. I will probably never have a steak burger before a long, hot ride again but once I got past the heavy legs and nausea for the first 20 minutes or so, the world opened up to a great ride. Jay and I worked hard up rollers and leg-stretchers in the warm summer sun. We kept a hard pace, knowing we only had just under 2 hours to do our ride before we had to be back and ready to go. We did the 30 mile ride in about 1 1/2 hours, getting back to the hotel just in time to get in wash-rag-n-smelly-lotion shower and change clothes before jumping back on the bikes to get to the track.
Jay & John's dad, Bob, is a three-time cancer survivor. Bob and Dorothy are long time volunteers at the Relay for Life - a fundraiser and homage to those who fight the disease today, or lost the battle. The entire evening was full of emotions - thinking back at those who had passed in our lives, quivering smiles for those who we're so proud of that beat it, tears for those that still struggle.
John lead the opening lap, playing a meloncholly, yet strengthening ballad on the bagpipes. We marched behind him as a family, supporting him, and supporting those around us. The walking went on all night as people came and went. I got to meet so much of Jay's family that came out - siblings of both parents, his cousins, their kids..... And, of course, we had to get a family picture! [the photo is on Jay's camera, so check back later tonight or tomorrow since I don't have it to load at this time - it's so cute, you know you'll want to!] The greatest part was watching Bob do the Survivor's lap, then come grab Dorothy, John, Abby, Jay and I to walk by his side for the Family/Friends/Support lap. It was an honor to walk with them that night, even if I wasn't in those hospital rooms over the years. Dorothy and Bob held each other's hands tightly...long time love. It took a deep breath here and there not to cry, though I'm certain no one would have thought any less of me for doing it, but none the less, I tried to stay cheery.John played again after the sunset, and him, Abby, Jay and I cut out soon after for Pizza n Beer. We had a great time - Jay and I telling them about how we met and got engaged, them sharing with us how they had fallen in love. Having grown up in a single parent home, I was not without love and caring between family, but I did miss out on witnessing the love of man and woman. Now, still to this day, true love is one of the most beautiful things I love to enjoy, and I got to see it there in them.....as well as feel it everyday with Jay.
I couldn't have asked for a greater weekend. I got to truly become part of the family, sharing deep, emotional, joyful times with all of them. I feel very welcome, and I hope that is a direct reflextion of the way they feel for me, too. Because I couldn't be happier.
Lovin' and livin'