Work it harder make it better do it faster makes us stronger.

After months and months of lackluster running, I have suddenly turned a corner. Out of the blue, my endurance has improved and I have been able to run for longer around the neighborhood. I blame Jillian, that evil woman. I am about to say something incredibly stupid: Who would have thought that, you know, working out would make you stronger? I KNOW! IT WAS TOTALLY NEW INFORMATION! I had just been steadily working away at my DVD, with no idea that it would also affect my running.

Last week, we celebrated one of the days of the year that I anticipate and dread in equal measure: the day that Carolina plays Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium. I anticipate it because I love the rivalry and because anything can happen, and I dread it because, well, anything can happen. It’s a bit much for my nerves. The past few years, I have also dreaded it because the Duke/Carolina games are two of the days of the year that I miss my dad the most. I wrote about basketball and family two years ago, when I faced the first Carolina/Duke game without my dad, and it’s a piece I really enjoyed writing. Trey wrote a piece as well, but I don’t have his anywhere, and the site where they were posted together is no longer up. But that is okay, because Trey is a Duke fan, and I don’t like to promote that sort of behavior here. My dad was a Duke fan, and I miss our rivalry, the voicemails he used to leave me telling me that his team was going to beat my team. The way he would get mad when I would call my mom to celebrate a Carolina victory.

This year, though, the game snuck up on me a bit, and even though I was sad to think of facing the day without him, it was nowhere near the grief I felt two years ago. I missed him, and I missed sharing the event with him, but I felt stronger, too. Better able to face what it means not to have him here. Who knew that practicing life, working those everyday muscles, would also make life without him easier?

Tomorrow is my dad’s birthday, and I hope they throw him a smashing party up there. Maybe, just for him, those angels could even wear their Duke jerseys.

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