Dom, it’s been awhile since I’ve sat down and written you. The last time we really caught up was Christmas morning when I stopped by to visit with you at the cemetery long before anybody had gotten out of bed yet. I remember that run like it was yesterday as it was more than 700 feet of climbing from Dawn’s Parent’s house up the hills past your Mom and Dad’s, the High School and into the cemetery. I guess it wouldn’t have been too fitting if I had a nice downhill jaunt to visit with you. Instead you treated me to that downhill return trip after we caught up for a bit. Sorry I couldn’t stay longer but it was of course freezing cold in the ‘burgh for this Texan and my legs were tightening up on me. I also wanted to make sure I was back before Landry woke up looking for Santa Claus. I would give just about anything for a cold morning like that one to run in right now Dom, it’s been over a 100 degrees here in Austin for almost a solid month now and there really isn’t much relief in sight.
I’ve been swimming a lot and biking my rear end off getting ready for our first Half Ironman next month. Sometimes I don’t know whether I should thank you or curse you for all of the strength you have given me to keep chasing down these crazy dreams of mine. The fact of the matter is that among all of the gifts you gave me throughout your cancer battle the one that stuck with me the most is how to handle fear.
People can talk about not being afraid all they want, but I’ve come to the conclusion that they are full of crap.
Everyone is afraid sometimes. I know that you were quite afraid of leaving Val, Sierra and Nico two years ago as well as your Mom, Dad, Brothers, Cousins, Nieces, Nephews, Aunts and Uncles.
I also know that when I am standing on the shore of the Guadalupe River with my cap pulled down tight over my goggles with a 1.2 mile swim staring me in the face, I’m going to be afraid.
But you showed me that it was o.k. to be afraid. What it wasn’t o.k. to do was to let it control you. Let it own you. Everyone knew that you were one scrappy guy Dom long before you got sick. It was just the way you were. Willing to fight anyone and anything that got in your way or threatened those that you cared about. When you got sick you simply turned that attitude loose on your cancer. I have to tell you Dom it was pretty damn inspiring to witness.
You helped me in more ways than you ever knew Dom when I was pushing through training for those two marathons, and the races themselves. Quitting never was an option. In fact it was an absurd notion.
Since then we’ve run a lot of races and competed in quite a few triathlons. We haven’t won them all, hell, we’ve only won one of them outright – but we’ve done pretty well for ourselves. But the thing that I’m most proud of is that we finished every damn race we’ve ever started. Sometimes it is great to run well and set new PR’s, but the thing I’m most proud of is that I’ve put your name and initials on pair after pair of race flats and we have never ever started a race we didn’t finish. They haven’t all been things of beauty, Boston this year Dom was one of the longest and toughest days of my life – but those days are all mine, all genuine, and I owe those gifts to you. So thank you.
Dawn’s 40th Birthday is in a couple of weeks Dom. I know she thinks about you a lot as she has mentioned to me on more than one occasion that this is a birthday you never quite reached. We kicked around the idea of a party, but with Landry’s 2nd birthday just two days earlier, I think we are going to try to put something special together for her 40 1/2 birthday. Maybe try to get Ritchie back down to TX and have a little fun. Of course it won’t be the same without you, none of those kind of events are and they never will be. You are very much missed Dom, but I know you already know that.
I’m not sure if you remember the conversation we had when we found out that Landry was going to be a little girl, but you said that, “there is nothing better than being a Dad, except being a little girl’s Dad ….”
I thought that I knew what you were talking about at the time, but man, was I ever wrong. Dom, she is absolutely the greatest. Just watching her learn new things, laugh at me with that big belly-laugh of hers, see her be kind to her friends at school, run to greet me at the door of daycare or just last night when she asked me for a kiss before bed – there is nothing like it in the world. You would have loved her Dom, she has such a great spirit and fearlessness. I could not be more proud of her. I feel privileged to have a front-row seat to seeing her grow up. In a word, it’s the best.
I’m not sure if we are going to be making it back to Pittsburgh this winter or not. Once we get some things settled down here in Austin after summer wraps up and we get through our race in Kerrville we’ll start thinking about that I’m sure. If we do make the trip back we’ll be sure to stop by and see your Mom and Dad and the rest of the D’Eramo clan. Your family is the way family is supposed to be Dom. I always feel so much better after having spent time with them.
And if one morning long before the sun is up to warm the ground that you are sleeping under you hear footsteps slow from a run to a walk, then kneel in the wet grass you’ll know who it is. But I suspect you’ll know that I’m coming to see you as soon as I lace up my shoes that morning. If you wouldn’t mind sending a little wind at my back on the way uphill to see you it would be greatly appreciated Dom.
I know you like to have a little fun with me some mornings when you think I’m getting a little too big for my britches. You drop the occasional thunderstorm on me for a 20-mile training run, or a 20 mph wind in my face on the bike as I’m climbing a tough set of hills. I think of you every time that happens and can almost hear you laughing at me. Almost.
I promise to stay humble this year going into Kerrville and the Houston Marathon. I also promise to try my best no matter what happens out there. I may not owe you as much as I feel like I do Dom, but I’m quite certain I owe you at least that much.
Godspeed my friend. I love and miss you.