Tag Archives: tribute

Take Care, Jim

Well, the past few weeks have been eventful in the RBT family. Some things have been happy and some very sad, and some big decisions have been made in both the personal and athletic arenas. I promise to share it all here, and boy, there’s plenty to share. But I’m going to begin with a personal subject.

Last week my father-in-law, Jim Hoxie, passed away at the age of 88.

Jim and Sally Hoxie with their family on their 50th anniversary cruise.

We knew it was coming but it happened sooner than we expected, so we were knocked for a bit of a loop for a few days. Now that we’re settling back into routine, it’s time for me to pay a well-deserved tribute to this wonderful man and what he taught me.

I met Jim back in the Dark Ages (1980) when I was a University of Michigan student and dating his daughter. He was a bit intimidating at first, standing six-foot-seven with large hands and a very strong handshake. This was not a guy you wanted to fool around with, and indeed he didn’t suffer fools gladly. But we got along right away, and during the next 37 years I don’t recall a single unpleasant incident.

Jim spent his entire career as an engineer with Chrysler Corporation, where my wife and her sister now work as well. He expressed what have been called Midwestern values: hard work, dedication to family, and treating people straight up and fairly. He passed those values to his children and grandchildren. My daughter wrote on Facebook about how he taught her to be “tough” by, for example, giving no mercy in card games, forcing her to improve until she was good enough to beat him (and everyone else by then, too. I still bear the scars).

But Jim and his wife Sally were (and are) also kind and generous. When we went out to eat, he would always offer to cover the bill, even if it was his own birthday dinner. I had to learn to “beat him to the draw” which once led me to actually throw my credit card at the waiter approaching with the check. He and Sally also loaned us a lot of money so we could buy our house when we were still establishing our financial independence. I like to believe I’ve become more generous as a result of their example.

He was generous with his time as well, particularly enjoying taking the grandchildren to Greenfield Village and playing bridge with us. And if someone needed help moving, as we did when we bought our house, you could count on him being there from start to finish. His dependability resonated with me, as I also try hard to be responsible and dependable, especially when I’m volunteering or providing a service to someone.

This is not to say we agreed on everything. Jim’s outlook was strongly conservative, and I have socially liberal leanings. This resulted in some animated discussions, in which, perhaps, our voices were raised a little. My wife and mother-in-law sometimes worried we’d actually start fighting, but our arguments were never personal. Without fail, at the end of a visit we’d shake hands and he’d say, “Take care.”

When we visited Jim and Sally over the holidays, it was clear he was getting weaker and had at most a few months. But he wasted no time with self-pity, instead staying interested in what his family was doing. He asked me if I was still running and what races I had coming up. And we had one final political discussion regarding the Trump tax cuts and public education.

“I’ve been maybe a little too conservative,” he said with a smile.

“We’ve had our differences of opinion,” I replied, “but it’s never affected our respect and affection for each other.” (Why can’t all political discussions be like this.)

He nodded. “You’ve been a good son-in-law,” he said. It was among the last words he said to me.

May I be as selfless and gracious when it’s my turn.

Goodbye, Jim. And wherever you are, take care.

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So Long, Mom, and Thanks for All the Comments

I was on mile seven of my Saturday morning run when I got the call. People don’t usually call me during this run, so I was pretty sure what it was about. And it was quickly confirmed. My mother had passed away.

The event was not unexpected; Mom had declined rapidly. For the last few weeks she’d been awake less and less often, finally slipping into a coma from which she rarely stirred. The night before, we’d had Thanksgiving dinner at my brother’s house, where Mom lived, and spent the evening with her. We’re very grateful for that final opportunity to include her in a family event.

We’ll hold a celebration for her during the holidays. In the meantime, life continues, as well as this blog, from which I’ve lost a dedicated reader. So this post is dedicated to her and the support she gave me in documenting my adventures on the web.

Mom's 80th birthday party last year.

Happier times: Mom’s 80th birthday party last year.

Growing up, Mom’s main contribution to keeping me and my siblings fit was kicking us out of the house on nice days. When I took up cycling, Aikido and running in my forties and began blogging about them, she became one of my first readers. Like the movie Julie and Julia, the first comment on my blog (then Fitness at 50) was from Mom. She continued to follow my posts and submit comments for over three years, until she was no longer well enough to use her computer.

She enjoyed the stories about the people I met and towns I visited on my long bike trips (click here for one in particular). Not so much with my race recaps. “Another one of those, ‘I did this, I did that’,” she’d say, discounting the idea that the blog was supposed to be about my personal adventures. Talk about tough critics! But I wrote more “color” stories as a result.

Mom's handle was "rhgramma" (rh standing for Red Hot).

Mom’s web handle was “rhgramma” (rh standing for Red Hot).

Here are a select few of her more colorful blog comments. You may get an idea where I get some of my sense of humor – and love for all things dark chocolate…

Oh! Usain Bolt is a man — a very fast man — I thought it was a name for a runner’s super drink. oh well . . .

Regarding Mr. Jurek’s book: — is “Eat and Run” anything like the signs you see along the country roads — “Eat and Get Gas’?

42 times the personal pronoun “I” appeared in this last blog. Only 8 (eight) more and you could have hit the 50 mark and added it to your goal of 50 things to accomplish. Oh well, there’s still time!!!

Have you considered giving up your day job and becoming a chocolate reviewer. Me — I’ll just go on being a chocolate “conna-sewer”: eating what I like and not eating what I don’t like. And right off the bat we can discard white “chocolate” and milk chocolate and any chocolate that has nuts or other ingredients that interrupt the chocolate flow ….

Stay tuned for a NEW BLOG! What it’s like to be Jeff’s mother — starting 50+ years ago.

Finally, I have Mom to thank for a great insight. I once wrote a post about going out one cold morning for a run, and how what started out as a slog turned into a terrific run as the sun came out and I warmed up. I wrote about how grateful I felt to be out there that morning, and it was almost like praying. Here’s the key paragraph from that post:

After six miles, the sun came out full and I shed my jacket. Conditions for the last twelve miles were perfect for running, and I was now grateful for choosing the morning to run. And while I was in the mood, I also took the time to be grateful for the other things that allowed me to be out there – for being healthy enough and strong enough to run, and having the freedom, both political and economic, to do so. It wasn’t a specific prayer; I just let myself experience the feeling of gratitude for a minute or so. I recommend this practice. It does a great job of making minor discomforts disappear for awhile.

Mom responded to the post by writing, “Gratitude IS prayer. Amen.”

Right on, Mom. Rest in peace.