There were two notable runners in my family. Chiqui (short for Chiquito, small for my english speaking friends) on my mom's side of the family, and uncle Raul on my dad's side.
Chiqui was a marathon runner and traveled the country to run marathons. His Mom, my mom's aunt Mamie, proudly displayed a photograph of Chiqui crossing the finish line at the New York City Marathon over the doorway leading to her kitchen. Chiqui is still fit but doesn't run much anymore as he approaches 70 years of age.
The Salazars were the trim, lean ones in my family where as my dad's family were the ones who struggled with their weight.
Mi tio (My Uncle) Raul, my Dad's youngest sibling, was not a marathon runner but he could be found at Woodlawn lake most Saturday mornings where he ran long, his 6 miler. Uncle Raul was the athletic one on the Maldonado side. He played on competitive softball teams throughout his adult life. I like to tell the story of when, as he approached his seventieth birthday, he said, "I can't wait to get to the over 70 league. Those guys are slow!"
I visited with uncle Raul yesterday at the nursing home. Two years ago at age 76 his health was failing and two months ago his son, my cousin Rick, could no longer provide quality care for him. Although his body was failing uncle Raul's mind was sharp as a whip. I spoke to him of my run with friends that morning. How we had run hill repeats, sharing laughs, and enjoying our camaraderie. Just as my Dad would say, he said "that's good. keep it up."
Before I left I hugged and kissed my uncle on the cheek and wondered why this happened to a man I remember as being so vibrant and athletic. There were trying times in his life. He lost his wife, my beautiful aunt Maria 15 years ago and a son, my cousin Raul Jr. 4 years ago. He masked his emotions well and would say life hands us some misfortunes and we have to keep going as best we can.
I received a call from Rick this afternoon. His dad, my uncle, passed away today.
I will miss my uncle but will never forget the kind gentle man he was. Recently he told me, "There'll be arguments with the ones you love, but let it go and don't let it get in the way of your love for each other."