I love inspirational people like my sister Heather! For her 50th birthday she just decided she’d up and run a marathon thousands of miles away in New Orleans after such limited time and even more limited training opportunities in freezing cold snow-covered Alaska all this long, long winter. Heather works full-time with children with special needs in the Anchorage School District, plus she works weekends in a dental office and conducts tours for Alaska Wildberry Tours, in addition to helping at the family-owned business, Bruce’s Muldoon Chevron gas station. And she and her husband raise three busy kids! Heather helps out with all the nieces and nephews (thank you for stepping in so often for Todd and me, Heather!), too. She helps answer my mail and fends off pesky reporters who unfortunately bug her to try to get to me to do more of their bugging.
So, Heather decided to fly to New Orleans by herself. She hasn’t traveled like that since college. She went to the race with no support. I was ticked at her that she was missing the birthday party we were throwing for her that weekend (well, it was a combined party to include the annual after-Iron Dog celebration for Todd, plus her birthday… we’re always killing a few birds with one stone), but I forgave her because when she texted me her plan she was already on her way to the airport, so there was no backing out. She’s the one who bakes the magical homemade chocolate cakes for our parties, but we forgave her for the missing magic at the party anyway.
We all texted her after the race.
“I did ok,” she humbly offered. “Hurt like heck, naturally, died a thousand deaths, but it was decent, I guess. Glad I did it.”
We congratulated her and left it at that. Then my sister Molly went over to Heather’s house today and sees Heather’s plaque from the New Orleans Rock ‘n Roll marathon for her OUTSTANDING 26.2 mile performance! She ran a 3:42:27 and placed second in her age group! (She’d forgotten to mention all that!) Heather’s always been a great athlete, and we all share a love of running, hiking, streaming sweat through Bikram, and anything active outdoors, but none of us can keep up with her! (She can do three sets of push ups, 70 at a time, and finish with an additional 30; BOY push ups! I crumble at the thought.) She’s truly an inspiration. And so humble…
But the coolest thing about all this today, besides finally finding out her kick-butt race time, was re-reading her most recent group text to the family. It wasn’t about her fitness prowess, or how busy she is, or her overcoming obstacles that others use as excuses to avoid getting outside and enjoying all that our beautiful states have to offer. It wasn’t about her being able to qualify for the Boston Marathon (which we hope she’ll run someday, just like our dad did back in the 80′s!) Instead, Heather texted a proud mom’s moment.
Her son, our nephew, has autism. Karcher will always add another dimension and perspective to the family’s life. The road has not been easy and may never get any easier. But we’ve all said Karcher is our red-headed angel that God knew to place with Kurt and Heather because they’re gifted enough to handle all He allows. The Bruces are amazing. (And Heather will want to wring my neck for bragging about her. Or she’ll arm wrestle me into oblivion to teach me a lesson.)
Heather’s text today explained that she doesn’t have the typical Facebook page to brag about her kids like so many do, but she wanted to share a recent wonderful accomplishment — not her own, but her son’s.
Karcher will be graduated from East High School next month in the Top 10% of all students! He was given a University of Alaska Scholars Award, and he also won an “Excellence at East” award for his amazing progress through such challenging high school years, especially through the relentlessly and sometimes inexplicable difficult social situations a child with obvious challenges must endure. His teacher and the principal signed the award certificate. It encouraged Karcher to reach for the stars and always be proud to be an East High Thunderbird! Native tradition tells us that the thunderbird represents an indomitable spirit. That describes Karch.
Add to that spiritual description: inspiration, example, athlete, heroine… and you’ve got his mom, our sister Heather!
- Sarah Palin