One issue for many women “of a certain age” (i.e., grandmother-age) who live alone is “skin hunger,” a yearning for affectionate physical contact with other adults. Today I discovered a sure-fire way to get lots of hugs and kisses. I volunteered at the Finish Line of the New York City Marathon. Finishing a marathon is such an intense emotional experience – I know because I did it back in 1993, to celebrate my 60th birthday – that people’s feelings overflow. Today tears welled up in my own eyes for practically the entire seven hours while I was one of several volunteers handing out medals to finishers.
First, as the wheelchair athletes came in, I was so moved by the tremendous effort of these competitors who refused to give up with the excuse of disability. Instead, they used hand-powered chairs, and the winner finished in one hour and 31 minutes. Then I saw the world-class professional athletes come in, after they had used every last bit of energy they had to set new records or at least new personal-best times. Some were triumphant, some disappointed, and I felt empathy for every one of them.
And then as I saw finishers from around the world unable to hold back their tears as they realized their dream of pushing themselves to the limit and running 26.2 miles in what has to be the greatest city in the world, my home town, New York City, I started to cry along with them.
But between the tears I was cheered by the many men and women who, as I put the ribbons holding their finishers’ medals around their necks, could not resist hugging and kissing me as they thanked me and saw me as the acknowledgment of their personal triumphs. One man turned down the medal offered to him by the young man next to me and said, “No, I’m waiting for my wife,” and then, after accepting the medal I put around his neck, kissed me on both cheeks in the Continental manner and gave me an enormous bear hug. The volunteer next to me said, “Oh, I’m so sorry – I didn’t realize you were his wife.” “I never saw him before in my life,” I said with a grin.
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