A Run Home

Jennifer VanIwarden

A Run Home

It is important that you know that I am a very sensitive person.  So much so I have worked really hard to not be. I have found it too difficult to feel all the world's problems on top of my own. I have worked to build walls so as not to feel it all. It's also important to note that I didn't have many pets growing up because I couldn't handle the idea of losing them or them getting hurt.  I was given a cat when I was seven years old. I spent five days straight following this cat around the house and crying anytime it would go under a couch or behind a table.  I thought for sure any minute it would be squashed and would die right before my eyes. I didn't sleep at night because I would be worried about the trouble the cat was getting into. After five days of no sleep and constant chasing of the cat around the house, my mom determined it would be best for the cat and me to go our separate ways. As I grew up, I worked really hard to release control of the things I could not control.  I got better at this once I had children (thank goodness).

My favorite time of day is when the sun is not yet up but is threatening to come in the blinds. I slide my feet off the side of the bed attempting to convince my legs it's not too early to stand.  The room is quiet except for the rhythmic breathing of my husband and the soft snoring of the six year old who has once again found his way to my room to make a bed on the floor.  I make a quick change and head out the door.  The crisp air assaults my senses claiming any sleep that was left.

This is my time. It is often my only time in a day of chaos. This morning feels no different from the other mornings. My feet hit the pavement slowly at first then quicker, more rhythmically.  I start making my lists in my head, start the coffee, get the kids up and ready for school. I am getting lost in the day and organizing my thoughts.  Trying not to dig into deeper worries or concerns other than the immediate tasks and the run ahead. It's the moment I get to breathe.  I get to be me before the world demands more.

It is about this point in my list where I see it, the deer limping on the side of the road.  I slow as I approach with more curiosity than anything else. Deer are frequent visitors on my run and not usually ones I enjoy spending my morning with. They are also known for not being the kindest running partners so I usually keep my distance. This deer is different. It's a feeling that comes over me, something like a shared moment.  Our eyes meet and all I see is pain. I know my pain is reflected back and there is an understanding.  The deer cautiously sits down tucking a broken limb under its body. It's then that I see the blood from where it must have been struck with a car.  It is matted in the side of the fur but is still fresh and oozing. I jump back and close my eyes. Preferring to not see but frozen to the spot.

My caution has now turned to concern and I'm on the brink of panic. I check my watch and it is now 6:10 a.m. and too early to make any rescue calls. Even if it was later I don't know that there are any rescue calls to be made. I keep trying to remind myself that it is a deer and that they die, but it doesn't feel okay. I run through my mental list of things to do. What skills do I have to save a deer?

I dial my husband. I have woken him from his sleep. He sounds groggy but that quickly changes as he can hear the tears in my voice.  The ones I didn't know I was yet crying. "There is a deer on the side of the road dying, like actually in the process of dying. What do I do?"  With a deep breath and a pause, he answers, "Well, babe, I'm sorry you are upset. There is not much to do. We can call Division of Wildlife but by the time they get to the deer, it will be dead. I know this is hard but just come home.”

I assured him I would soon. Reality hits me that I do know what to do. I do know what is needed in the moment.  I put the phone down and sit; I sit about six feet away from the deer and I cry. I don't know what else to do but leaving at that moment doesn't feel like an option.  We look at one another for about five minutes and then he closes his eyes.  I wait another couple minutes and get up drying my tears. I turn and run the way I came.

I often think about that deer, that morning, that life. My day, weeks, years have gone on.  It was a moment I was blessed to notice life. To sit in pain with another creature because it needed to be done. It was a sensitivity that I thought that I had hidden from even myself. It was a tender but painful part of myself I thought I had covered and lost.  I was glad for the moment to find it again.

About the Author

Jennifer VanIwarden

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Jennifer VanIwarden is a high school English teacher and mother of three beautiful children.