Lake Country Journal, Summer 2002
The elevator door closes and I push the "2" button. With only two of us in the elevator, the other passenger loudly exclaims (to no one in particular, but clearly directed to me) "second floor? And I thought I was lazy!" The back of my neck tightens, my eyes begin to burn, my throat seems to be swelling shut, and I fight my tears as suddenly I feel unable to breath, speak, or swallow. I want to say: "Oh, please don't say that, I'd give anything to climb the stairs. I hate it that I can't climb stairs. If I were to climb, then I would have difficulty walking before evening." I want to say: "Do you realize I used to be a runner? Do you know I used to run up the four flights of stairs in this building as many times as I went up and down in the day? Do you know that 18 months ago I would no more ride an elevator up a flight of stairs than I would ride one down? Do you realize that when I returned to running after my third child was born (after not running seriously for years) I wore shoes from a bin sale at Pamida and my feet would ache tremendously? My feet would ache and I would keep running. I wore those cheap shoes until one sole wore through when I was already past the Big Pine River bridge. I took the shoes off and ran the rest of the way barefoot, carrying the worn out shoes"
I was running nearly 4 miles each morning by then, gaining by one or two trees each day and each day it was my self-test to get to the next White Pine or the next Norway or maybe that road sign part way around the bend. Those shoes just fell apart and I ran barefoot each morning for quite some time thereafter. I used to run from 5:00 to 6:00 a.m., shower, wake, dress and feed three young children and was always on time to work at 8:00 a.m. Do you know that to run my first race in 13 years, I began the day feeding the 6 month old baby at 5:30 a.m., drove the children to my sister's, then drove 30+ miles to the race, ran 6.2 miles, drove back, picked up the children, drove home and resumed my life. I did not warm up, cool down, or eat "correctly" simply from lack of knowledge. But, I never stopped running. Those shoes fell apart, but I kept running.
I am still running when, as the doors open at my destination, I turn away from the young woman and with barely a voice, softly say, "You shouldn't assume someone is lazy."
Renee Irene Rude was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in May 1989, the same month and year her oldest child turned eleven. Although living with this illness has changed her life profoundly, she has completed two masters degrees (Information Media and Social Responsibility), teaches, and provides reference service. Her most recent publication was "Academic Libraries and Social Responsibility: The What? So What? and What Now? Renee is currently Associate Professor and Reference Librarian at SCSU. She credits her parents
(and those before them) with her gifts of stubborn intelligence, tenacious critical thinking skills, and perseverence that names dandelions her favorite flowers as they refuse to give up. Always aware of others with more challenges, she is thankful for each day's gifts.