To this day, my mom’s unsinkable spirit is an inspiration to me. For nearly thirty years, she’s worked at the Library of Congress. Everyone knows Sameha simply as “Sami.” Along with 500 miles of shelved books, her closest friendships are cataloged in that library. They are as much the value of work to my mom as is the work itself. She and her longtime buddies plan fun coffee breaks, wear costumes to the office on Halloween, and often get together outside work.
I can’t remember a time when my mom didn’t work. She has forever been on the move: a go-getter. When my brother Adel and I had a paper route as kids, my mom would get up before us at the crack of dawn to drop off the Washington Post at different corners. That would lighten our load as we walked and delivered papers to each area.
Her morning ritual was to run before work. Even when it was snowing, she would try to wake us up to join her. We wanted nothing to do with it! No surprise, then, at 60 years old, she vowed to run the Marine Corps Marathon. My sister Hala, Adel, and I joined her in D.C. to cheer her on. We waved to her at the starting line and mapped out all the spots where we’d be able to yell to her. At Mile 3 she looked great, waving and smiling. Mile 6 was a problem. Temperatures had soared and the heat was getting to my mom – with 20 miles to go! When we saw her again at Mile 10, she was really struggling.
“Someone has got to get in there with her!” said Hala. “She needs support!”
Adel was wearing loafers, Hala had on sandals, and I had on sneakers – of course.
“Get in there!” Hala told me. “Mom needs you!”
For the next few miles, I ran with my mom. We talked and walked and ran when we could. Just move forward. Just move forward. I knew there was a time cutoff for when she had to reach a certain landmark, in this case, a bridge. In just a few minutes, officials were going to open the bridge back up to traffic. All runners who did not get there in time would have to board a bus. Horrors! Just four miles from the finish line and she’d be riding in a bus? No way. As the police officer was whistling us toward the bus, I grabbed my mom and we started running, traffic licking at our heels. We were crazy with fatigue but determined to do this! Somehow, we kept going. Eventually, we heard the trumpeting of the Marine Corps Band welcoming runners to the finish line. I stopped short so my mom could cross by herself.
She did it!
I was crying, she was crying, my sister was crying, and my brother, too.
“I was not crying. I was just hungry, OK?” Adel insists to this day, every time we tell the story.
(By the way, Adel did the same for me when I ran the Boston Marathon in 1996. He was my wingman the last six miles, wearing jeans and, yep, loafers.)
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