My name is Gwen Walker, and I’m running the Durango Double Trail and Road Half Marathons the weekend of October 11/12, for my grandma Hilde, who passed away in 2008. Grandma Hilde (Hildegarde Josephine Schmiedebusch- try to say THAT three times, fast!) is my dad’s mother.
She was also one of the sassiest women you’d ever meet, and a total card shark. Every time the family got together, it was inevitable that at some point, a deck of cards would appear and a euchre tournament would start. We were close with my dad’s side of the family when I was young, but over time, the family drifted apart and there were some disagreements and struggles (I know I’m probably making us sound like a normal family, here!).
As all of the cousins grew up we started to talk amongst ourselves and decided that we wanted to try to repair some of the rifts between our parents, aunts, and uncles. There were emails sent, conversations started, and I spent time on the phone with my grandma, more time than I’d ever spent talking to her one on one. Just a few hours on the phone with someone can give you insight into someone’s personality, insight that you didn’t have before.
During one of our conversations in the early spring of ’08, my grandma made a comment to me that she didn’t know if she’d make it to see my wedding (scheduled for September 2008)… I told her not to be silly, that of course she’d be there. Well, she must have had a feeling, because she passed away on May 3, 2008, a few months before my wedding.
As I traveled home to Ohio to send her off, the tensions between some of the family members were still running high. However, once I got there, I think the sassy spirit of Gram Hilde was present all around, bringing us together in a way that we hadn’t been for years. We all actually enjoyed each others’ company as we laid her to rest, and ever since then, it hasn’t been perfect, but I see a LOT more of my dad’s side of the family, and I am SO glad for it. I wish I had known my gram better, I still feel like she left us JUST as I was getting to know her. But I know that she would be proud of how our family has come together, and I know that she’s with us in spirit.
The races I’m running on October 11 and 12 really make me think about the ups and downs that happen in my family and in all families.
On October 11 I will run the trail half marathon portion of the Durango Double. It will be tough, rocky, mountainous terrain, kind of like what my family went through before Gram Hilde passed.
On October 12 I will run the road half marathon portion of the Durango Double. It will be flat, and tough with the miles on my legs from the day before, but tough in a different way. Smoother, almost. Which reminds me of where my family is now, with all of the problems we’ve worked through together.
Of course, no family is ever perfect and without its ordeals, just like no relationships within any family are always smooth sailing. Though we may have our disagreements still, we know how to work through them better.
The week after the Durango Double, I’ll travel home to visit my family in Ohio, and I plan to make a trip to see Gram Hilde and drop off my medals to her. I’m really excited to run the Double with her and the rest of my dad’s family on my mind and in my heart!