GOLD NUGGETS - A road race like no other

GOLD NUGGETS - A road race like no other

When he returned after a day none of us anticipated, he did so with a pewter, ribboned medal certifying that he had finished the marathon – and with some long, long thoughts.

Nephew, a bachelor at age 27 and a part-time captain in the Rhode Island National Guard, is actually part-time only some of the time.

His year with the MPs at Guantanamo Bay was decidedly full-time, and his recent year in Afghanistan even more so.

His latest “deployment” on Monday was in a place just as dangerous: Boylston Street in Boston.

When the bombs went off, Nephew was four blocks away, resting in a church courtyard, having just finished walking the 26.2-mile marathon.

At the time, his car was in our driveway. Because he’s from Connecticut, he billeted here the night before the race and rode to the marathon with a Rhode Island comrade-in-arms.

You might wonder why he chose to walk the race: It wasn’t as easy as it sounds – he did it with a 50-pound rucksack on his back, to test his endurance and to honor the memory of a fellow soldier who survived the war in Iraq only to come home and be killed by a drunk driver.

Wearing duty fatigues although this was purely a personal commitment, he left our little spread in Smithfield – ironically named Shalom Acres after the Hebrew word for peace – at 3:30 a.m., because the march takes eight hours and was to start at 5:30.

Courtesy of his doting aunt, the captain sped off fortified with his single breakfast request: a tall glass of chocolate milk.

When he returned after a day none of us anticipated, he did so with a pewter, ribboned medal certifying that he had finished the marathon – and with some long, long thoughts.

Nephew says he could understand “if someone wanted to kill me in Afghanistan,” because it is always the soldier’s risk to be slain in some faraway place.

But soldiers do not expect to see the carnage of terrorism along Boylston Street on Patriots Day, and the shock of it seemed to rattle him all the more.

On his mind, he said, is “a lot of irony and anger and sadness.”

He contemplates his marathon medal – the joy of it suddenly so twisted – from a perspective that seemed unthinkable earlier in the day.

Nephew is studying for the rabbinate – perhaps to become a military chaplain – and in a matter of weeks he is to leave for his seminary’s mandated year in Israel, where killer explosions are no surprise.

The medal, he says, will go with him, readily available to be pulled out if anyone should remark that he knows nothing of up-close terrorism.

For so many in Boston, nothing will ever be the same, but here at Shalom Acres we were fortunate enough – once again – to see Nephew return from harm’s way unscathed, at least physically.

How strange and disquieting that in our country, an uncle and aunt can feel blessed just because their nephew could slip into his car on a fine spring morning, stop at the Dunkin’ Donuts for a strawberry Coolatta, and drive home to his waiting parents.