Growing up, Ava ran all the time. Ava ran to meditate. Ava ran to find inspiration. She ran when she needed to work through her problems and when she celebrated her achievements. Ava was a runner, so in that moment when the entire world shattered before her very eyes, the only thing she could do was resort to her most instinctual self.
Her earliest memories consisted of running in the park and feeling the grass in between her toes. Her dad, Brandon, would be right behind her, following every twist and turn she made to avoid being caught by his long, curled fingers she called “tickle hands”.
Running around in that park made her feel so alive. She would be lost in joy. She couldn’t stop smiling even if she wanted to. The breeze against her face would make her feel like she could fly. Sometimes, she would forget about her dad chasing her and she would close her eyes, and imagine soaring through the sky. In those moments, Ava knew that all was right with the world. The feeling of complete comfort and security that she could go anywhere in the world and be anything.
That feeling would carry her off into the distance and Ava’s dad would just watch as his little girl escaped reality. When she would come back to her senses, she would sometimes be hundreds of feet away from her father, which to Ava might as well been miles away.
He would call out her name, and she would turn to see him standing in the distance. Then he would simply say, “run” and Ava would take off as fast as she could, pumping her little legs and smiling from ear to ear in anticipation of jumping into her daddy’s arms. When she did jump into his arms, she was happiest girl in the world. In her little eyes, nothing was bigger, stronger, or more loving than her dad. To Ava, he father was everything. And Ava was everything to Brandon.
Ava’s mother, Mary, died from an infection shortly after giving birth. Mary’s death devastated Brandon. Yet the loss fueled him to make sure that he did everything in his power to take care of the precious gift that Mary gave her life for: their little girl.
Brandon was a brilliant man and an amazing father. A gentle giant at six feet four inches tall, his weathered face looked stern but he was extremely kind. At the time of Ava’s birth, he was in his late thirties, and he was a professor at Ohio State University. Because he would bring Ava to his office after picking her up from daycare, she grow up around academics, emersed in discussions about art, culture and literature.
As young as seven, Ava would sit in the university library and listen intently to her father talk to his grad students about the impact of Claude Monet on the French Impressionist movement as he graded papers in the afternoon. Ava loved every minute of it, always asking more and more questions. Brandon would answer without reservation. She reminded him of how he and Mary would have discussion of art history for hours. Seeing that same spark in Ava’s eyes gave him tremendous joy. And Ava developed a comfort in thought and in books more than outings and friends.
Yet, Ava and Brandon did enjoy being outdoors. Brandon was an athlete as well as a scholar. He ran track in high school and college and he firmly believed in the power of running to maintain a clear, creative mind so five nights a week he would jog around campus. When Ava was an infant, he would push her in a stoller. When she grew old enough to run, Brandon would take her to the park and chase her around just as Ava remembered.
In her teenage years, Ava would jog with him around campus. Not much was said when they ran together. An occasional nugget of wisdom was given to encourage Ava when Brandon saw her losing steam, but mostly the silence was filled with the hypnotic rhythm of their feet against the pavement. Just being in her father’s presence was all she needed for everything in the world to be alright.