How They Met: Racing Hearts
Caren Begun's father was always full of surprises. When she was 12, he took her ice-skating at Rockefeller Center in New York City, and he surprised her by lacing up a pair of his own skates and hitting the ice. "There were things about my dad that I never knew, and that he could skate was one of them. He usually was this hard-core businessman, then he'd surprise me by letting out the little kid inside of him."
The most memorable surprise that Caren's father ever sprang on her was also the most devastating. In 1996, he told her he had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. When he died two years later, Caren was devastated. In 2002, to honor her father's memory, Caren signed up to ride in a 100-mile charity bike ride for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. She wanted to help fight the disease that took her father from her, especially since her stepfather also battled a form of lymphoma.
During her first training session for the ride, at a New York City gym, Caren met Daniel Begun, an avid cyclist who had biked the charity event the previous year. Daniel was back this year not only as a participant but also as a mentor, whose job it was to help first-timers feel welcome. When he spotted the cute brunette, he approached her with an outstretched hand and a friendly greeting.
From there, an easy friendship developed. The two began meeting once or twice a week for morning Spinning classes and found excuses to ride together during their outdoor training sessions. "I really wasn't looking for a relationship," says Caren. "But Daniel and I had such an open, comfortable way of communicating. I felt like I could just be myself with him."
About a month after they met, the two attended a potluck dinner honoring the cancer patients and survivors they were working so hard to help. Daniel asked Caren why she'd gotten involved with the charity. She told him about her father's death, then listened with sympathy as Daniel explained that his own father had died of leukemia just five months before lymphoma had claimed Caren's dad.
This shared loss would turn out to be just one of many bonds they shared. Both are Jewish, and both had endured the divorce and subsequent remarriages of their parents when they were young.
Because they had both lived with their mothers growing up, neither spent a great deal of time with their fathers. Daniel knew that he'd inherited his dad's "punny" sense of humor, but like Caren, felt that there was still more he would have liked to know about the man. "I've always been interested in science," says Daniel. "But it was only through conversations with my stepmother, after my father's death, that I discovered he had that same fascination."
"Talking about our dads with each other sort of opened up a dialogue about two people whom we both loved and missed a great deal," says Caren. "It triggered memories that we'd kept under the surface, and sharing those memories played a part in deepening our connection."