My favorite dad memory for Fathers Day

My dad is not a runner. He was always (and continues to be) active. He would go swimming every week and take long walks and the occasional bike ride, but running always seemed somehow too undignified for him. It wasn't that he imposed this view on others--two of my brothers and I all did some sort of running for high school sports (and college for two of us), and he never acted as if there was anything wrong with that, but it wasn't for him.

There were two times I can remember him running. One was to cross a busy Washington DC street when we were there on vacation (notably the only vacation I can recall when we went to a large city rather than a national park or other outdoorsy, scenic beauty sort of place). The other was when I was about 10 or 11 years old.

My grade school every year had a running club where we'd keep track of how many miles we ran in the spring and try to reach either 25 or 50 miles, depending on which club we joined. I decided one day to knock off three miles, the longest run I'd attempted at the time. We'd figured out the exact places on our county roads to turn around for different distances, and I was just doing the one-mile route three times in a run. That meant running down to the highway, jogging in place until I could cross, and running up the gradual hill to a particularly large clump of bushes next to a field. Then I'd run back, past our house and the neighboring cemetery, and turn around at the far side of the next neighbor's property, ending back at my driveway.

On the second time through, two boys were walking along the road where I turned around, and they asked me some questions. What was I doing? Was I tired? How many times was I going to be doing this? Where did I live? Why? Did I often run that far? One was about my age, maybe a bit younger. The other was older by a couple years.

My parents were out walking at the time, and as I passed the house to begin my third mile, they were just coming back. I must have said, "Hi," but I don't really remember.

When I came back up the hill for the third time, I passed the two kids, turned around at the bush, and saw them standing in the middle of the country road, cutting me off. The older one grabbed the hood of my sweatshirt when I tried to run past. "I'm going to let my little brother punch you."

Even growing up in a family of four boys, I was not a fighter. I'd certainly never been in a fistfight, so I had no idea what to do. They tried to egg me into throwing the first punch, but I wouldn't. No one was around. No cars were out to make us get off the road. No one was out in the yard sof any of the few houses on that stretch. When I told them (begged them, probably) to let me by, they said, "Yeah, who's going to make us?"

At that moment I looked up and saw someone else on the road. Running toward us. I didn't recognize him at first, in my fear, but I simply pointed and said, "Him." They took one look, and ran the other way. It was only when I got closer that I realized it was my dad. He made sure I was OK, and then as I continued home he chased the kids on up the road to figure out who they were. They ended up losing him when they went ran off into the property of an old abandoned house that we always said ought to be haunted.

When I tried to figure out what made him realize I was in trouble, all he'd say is that I'd seemed worried when I passed them earlier. I don't remember feeling worried yet then, but it was the only explanation I ever had. That image of looking up and seeing him running toward me to rescue me is one that I'll never forget.


John said…
Great story Dan! You should share this with him, given that he won't read this otherwise!

Makes me think of two other things - (1) Philadelphia (as in, that was another large city we visited - the roof of our van got scraped up in a parking garagge - (2) remind me to tell you a good story about the 50-mile club and R Roerson next week.
Daniel Ausema said…
Yeah, I should.

Philadelphia was the same trip, though, right? And I guess we went to Detroit area that one year, but we didn't really wander around downtown. That was a zoo and Henry Ford/Greenfield Village mini trip basically, from what I remember. And we paired it with a week up in Ludington, hiking and swimming.

I'll try to remember. Looking forward to seeing you!
John said…
Yup, Philly was the same trip.