Wednesday, June 23, 2010

He used to run faster than me.

Farrah Fawcett skateboarding on the Charlie’s Angels set in 1977.
Photograph: Everett Collection/Rex Feature

Tempe, Arizona -- June 1978

It's late morning and we are cruising down the hot asphalt in our shiny and new black Chrysler LeBaron. Just the three of us.

Dad couldn't decide between a historic Jaguar and a new LeBaron, so he asked us for help. The minute the 10 year old me and my 7 year-old sister saw the tiny bulbs light up around the passenger's side make-up mirror we were sold on the LeBaron.
It was done.

The air conditioning is cranked high when he grins and says what a chunk-o-chocolate and begins rolling down his window. Dad! What are you doing? we wail. He whistles at the robust woman walking along the side of the road. Dad! That's mean. Still grinning, he replies Noooooo, you don't understand. She never gets that. I made her smile. I made her day.

When we return home Dad says he's going out for a jog. I like the idea of joining him. I decide to take up jogging. I think it will suit me.

I tie my gym shoes tight, stand tall, and tell him I'm ready. My sister rolls her eyes. We head out the door, across the street, and onto a dust and gravel covered levee beside a canal (his track). It looks intimidating. It stretches straight ahead for what seems forever. I'm too hot already. The air feels thick. I don't say a word. I just smile up at Dad. I'm going.

I keep up with him. It's great. We run side by side for about one city block before I feel I am swallowing heat and dust. I don't want to give up, so I push a little further. I like being out with Dad, being his running pal. But I only make it a few more yards. I can't keep up. I tell him I'm turning around. Okay, be careful he says. I'm sure he's sad to see me go. I stop, put my hands on my little knees, bend over, gulp in some hot air, let out a big exhale, and head home with slumped shoulders.

Things were different back then. Farrah Fawcett was my idol. No one carried water bottles. Dad ran faster than least it's what I've always believed. Maybe he just pushed really hard during the beginning of our run so he could break away from me and be alone, eventually slow down and jog at a leisurely pace. A little peace and quiet. All by himself. An escape from our demands. How long ago it was, close to thirty years. I wonder if he remembers.


  1. That was a little bit sad. The different perspectives, the guessing, the remembering. Very nicely done.

  2. I am sure he remembers...
    lovely words...
    I can just envision the two of you on that dirt road.

  3. I so enjoyed reading this, partly because I am a runner and I understand the peace that one gets with running, but also made me think of my parents when they were younger. They were here last week, they are 77 and things are different now. Slowly the roles are changing and we are worrying about them instead of them worrying about us.

  4. The lights on the make-up mirror -- that's a nice detail. I can see myself getting excited about such as thing as a girl.

  5. what a nice memoir piece entwining your 10-year-olds point of view with Now. I had a teacher once who spoke about these memory flashes as "shimmering images"--- they light up something powerful in your life story---

  6. i laughed at "what a chunk o- chocolate" and you thinking he was sad that you decided to turn back and go home. 10. and i teared up too -- I used to run with my dad.

  7. I'm going to have to savor this one for a little while.... Just like with all your writing, really.

    I, too, liked the blur between memories, things as they happened, revised histories in some ways... You always make me think, Denise. Thank you.

    This was very touching. I hope your dad will read it.


  8. Tracy, Thank you.

    mise, I felt a little sad writing it. Not sad sad, just memory sad.

    Michele, Thanks.

    Camilla, I hope so. It's always a bummer to be the only one remembering.

    Raina, I had to give up running because I started pushing too hard and hurt my knee. I was best off when it was just a way to seek peace. Running on the lakefront in Chicago is a beautiful experience. Enjoy your peace.

    Jessica, Those little lights were very important to us.

    nancy, Thank you for being such a wonderful observer. I always enjoy your comments.

    countingdandelions, Father-Daughter relationships are pretty special. I felt a little teary while writing.

    Maria, I appreciate you spending time to savor. It seems so uncommon in our current culture. Don't ever lose that beautiful trait. I like the way you used the term revised history. It's a good way to view memory. The concept of memory has always intrigued me. I based my final MFA show on it.

  9. Oh what a great story - Dad's are the best, and your Dad sounds uber-best.

  10. Annie, Thanks. Dad is pretty fun. He's one-of-a-kind.