The whirlwind holiday preparations scratched off the list and I could finally focus on the fact that I had my daughter home for her first visit since she started college. Feeling utterly stuffed, we decided to take our usual hike on a path we know well, it is the one we spent her high school years literally trekking up and down, somehow the mountain air and non-judging landscape was the perfect place to vent all her teenage grievances. It was a homecoming, starting up the mountain together and regaining our rhythm.
There is a place on the path marked by an ancient, leaky water fountain that is the half-way point. Our tradition was to always run from that point to the end of the path. We nodded to each other without a word and started to run. It felt great to have our unspoken language back, being able to understand each other with a nod of head. Somehow those three months she had been away were filled with cell phone calls that delivered jumbled words and passing essential information (like, “I need more money”) but no real communication.
Running in unison, all seemed perfect with the world. After a few minutes our old rhythm of matching each other stride for stride wasn’t working anymore, I could tell she was holding back. I kicked it up a little, but the 50-year-old knees protested loudly. I nodded to her and said, “Go on”, she hesitated a minute, seeing if I was really serious about letting her break away, so I waved her on with my hand and she flew down the mountain.
I lost sight of her until I rounded the final bend. She was waiting at the fence post, completely composed, not at all out of breath, clearly she had been there for quite some time. As I looked at her, I was trying to figure out if she had gotten that much faster over the last three months, or if I had gotten slower. The memory of my father’s face the first time my brother had beaten him in one-on-one basketball popped into my mind, that expression of pride, mingled with the sad truth the tide is turning.
I was out of breath when I finally reached her. Actually, the sight of her took my breath away. She was standing tall, out in the clear, running her own race.