His body was bent over, his feet swollen so much he could barely put his shoes on, and his balance uncertain as he pushed his walker across the parking lot. It was the last day of the season and he didn’t want to miss it, because it made him feel like he could run again.
He took the elevator so he could sit in his regular seat, way up high, where he had the best view of the finish line. His fingers and toes were curled and knotted with arthritis. But he could still turn the pages of the program and mark it with his pencil. He studied it like he was the one running, like he knew each individual contestant personally.
His short grey hair was barely visible under his black ball cap. His steal blue eyes behind his big square metal framed glasses were happy. He had a purple bruise on the side of his nose from the pads. Even with cataracts he wasn’t going to miss a single piece of the action. Running was in his blood.
His round freckled face with browning age spots wore a close mouthed smile as the national anthem played. Even though it was a hard for him to stand without a walker he stood a little taller as memories flooded his mind.
There had been a time when he could run faster than all his friends. He had set records. He was a champion and he was about to watch the champions of this day race. In a way he was racing with them: Running in his heart; Breath feeling like his lungs were about to burst; Muscles straining for one more step; Digging deep for a little more strength; Looking up for the finish line; Pressing on even though his accelerated heart beat was a pounding drum in his head; and then a final serge of energy to defeat the opponents, followed by shouting and applause for another victory.
As the music ended he sat back down but the excitement of the race lingered in his mind. Although he could no longer race he could appreciate the guts and the glory of a powerful athlete who persevered in order to enter the winner’s circle. He knew the dedication, the determination, and the sacrifice it took to get there. Without heart there is no victory.
The parade began. As each participant was announced he admired their strength and suppleness, slender with each muscle defined rippling in the sun shine. It was certain they were fit and ready for the strain to come. He carefully observed how they moved and examined the angles of their bone structure. He knew a certain body type could be the fastest. But more importantly he watched their attitude. Could he see the heart of a winner? Or was that hidden, not to be revealed until the gates were open and they crossed the finish line?
He made up his mind. He sent me to the ticket booth to place his wager and fetch some popcorn and ice cold mountain dew. When I returned I took a seat beside the man whose arms had carried me as a young girl and I thought how sometimes life just doesn’t seem fair. But then the bell rang, the gates opened, and the announcer proclaimed “THEIR OFF!” As the pounding hooves of the thoroughbreds with flaring nostrils ran past us I realized that he is still running a race and he’s giving it all he has. It’s just a different kind of race and his opponents are age, arthritis and Parkinson’s.
He still has the heart of a winner and he will always be my champion. One day he’ll have his strong back and fast legs again. One day, when he crosses the finish line into eternal life. But for now, for this day, we watch the horses run as if we are riding into the winner circle together. We have heart, the heart of a winner! And we’re off to run the strenuous race that is set before us. Ever victorious in love!
It was a frosty winter morning in the sand hills of central Nebraska. The crisp air made my nose tingle. The grass bowed in reverence to the chill as still green blades bravely peaked through the blanket of snow. We walked across frozen earth sparkling with snowflakes which seemed to be winking at us in approval. Our laughter rang as a bell of joy in the stillness of the ice-covered prairie.
We were carrying our ice skates, fishing poles, auger, buckets, picnic basket and all items necessary for the family mini-vacation. These short backyard vacations were my favorite. We called my Dad the Recreation Director because most every weekend he planned something fun and interesting for us to do. Even though he enjoyed them as much as we did, I think he arranged them to keep us out of trouble.
As we left the old green 1970 Chevy truck behind, I looked back and it seemed to be a watchman, smiling and waiting to take us on our next adventure. That old pick-up took our family to so many wonderful places like school, church, and all kinds of outdoor activities carefully planned by the Recreation Director. One time we even traveled to Mount Rushmore. We must have looked like the Beverly Hillbillies with five of us packed into the cab and all our gear piled high in the back. “Old Green” as we referred to her also taught each of us kids how to drive. She also pulled our horse trailer safely to I don’t know how many rodeos. That truck seemed a part of our family. But I have wandered away from my story; so let’s head back to Gracie Creek.
As we approached the creek we walked on top of big solid motionless clumps of dirt and grass in the swampy area. They reminded me of the goose bumps on my skin. The clumps became bridges to keep our feet dry from the pools of slushy water which refused to freeze over in the chilly air.
Our destination was the frozen pond across the creek. There our fishing poles would be propped by holes freshly hollowed out by Dad in hopes of catching supper. While the poles rested quietly waiting for their catch, we were anything but silent. Our shouts of accomplishment, praises, and arguments could be heard for miles, even though there was no one nearby to hear them, except for “Old Green”. Everyone had to show off their abilities to go backwards, spin and jump on ice. We also enjoyed a competitive game of hockey. Our attempts at being Olympians included bumps and bruises, fights and fun.
Here comes the important part. When we arrived at the creek, it still contained mud and water up to my Father’s knees. This is not uncommon during the early winter months. Gracie creek is sustained by underground water springs. None of us were wearing appropriate boots to cross the creek, and it was much too wide to jump. My Dad saved the day, as he always did. He carried each one of us across on his back, plus all the gear, so we could have a wonderful day bonding as a family. We made memories for the future.
My Dad, like my Heavenly Father, is my HERO. They both carry me across the streams of life whenever I hop on to enjoy the journey with them.
Ice Water Fudge Cake
By Genie Phillipps
Cream ¾ Cup butter 2 ½ Cup sugar
Add 1 ½ tsp. vanilla and 3 eggs
Melt and Add 3 oz. square of Chocolate or 9 Tab. cocoa
Dry Ingredients: 3 Cup flour, 1 ½ tsp. baking soda, ¾ tsp. salt,
1 ½ Cup ice water,
Mix all and pour into a greased floured 13”x9” pan.
Bake at 350 degree for approximately 30 minutes