Nick Peters is a real estate person in our area. Once in a while, he sends out newsletters with interesting tidbits and a sprinkling of personal info. This column was in the most recent letter:
A few days ago my 83-year-old Dad joined me at my oldest son's high school "passing league" football tournament. His knees are bad and he can barely walk a few blocks (I am talking about my Dad, not my son!!) so I wondered how he'd do. We brought his walker to help him cover more ground with less pain.
At this tournament there were dozens of teams and literally hundreds of boys constantly warming up, running, playing catch, running patterns, you name it. You couldn't walk more than 5 feet without having to go around a boy or step over a football. Not an ideal place for Dad to try and get around easily.
Still, it was a great day. By late afternoon, although the tourney was not over, AJ had played his final game and it was time for our long trudge back to the car.
Of course, any "long trudge" is shorter if you decide to NOT go around the crowd. Before I knew it, Dad was already a good 50 yards away. He was blazing a slow but deliberate path straight for the exit and RIGHT through a massive crowd of football players. It was like watching someone trying to walk across the 405 freeway and not get hit! Oy!!
My first instinct was to run forward and re-direct Dad out of harm's way. Instead, I took a deep breath and just stood back and admired what he was doing ... he was forging ahead through thick and thin - like he has done his whole life... With his Korean Veteran cap on, he (with his walker) ambled through one school of boys like a cruise missile in slow motion. There wasn't much anyone could do about my dad's plan! At a pace of 1 mile/hour he wasn't going to be out of their way anytime soon! The kids looked a bit bewildered at my Dad slicing through their territory; they couldn't practice their running routes for fear of colliding into the Old Man.
Surprisingly, the coaches didn't mind this unusual interruption. In fact, the head coach motioned to the boys to make room for the Old Man. He barked at some of the slower moving boys to "Move back 5 yards, now!" To me, that showed a clear sense of respect and honor that my Dad's labored efforts took precedence over their practice.
The coach seemed determined to make sure his players respectfully and quickly moved back to give the aging Veteran the right of way. Dad was tired, hot, and pushing hard to make it to the car before his knees gave out. I really don't think he noticed anything. But I did. The coach did. And more importantly, some of those kids did, too.
A year from now I won't remember if AJ's team won or lost the tourney, but I will remember the sight of my Dad, like an old tugboat, puttering through the sea of young men, who gave him the space and respect he deserved.