48: The Track Meet

48: The Track Meet

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks Dad

The Track Meet

Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love,
a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.

~Mother Teresa

One of the most memorable days of my life was the day of my fourth grade track meet. This bit of information would probably shock most people who know me. You see, I have always been on the chubby side and have always failed miserably at everything remotely athletic. But the day does not stand out to me because of any medals or ribbons. It stands out as the day I saw just how much my father loved me.

Before school that morning, my dad and I went through the normal rituals of getting ready for the day. My mom was already at work and my dad had just gotten home from his third shift position at an aircraft manufacturer. As he was fixing my hair, he told me he had something important to tell me. While he was talking, I detected fear in his voice. This was something I had never heard before. He was always so strong — I didn’t think anything could scare him.

He told me that his boss had called him into his office before he left and set up a meeting for later in the morning. There had been a lot of talk going around about layoffs, and my dad was almost positive he was going to be one of the unlucky ones this time around. I was completely shocked. My dad had worked for the company for twelve years, longer than I had been alive! Our family knew layoffs were coming, but we just assumed Dad’s job was secure since he had worked there for so long.

After he told me about his job, he told me not to worry about anything. He said everything would work itself out and that we’d make it. I believed him, but I could also tell how worried and scared he really was.

Before he dropped me off at school, I told him he didn’t have to come to my track meet. I knew he had a lot on his mind and probably wouldn’t want to stand around in the heat just to watch me come in last place in all of my events. He just shook his head and promised he would be there. He told me to do my best and not worry about winning or losing. He wished me luck before kissing me goodbye.

There were a couple hours of regular school before they released us for the track meet. None of the students could focus on anything else. I couldn’t focus either. I couldn’t stop thinking about my dad and how scared he sounded. The teacher broke me out of my reverie with her loud announcement of “Track meet time!” I remember thinking, “Here goes nothing.”

I saw my dad as I was getting ready for my first event. He waved at me with a big smile on his face. When I saw how happy he was I figured he must not have lost his job after all. The boss must have given him a raise instead! I heard him cheering for me as I ran. I didn’t win the race, but I tried my best. When I finished that event I ran over to him and asked him what had happened at his meeting. He told me he had been laid off. I was shocked. He looked so happy and he was in high spirits. I couldn’t understand why he was smiling. He told me not to worry about it and to enjoy the track meet.

As the day wore on, I continued to run, jump, and lose. Every time I looked over at my dad he was smiling and cheering me on. I never once saw him frown that day. I looked over at him after I lost my final event and saw him wave and smile. Seeing him smile made me smile. All day, he stood and cheered for me in the heat without any sleep after he had been laid off.

So the day of my fourth grade track meet is one of the most memorable days of my life. I don’t remember all the events I participated in. I don’t remember who beat me. I remember my dad. I remember his smiling face and his cheering voice. And I realized in that moment how much my father loved me.

~Fracia Heter

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