I took my bum hip and my bad knee and my good son and went to Hammond Sunday last, to participate in the 33rd annual Terry Fox Run, my 30th.
I did it knowing I'd have to stand and listen to speeches from assorted pols and a warm-up led by an over-enthusiastic instructor from a local gym who could've broken bricks with her smile.
The usual suspects were there: the Family Daykin, grandkids in tow, Ken Stewart, and the ageless Ralph Telep among them.
There were 650 participants at the run, but with the population of Ridge-Meadows approaching 100,000, you'd think that there'd be considerably more, especially in the wake of the death of citizen-of-the-year and Fox organizer Sandy Wakeling - who recently died of cancer.
We all know someone who has died, is suffering from, or has recovered from this insidious disease - count the red Team Terry T-shirts - and surely, more people could make an effort to give up a couple hours Sunday morning to walk and plunk down a few bucks for a T-shirt. The Lions weren't playing until 1:30 p.m., after all.
Nevertheless, not to put a damper on the day, the energy was palpable, the encouragement was everywhere, and one was left with good feelings, in spite of the fact he drank too much beer the night before at the softball team's wind-up party.
And everywhere was the indefatigable Betty Levens, race organizer now for several years, and her merry band of volunteers, at every corner directing the runners and walkers, handing out water - along with the fire crew at Station #3 - and cheering us on.
Andrew and I walked the five-kilometre route, arm in arm, one of us dragging the other through Hammond and environs, trying not to be conscious of the fact there was no one behind us as we approached the home stretch.
Not to worry: there was no shame in coming last, not with Betty et al. there to cheer us on at the finish line.
That's the beauty of the Fox, it's not a competition, it's a means to engage in the fight against cancer, however small your contribution.
It is people like Sandy Wakeling and Terry Fox who inspire us to keep going, who give us this cause, this raison d'etre on a Sunday morning in September when the persistent fogs of fall try and convince us to stay in bed. It is little to ask in this technologically mad world to take a walk among friends, to continue that long trek to drive cancer from our lives, permanently, to find the cure, to honour the memory of that one-legged hero hobbling along a lonely stretch of highway.
See you next year.
It's what we said to our young women as they left the party, sober all of them, taking the message seriously, in spite of my efforts as a role model: back to school and jobs and marriage, perhaps, but still carrying within them that kid who first picked up a glove at eight or nine years old, who came to love the camaraderie and the competition, who still find time to come to practice and games and allow me to remain active in the sport.
We wrapped it up over hamburgers and hotdogs, seated around a small fire in a suburban backyard, listening and watching, mostly, as the girls talked about their lives and their plans, their futures, and thinking maybe someday, when they're teaching their own kids how to hit and throw, they'll recall the coaches they had way back when. Especially the sarcastic bald guy.
At the other end of the age spectrum, two old gals from Ruskin came home from the recent Seniors' games in Kamloops with medals. Good on ya, Loretta Rondquist (equestrian) and Louise Adsley (fastball).
And happy birthday to my happy son.
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