This morning, I ran the Charlottesville Ten Miler with my new running partner – my 13 year old daughter. Forgive the fatherly pride, but she was awesome. When I was 13, I was balking at the 600 yard run that we had to do in gym class for the Presidential Physical Fitness Award (which I never won, by the way). How I wound up with a daughter who can run a 10 mile race at the age of 13, at a 10:46 pace, I don’t know. But I’m sure proud of her!
Jennifer and I received a call tonight from the wife of a law school professor, letting us know that he had passed away earlier this week. She spoke of his affection for us and said that since we had kept in contact (Christmas cards and the occasional email) over the years, she wanted to give us the news personally. That was quite a gift.
And Tom was quite a man.
He was anything but the typical law school professor, though.
He was unpolished, for one thing. He was wrinkled and rumpled, often looking as if he had slept in his clothes. He was a bit loud, a bit uncouth, and more than a bit impatient with the pretentiousness that infects many a law student. As a result, he offended as many as he attracted.
He no longer smoked or drank, but this was on doctor’s orders and was not a matter of choice. He hinted that he had done enough of both in the past to last a lifetime, and his body showed the effects. I’m sure his doctors stayed on him about his diet as well – he downed soft drinks like they were water, usually going through a couple of them during the space of a given class. And he loved to eat, as long as the food was “down home” and the servings were plentiful. He knew every cheap diner and barbeque joint around.
Several memories about Tom stand out, but the one that I keep coming back to is the 5K race that the law school sponsored each spring (“Race Judicata” – lawyers and Latin scholars will get the pun). The finish line was in the law school’s parking lot, and as a fellow IL and I crossed the finish, Tom approached us and proffered a brown paper bag. We took the bag, looked inside, and saw that it contained a six-pack of Budweiser. It was the first beer that Tom had bought in a long time, I think, and as my friend and I popped the tops and savored the brew, Tom was clearly enjoying it vicariously with us. I’m sure he had no idea how meaningful that gesture was. This was our first year of law school and there were some professors who wouldn’t even deign to nod at us as we passed by them in the hallway. Tom, though, was validating us as fellow human beings – and as the friends that we would ulimately become.
In some ways, Tom might have seemed to be a walking contradiction. A more apt description would be multi-dimensional. Tom showed me that it was perfectly acceptable to be able to find satisfaction in both a tightly drafted statute and in outlaw country music. Tom was one of the most authentic people I have known – what you saw was what you got. It just depended on which side of him you happened to be looking for.
I ran an 8K race with my 13-year-old daughter a couple of weeks ago. The fact that she put up with my constant stream of unsolicited running advice and general chatter throughout the entire race was as commendable as her race performance itself.
It must not have been too bad, though. Next Saturday she will be running the Charlottesville Ten Miler with me. More on that closer to (and after) the event!
Lacrosse, properly played, is a game of speed and finesse. However, when I was a sophomore in high school back in 1980 and first went out for my school’s lacrosse team, it quickly became clear that I had neither in abundance. So, I became a defenseman. As such, my primary assignment was to use my 6′ long stick to keep the offensive player I was guarding under control and away from the goal. When he had the ball, my job was to knock it loose by checking (poking or slapping) his stick/hand/arm/ribs with my stick, or by planting my shoulder in his chest if he got too close. It wasn’t always pretty (in fact, it probably never was), but it was the way we played the game in Virginia’s public high schools in the late ‘70’s/early ‘80’s.
At that time, my high school was one of the very few public schools in Virginia that had lacrosse programs. Our typical season over the three years that I played would consist of a mixed record against the few other public schools and military boarding schools that had lacrosse programs, and then getting blown out by the private schools that we played. After those prep school pummellings, we used to console ourselves by noting that the private school kids had been playing lacrosse in gym class since elementary school, while most of us hadn’t even picked up a stick until we were teenagers.
I’m happy to report that the lacrosse playing field in central Virginia has leveled considerably since then. My oldest daughter plays on her middle school’s team, my two younger daughters play in a YMCA league, and my preschooler son is very excited about playing “cross” in a summer league this summer after he turns 4. My wife (who played in college) and I aren’t pressuring them to play, but are certainly happy to see them take it as far as they can and want to. Just keep your fingers crossed that they got their lacrosse genes from their mother….
OK, this is a shameless attempt to break out of a blogging dry spell and generate some comments at the same time. I need some direction. Those of you who have read this blog before (all 3 of you) are familiar with the type of things that I tend to write about. They are listed in the “Categories” section on the right-hand sidebar. Please help me out by leaving me a comment and letting me know what you’d like to see more of.
Even “uncategorized” is fair game – I’ll take it as a vote for “none of the above” – it’d sure be helpful if you’d include a suggestion along with your vote, though.