When my son went away to college to play football at President Ronald Reagan’s alma mater at Eureka College, he left his Track & Field t-shirt in the closet of his old room, which he shared with his younger brother, Thomas. It stayed on Danny’s side of the closet for several years, just hanging around like so many of his other items left there before beginning a new & exciting adventure. He left many other items besides clothing such as childhood toys, mementoes, ribbons, trophies, and pictures, all memorial footprints of his growing-up years of which his mother and I became caretakers. It saddened us to see him go, but it would have been sadder to see him stay put.
While searching one day for a set of baseball cards stored in my son’s closet I looked up and focused on an almost new, very sparkling t-shirt hanging up on the rack just asking for me to wear it. I didn’t want to take complete responsibility for taking temporary possession of it myself, so I went to my wife and asked, “Do you think Danny would mind if I wore his t-shirt?” She replied no, and soon it became my property by the very fact I took possession of it. I only wore it occasionally at first; but as I wore it more and more, it felt better and better on me until I convinced myself through unintended self-hypnosis that it was mine, all mine. It felt so good on me that I soon believed we were made for each other, and it has remained my favorite t-shirt for the past eleven years. Not only did it feel good on me, I believed I looked my best when wearing it. Was it possible to love an inanimate object? I didn’t know, but if so, I loved that t-shirt. Time marched on, sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly, but it marched on just the same.
Many years have gone by since I first took my favorite t-shirt off the rack and put it on and claimed it as my own. Age and wear has taken its toll on my favorite t-shirt. The cotton cloth has worn thin, the neck is frayed, small holes in the back have appeared in the thin cotton after many washings, and the blue and red writing has faded on the front and back. In short, a lot like me, it has aged and about ready for the trash heap. Despite its worn out condition I am reluctant to get rid of it, but like all things of this earth there is a time and season for goodbyes. With encouragement from my wife the time has come for my t-shirt and I to part company and go our separate ways. all I can say now is goodbye old pal, you’ve given me excellent service. It can be replaced by a new t-shirt, but the new one won’t feel the same or fit me the same, nor will it have the memories associated with it.
Another reason why I liked that old t-shirt so much was that it reminded me of one of my proudest moments involving my son’s athletic days in high school. This proudest moment occurred during the springtime of 1996 at the ISHA Track & Field Sectional meet held at the track field of his home school. Sixteen class-A teams were competing to become sectional champion and for individuals to qualify and move on to represent their schools at the state track meet to be held at Eastern Illinois University.
It was a beautiful Spring day with a slight breeze and plenty of sunshine. For a track meet a good crowd had gathered to watch the events from the stands, or to stand behind the track fence where they could be closer to the action. As the young athletes warmed-up on the field, their energy spilled over onto the crowd and created an excitement of anticipation for the games to begin. As the first bang of the starting pistol echoed throughout the crowd, the shouts of encouragement from fans and parents rung out and the track meet was on.
Danny didn’t always run the 100 meter dash for his high school track team, but he did that day. I knew his ability as a sprinter; and while he was fast and a constant competitor on the the 4 X 100 and 4 X 200 relay teams, I didn’t think his chance for a ribbon that day was great, nor was his chance for making it to the final heat any better, and he needed to make it to the finals for any chance at a ribbon & points for his team . As best I can remember, he would need to run close to his best times of the year in the first two heats to make it to the semi-final heat, and run a couple of his fastest times of the year in both the semifinal’s and the final’s to receive a ribbon for himself and points for his track team. Like all parents I hoped for the best and knew personally how difficult it was to perform at the top of your game when called upon to do so. The pressure of tying to perform at your highest level in four different races on the same day is very difficult. In the 100 meter dash one bad start and you out of it, especially when your not the fastest to begin with.
My adrenaline increased several levels as the 1st call for the 100 meter dash blared out over the loud speakers. I whispered a prayer for Danny to concentrate on the start as I knew that aspect of his race was crucial in advancing to the next heat. His start in the first race was excellent; his acceleration and performance through the middle of the race was outstanding; and he finished strong. In his 2nd heat his start looked a touch slower, but the remainder of his race proved strong enough to qualify him for the semi’s. Once again he ran another excellent race in the semi-final and qualified for the final’s. When the pistol fired during the final heat, I watched Danny jump out of the starting block in great shape and race to the finish line in what looked like a possible position for a ribbon and points for the team. I waited for the announcement; and when it came, the announcer said, “Fifth place for the 100 meter dash, Danny H … .” I was so happy for him, and so proud of him. He wasn’t champion, but he had performed at the top of his ability four times that day. He had dug down deep and found that extra something. He found a reservoir of effort and determination that propelled him into a zone of peak performance. What a son!
That old worn out t-shirt of mine reminds me of that day I watched Danny win 5th place at the ISHA Track & Field Sectional in 1996, or was it 1997. A person my age needs a reminder. garland dale