Sunday, March 20, 2016

Filling the space between us

Three miles. Thirty minutes. How hard could it be?

She watches me as I tie up my trainers. She's been saying she'd like to go with me. Stretch her legs. Get some exercise. But I know it's an intention she will likely postpone indefinitely.

The temperature was still climbing even as the sun was started to set. Perfect weather for a three-mile jog around the neighborhood. “Really. It will be fun. We can walk some, run some.”

She politely declines.

My daughter had other things on her mind. School things. Clothes things. Room I asked her to clean things. Boy things …

She says nothing above a whisper. I can tell she is balancing on the edge of sadness and could fall either way.

I get her to agree to walk with me to the meeting place. Other evening runners will gather, spring training in full effect. Ten minutes and two changes of clothes later, we are ready to head out the two or so blocks to the center of town. We have a pleasant talk around subjects. I hold my breath, resisting the urge to utter a stream of unhelpful advice. I just listen and nod.

Once we reach the square, we will go in opposite directions. She will head toward the library, where she will return materials that have been accruing fines. I will tackle the local cul-de-sacs at a hopeful 10 minutes per mile.

I worry about her in all the ways a parent worries. And now, adding to it with this new and expanded boundary of actual space. We so rarely go separate ways.

“Go right home after the library, Ok, before it's dark.”

She just grins at me.

“Where else would I go?” her smile tells me.

We've been through this dozens of times.

She disappears in the opposite direction I start to run. Slowly at first. Familiar. The pack starts out together, past the coffee shop and some houses, then thins out. Working harder, we don't chat as much as we pass the cemetery where our eighth president is buried. We pass more houses. People in their yards stop what they're doing to bid us a good evening. Turn left at the cornfield and head toward the orchard.

That's when I heard the siren and felt a lump in my throat that I try to explain away with statistics I made up for comfort's sake.

“I'm sure everything's fine.”

But the sirens continue, and I can hear cars racing to a spot that might be my home. It's hard to tell the direction of noise.

“Or it might be a neighbor's,” that everything-will-be-alright voice offers in hope.

I dig out my phone, just to be sure.

My stomach sinks. My phone has been ringing on “silent.” It's my husband.

The emergency is at our house. Everything is OK, though. She's fine. He's on his way there now. Ignore the messages.

Which I do. I ignore the messages and call the house. My daughter answers immediately and, with great excitement tells me she saw fire in the backyard as she was walking home.

“So I called the fire department.”

And just like that, my daughter saved the day in under three miles.

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