(A short story by Lloyd C. Daniel)

 

 

I’ve been blessed to have a number of life altering or fork in the road moments and choices.  The one that stands out in my mind at this time is when I was 7 years old, in the spring of 1960, and was in KU hospital with an acute kidney infection.  They thought I was going to die. People in my family, especially my mother, who never left my bedside, played endless rounds of Go Fish with me and prayed almost constantly, as did many members of Ward Chapel A.M.E. church. Three other children in the same ward died while we were there. One of them I thought of as a friend.  I asked my mother, “Moma.  Is this the place where they keep kids who are going to die?  Am I gonna die too?”  She said, “No Lloyd, you’re in God’s hands”.  The gentle and knowing tone of her voice calmed all my fears.

 

After being in hospital beds and wheel chairs for so long I could no longer walk.  Upon release, I was rolled through the hospital’s front doors.  It took several painful weeks to learn to walk again without stumbling.

It was the summer of 1960, the year of the Rome Olympics and a beautiful, young Black female runner, by the name of Wilma Rudolph, was competing.  She had been a victim of polio and as a child had worn braces.  Doctors told her parents that she would always be cripple. The doctors were wrong.          I was truly inspired as I watched her, on TV; win 3 gold medals for herself, her family, Colored people and the United States. That night, I began praying and exercising my legs, even more, by running around my block.  As I got stronger I ran time after time, virtually everyday and some nights.  This was before jogging became fashionable. The neighbors wondered where I was running to or what I was running from. The street I lived on had long blocks. That summer I ran around the block often as many as fifty times.  Occasional I ran with friends, but most of the time I ran alone.

 

School was out and the YMCA was offering a free sports program at the high school in my neighbor, it included track.  I’d never been on a high school track.  It was a quarter mile track and seemed huge.

It appeared endless. I was always the youngest and tallest kid in my class in elementary school, but the Central High track made me feel tiny and out of place.  The program was for kids 13 years old and under.  Most of the participants were 12 and 13.  A few who lied about their age were 14 and 15. To me, at 7, they were all “the big kids”.

 

To find out who could run and who couldn’t, the coach had us run what was, back then, called the 440, because it was 440 yards.  That race is now referred to as the 400, because of the use of the metric system. We were ready to run once around the track.  I was surprised by the starter’s gun and got off to a bad start.  For the first half of the race I was at the very back of the pack, dead last, behind the rest of the fifty or so runners.  But because I had been running daily for months, as ciders flew in my face, I began to pull up closer and closer to the middle of the stampede.  By three quarters of the way around the track I was in about ninth place. As we turned the corner and entered the home stretch, the lead runners grew weary and began to fade.  But because I had been unknowingly training for just such an occasion,

I began to accelerate.  I had a kick. I wasn’t tired at all. I knew I was going to win as long as I didn’t fall as I had done so many times when I was sick.  As I blew past the runner in 5th place, then 4th place, then 3rd, then 2nd place, and then the lead runner, from out of nowhere I heard my father’s voice.

He was yelling at the top of his lunges, “Go boy! Go boy!”  I didn’t know he was in the stands. I then realized that he had taken off work to watch me compete.  I looked up in the bleachers and saw him furiously clapping his hands and crying. I had never seen him cry. Then I started crying too, but I never broke stride. I felt myself switch into another gear, running faster and faster, faster than I’d ever run before.  I crossed the white lime finish line nearly 20 yards ahead of the pack, knowing that I, for sure, was blessed, had recovered, that there were those who loved me, that I could see my future shinning bright ahead me and that no matter what had happened before that day or what would happen in days to come, no weapon formed against us would prosper.

 

 

© Lloyd C. Daniel  August 22, 2015

 

 

Editor’s Note:

Rep. Lloyd Daniel is a writer, advocate, college professor and former member of Missouri’s House of Representatives. He lives in Kansas City. His website address is  www.lloyddaniel.info

 

 

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