In the FAMILY
MY son, Brian, was a member of his high school track team. I spent many Saturday mornings watching the grace and beauty of young men running, hurdling, and expressing a great deal of joy and sportsmanship.
At the last track meet of the spring, a Master Mile took place, where the adults would predict their time for running a mile and then run it. The object was to come as close as possible to the predicted time.
I was so inspired by all the running I had seen that I decided to prepare for the Master Mile and surprise my son.
From not being able to complete a block, I progressed to running a mile. When the final track meet came around, I was ready.
When we assembled, I realized I was the only woman entered. I also realized from the predicted times that everyone would finish while I still had a lap to run.
I was concerned that my surprise would turn into an embarrassment for my son.
As the run progressed, I saw that I was right. I had to do my last lap all alone. As I started the lap, I decided to give it all I had and enjoy it.
When I rounded the last curve of the lap, there was my son with all his teammates on the side of the track clapping and yelling for me!
The summer of 1966 was very hot in central Illinois. That was my turn to care for Aunt Annie, who celebrated her 94th birthday that July. We were staying in the old family home that my grandfather, her father, had built in 1868.
It was a charming brick Victorian home, but it did not have air conditioning. Each morning I awoke to find that the thermometer had already climbed to 90 degrees. Aunt Annie suffered from the heat. Her favorite expression was ``Oh, I'm nearly melted!''
In spite of the heat, we got along quite well.
We had a few differences of opinion, such as the time I bought new innerspring mattresses for the beds my grandfather had built. They were beautiful walnut beds. He worked in nothing but solid walnut. Even our slaw-cutter was walnut!
Aunt Annie thought the modern mattresses made the beds too high. ``People will fall out!'' she claimed. Years later I did fall from one of the beds. As I lay on the floor, I thought, ``Aunt Annie was right!''
We managed to get along quite well because Aunt Annie was so happy to be in her own home. She was very gracious to me in many ways.
For example, she liked to get up about 6 o'clock in the morning, but she could get her own breakfast and kindly let me sleep until I was ready to get up - usually about 8 o'clock.
Since she was hard of hearing, Aunt Annie had trouble knowing if the water faucet was turned off.
Many times I would come down to find that the hot water had been running merrily for an hour or so.
One morning I exclaimed, ``Aunt Annie! You have left the hot water running again! What am I going to do?''
She gave a reply that I have treasured all these years.
``Do?'' she answered, ``Why, do the best you can. That's what I do.''
My mother has a way with goodbyes. Even if she and Dad had an early morning spat, they would always kiss each other goodbye before he left for work.
She would always admonish us children to be good, kiss us goodbye, and wave from the kitchen window on our way to school.
One morning I was feeling particularly defiant and slammed out the back door, through the gate to the alley, and stormed past the little space between the ashpit and garage where we always waved to each other.
I was determined not to wave - not even to give her a look as I strode down the alley.
But curiosity, or my better self, caused me to turn and run back to the garage and poke my head around the corner.
Sure enough, there she was still bending over the kitchen table watching and waiting for me.
We both smiled and waved to each other. Both of our days now properly began.
Patricia J. Clair
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