I should be writing, but I saw the Terry Fox runners today

Academic writing, that is. My preliminary literature review is due soon.

I watched Terry Fox’s funeral on television when I was small. I kept running from the kitchen to our black and white TV in the living room, the kind with the record player and radio attached. When my mother was at work, we would flip or move the overhanging doily to have an unobstructed view of the fuzzy, zigzagging screen. The new colour Sony floor model TV would appear a few years later, in a teak finish, just in time for the Grey Cup.

Most of my memories of Terry Fox are in black and white. There is the famous image of him running, alone, along the highway with cars behind him; I remember that image in black and white. The video clip of Terry dipping his foot into the Atlantic Ocean when he began his run plays in my memory bank in black and white as well. His hair I remember in colour, however.

Those of us who watched Terry run on the news each night or saw him in person have vivid, enduring memories. I can smell the food at the dinner table from the day of Terry’s funeral. My children have no such memories. Neither did the students in my English for Academic Purposes classes. And yet they felt an instant connection to the story of a determined young man with an impossible dream.

My father didn’t insist that I turn off the TV and stay seated at the table, even though it was a hard and fast rule. It was the one acknowledgement from my parents – that I connected to Terry Fox’s story. I don’t recall them ever mentioning him after he died. We always watched any news update about him when he was alive, sitting together in the living room. Perhaps his vibrant but short life was difficult for them to process.

One rewarding experience as a parent has been seeing the attention that schools give to the Terry Fox Walk every September. Whenever I could, I would join the school for the walk, or meet the kids at a spot on their walk, or honk at them as I passed. They always walk in pairs, with their Reading Buddies, for safety. Our family has had a close member deal with cancer. The children took advantage of the opportunity that the Terry Fox Walk afforded and were able to actively do “something” to demonstrate their support. They realized their struggle had a community and could be expressed collectively as our family struggled together, although sometimes privately. When one of my kids lost a classmate to cancer, with fervour they added their personal savings to the fundraising envelope.

By chance, I encountered the Terry Fox runners today. I joined the runners for a kilometre and clapped for and smiled at those running past us on the other side of the street. I heard many languages. I saw people of all ages. I saw fast runners and slow walkers. I saw wheelchairs and strollers. It was a hopeful atmosphere. The smile on my face lasted long after I left them. I still wonder at how so many people feel moved to participate.

My words are not written well, but they express how I feel today.

My youngest is now old enough to be a senior Reading Buddy. She’ll be walking with a small child and they will walk the Terry Fox Walk route together

If you know of a child who is participating in the Terry Fox Walk this month, please sponsor them.

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