As I open my eyes to the early morning light, I look over at my new running shoes sitting next to the door and remember Jack. I can still hear his voice on the phone, even though it's been over thirty years.
“Hello there, Sweet Candy! Laura-Laura… Candy-Dandy’s callin’ 4-ya.”
He was so different from my dad. He wore jeans. He wore running shoes. He liked shorts and shirts that matched.
His daughter, Laura, like every twelve year-old girl, would roll her eyes when he’d tell one of her friends a goofy joke, but I lapped it up. To me, he was hip and cool and fun. He had great big dimples next to his bright, boyish smile, and he was an athlete – something that wasn’t exactly promoted by my father. And there were days when I wished that I was Jack’s daughter and not Frank’s…
Why didn’t my dad take me running down to the beach? Why didn’t I own a pair of Nikes? Why couldn’t I join the Tigres Youth Track Team with Laura, instead of taking violin lessons with boring old Miss Tisher? Laura knew what it was like to run beside her father, and I didn’t.
When I learned that Jack had died suddenly, I went out and finally bought myself a good pair of name brand running shoes. I started exercising again. I watched my leg muscles begin to take shape. I began to picture myself running alongside him and Laura and all the girls that he coached over the years. There we were, nearing the beach, his big enthusiastic voice encouraging us to keep going, the cool shore now only a few blocks away. I pictured my own dad, Frank, there too, waiting for us in the sand… holding up his shoes, finally ready to trade his wingtips in for a pair of Nikes.
Jack Morgan did more for girls like me than he could have ever imagined. Thirty-three years later, I am still trying to become the athlete I've always wanted to be... and for this, I must thank Laura’s dad. His energetic voice on the other side of the phone is still lifting me up when I'm too tired to put on my running shoes. Thank you, Mr. Morgan... Candy-Dandy is calling 4-ya.