News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Mike Lunsford

December 28, 2008

The Off Season: Power of our stories helps us turn page on another year

I like to tell the story about the day — well, one of the days — my dad decided to skip school; I have heard it told and have repeated it often. It was spring, around 1940, and my dad, who was skinny and freckled and about 10 years old, walked away from my grandparents’ house in the north end of Rosedale to head to school.

His trip toward the south end of town and the old three-storied elementary building there was somehow diverted from Main Street to the railroad tracks a block or so away, and Dad, who always took a keener interest in fishing and telling jokes and smoking the occasional cigarette than he did in his mathematics or English lessons, just didn’t quite keep to the course.

My Grandma Blanche, well-trained from previous experience, often watched him meet his buddies in the morning and walk toward school, but decided on that particular day to follow him. As my dad told me himself, he was sure no one was watching him as he tight-roped the rails and tossed rocks in the weeds, but when he turned around and looked back down the tracks, there was my grandmother silently bearing down on him, her housedress flapping in the breeze.

He took off, certain that he could outrun her. He couldn’t, but it wasn’t without considerable effort; she caught him almost a mile south of town.

I used to think, “How did my old grandma — she couldn’t have been much past 30 or so at the time of the marathon race — catch my dad?” But she did, and she whipped his behind all the way back to the school, where she then sat him at his desk before trotting home.

When I am alone in the house, as I am tonight, sitting in the half-light of the small desk lamp of my ever more cramped office, I often think of stories like that one. I see those tales all around me, many coming from the faces that stare back at me from the photos I keep under a plate of glass on my desktop.

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Mike Lunsford
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