This past Thursday was the 7th or 8th Thanksgiving in a row for us to get up early and join a crowd of thousands at a Turkey Trot. This has become one of my favorite yearly traditions, and a reminder of one of my favorite memories of you.
Almost 9 years ago, I did something incredibly foolhardy: I attempted a half-marathon, despite being extremely overweight and having inconsistently trained over the previous several months. I started out okay, walking with the wind at my back on that tide-packed sandy beach, but when I had to turn into the wind around Mile 3, it got harder. By the last turnaround at Mile 8 or so, I was in agony. My feet were blistering, my hips were tight, and my back ached. I slowly trudged onward, knowing the only way out was through. Around Mile 10, I looked up to see you walking toward me. Truth be told, I wondered if I was imagining it, like a mirage.
When you arrived and turned to walk beside me back toward the finish line, my first words to you were an exhausted, almost accusatory, “What are you doing here?” You said you wanted to be with me the rest of the way in. You told me how proud you were of me for doing this. I couldn’t really process it in the moment, with several sore body parts screaming at me for my betrayal, but in the months and years afterward, that has become a treasured memory.
And in the process, I think you realized you could do something like this too. After all, that morning, you just about walked a 10K yourself. It wasn’t long after that when you started running on your own, and have kept at it whenever you had time, ever since. I’m glad I had a small part in helping you find an outlet for exercise and stress relief that you enjoy, something that will keep you healthy and around longer with us.
So I wanted to take a moment today and thank you for that morning on Surfside Beach, years ago, when you decided that being present to encourage your foolish and stubborn son was worth an hour or two of walking. It sums up a lot of who you are: a man who is willing to go the extra mile (or six, if needed) to encourage and strengthen your loved ones. You think nothing of sacrifice or sweat or loss of sleep, when it means making life better or easier for your family. It’s just what you do when you’re Dave Mitchell. And whether it’s hours spent helping with car repairs or lack of sleep due to working a second job for years on end, you’ve done what it takes to serve and love your wife and kids.
That’s the example I want to follow and the legacy I want to leave for my children.
Thank you, dad.