Single-Serving Dad - Page 3
In his email to me about sweeping, Tom joked about my history of getting lost during long races and said that he would pair me up with Dad (he always refers to Bob as "Dad," never as "my father," which puts his listener in the position of wanting also to refer to Bob as Dad) because he knew the trail and could educate me on geographical and botanical features. I sensed his pride in wanting to share his father with me.
Bob had, I learned, been a "timber cruiser." His job had been to walk through forests and catalogue information, creating an inventory of its variety and quantity of tree species. He would describe their size and density, the crowding, canopy and undergrowth, and note the presence or absence of wildlife.
We talked a bit about the race where we'd met. I had gotten lost three of the four times I'd tried to run it. "So stupid it's funny," I said. Bob became stern, for the first and only time, and said, "I don't want to hear you say that you're stupid.
"I saw where he was going and headed him off. I have a lot of problems and issues, believe me, but intellectual insecurity is not among them. I explained that I knew I was very good at some things, but that staying on trails is not one of them."OK," he said. "So you just don't have woods savvy." He thought that I was about to go into a girly self-flagellating mode and wanted to keep me from it. This surprised me. I knew that Bob demanded much of himself and suspected that when other people screwed up he might not be so patient.
As we started to descend, the vegetation changed. "How would you describe this?" I asked. "It's old-growth high-altitude white-bark pine. And that's balsamroot," he said, pointing down. "And that's bee balm." He stopped. "That's prairie smoke," he said, surveying."Cool. Keep moving."He said, "You know, when I run with Tom and Liz they always say things like, `Good job,' or, `You're doing great.' You just crack the whip. That's a lot better.""Then run faster, old man.
"I once heard soccer coach Anson Dorrance talking about the difference between coaching women's and men's soccer teams. He said something to the effect that with the men, if you tell them they suck, they'll work harder to prove you wrong. With women, one word in a tone too harsh can cause them to walk off the field. Gender is, of course, a spectrum, and these kinds of generalizations often obscure important differences. Some people need to be coaxed and congratulated every step of the way, reminded of their end goal. I suspected a straightforward, almost militaristic approach would do the trick for this able veteran. So I kept cracking the whip.