New York Challenged: I Miss Home for the Same Reasons I Moved Away


I went home to Texas for Thanksgiving and was reminded of one very important thing: not that I missed the blinding sun and open horizon; not that there were stars in the night sky; not that my cat never really liked me. I was reminded, quite forcibly, that my dad is really weird. I have grown to appreciate his quirkiness, but I’m not sure why.

My father is 47 years old and he doesn’t drink soda. He’s usually asleep in bed by 10 p.m. and he likes to wake up before sunrise. My dad is 47 years old and he has run 20 marathons, three 50-mile races and one 100-miler, all in the past six years.

I, on the other hand, don’t like running unless I’m chasing an ice cream truck or being followed by something obnoxious. I don’t “wake up early” and I don’t have any healthy routines.  The only time our schedules align is when we’re both brushing our teeth—he before work and I before bedtime, at 5 a.m.

I have run 5K races on occasion, and one time my dad convinced me to do a half-marathon. But he has never managed to convince me to get in shape before the race, or made me care about getting a good night’s sleep.

This Thanksgiving he signed my family up for the Iron Turkey 5K race, which was fine because we had done weird family things like that before. This year, however, he signed me up for an additional team race, with him and two of his running buddies (AKA people who are older than me but also healthier). It was a half-mile run, carrying a 25-pound, frozen turkey.

There were a few rules. All four of us had to have a hand on the turkey at all times, and it was not to be dropped. No backpacks allowed, my dad had made sure to ask. The winning team would receive dinner certificates to some wannabe New York restaurant. It sounded suspiciously like one of those father-son bonding moments that sometimes occur on moderately successful sit-coms.

The night before the race, my sister asked me if I wanted to go see the new Harry Potter movie. I was stoked because I love magic, but my dad forbade me from going to the movies. He told my sister she could go if she wanted to, but I was to remain at home and rest, because it was very important that we win the turkey race. Then he sent me to bed at 7 p.m.

Early the next morning (before sunrise), my dad walked into my room with a few pairs of ski gloves. He was happy. “I think these will give us an advantage when we carry the frozen turkey,” he said. I told him I had been thinking the same thing. Then I crawled back into bed when he walked away.

Thirty minutes later we all got in the car and drove to the race. My dad met up with his running buddies and they went for a two-mile run to warm up for the three-mile race. I waddled around in the 30 degree weather and peed in the nearby Sears a few times. Then the normal race started—the one that didn’t involve turkey. Then it ended. It wasn’t too bad.

Now it was time for the important race, the turkey race. Soon I would be carrying a frozen, decapitated carcass for half a mile, terrified of disappointing the one man who cared. My dad walked up to me. He looked concerned. “I just found out we can’t wear gloves. We’re going to have to carry it with our bare hands,” he said. He frowned. We gave my mom the gloves and our team walked to the starting line.

In a moment of glorious, unadulterated testosterone, I volunteered to carry it myself and just have everyone else place their hand on it. And that’s what we did. I pressed the lifeless poultry against my chest and waited for the starting gun. A man shouted “Go!” and we were off.

We were like a solid unit of meat-transporting magnificence. The other teams didn’t have a chance. We were a full 10 awkward shuffles ahead of everyone. My dad kept yelling, “They’re gaining on us, hurry!”

I kept yelling, “Where do I go? Where is the finish?” My eyes began to roll back in my head. I was in a trance. I would carry this fleshy dead mass for years if I had to. My shoes pounded the pavement. My heart trembled with cold.

After five minutes of odd grunts and shouts, we won. My arms were frozen solid and I wasn’t even sure if I was still holding the turkey. But we won, and my dad was pleased.

He had already moved on to his next battle and was trying to convince the man in charge to let him keep the turkey. Forever weird.

My mom ran toward me and chastised me for letting my hands get cold. She grabbed my hands and started to rub them, much too vigorously. It hurt. “Really, Mario, you’re going to get necrosis,” she said. My mom is a different kind of weird. I love her, too.

Thanks, given.