Opinion: How I’m celebrating Father’s Day this year

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By BRINKLEY BROWN

Published: 06-15-2024 7:00 AM

Brinkley Brown of Concord is a Peace Corps Volunteer currently serving as an English teacher in Rwanda.

Years ago, my dad wrote a story for the Monitor about Father’s Day. He said that while this day usually means kids honoring their dads, it’s also a day for dads to be thankful for all the reasons they are dads.

He wrote about me riding my scooter to summer camp as a child. The ride was a milestone of sorts — it was the first time I’d made the mile-long journey along the lake by myself. I was growing up, he said. Today it was a scooter, tomorrow it will be a bicycle, a car, a boyfriend, college, a husband, a child of my own.

“I would never want to stop the clock of life,” he reflected, “but I could live a little longer in any of the moments along the way that I was a dad. There would be full knowledge that change will happen. Routines will evolve. Daughters move forward like a scooter down a hill headed to college. Wind on their face, hair flowing out behind, body tall with confidence, and a smooth road underneath the wheels. That I, the Dad, could be part of her smooth road is my richness. It is basic to the job. It is what love can be. It is what love can do.”

It’s been seven years since my dad wrote that. In that time, I did get a nice road cycle from one of S&W’s annual second-hand sales. I also bought a used car from Grappone down in Bow. The boyfriend thing hasn’t really stuck, they’ve come and gone. College came and went as well. As for the husband and child of my own, those are for another day.

This Father’s Day, I will think about my dad. It’ll be my first without him. He passed away last July from cancer. Today, June 15, would have been his 74th birthday.

In memory of my dad, I’m running across Rwanda in July. From Tanzania in the east, 134 miles west to the shores of Lake Kivu.

Why do I run? That’s a question a lot of us runners get, especially those of us who like long-distance. For me, the answer has changed over the years. It started as a fun thing to do with my dad. We’d do the Rock ‘N Race together every May. For the longest time, he carried me on his shoulders. When my legs eventually got long enough and strong enough to do the distance on my own, we’d do a walk-run combo. Then one year, I just took off and never looked back. From then on, I’d meet him on the corner of Green and School and we’d run the last little stretch together.

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I ran cross country in high school because I loved the team, especially my coach. I ran in college to stay in shape and explore Boston. I run today because I love how it makes me feel. Running clears my mind and helps put things into perspective. More than this, I run because I have things to run for and things to run to.

In July, I’m running for my dad’s oncology team at Dana-Farber. My dad fought the good fight for three years at one of the leading cancer treatment and research institutions in the world. For this, my family was lucky and grateful. Though his own clock of life stopped earlier than expected, my dad lived every moment to its fullest thanks to the expertise and compassion of Dr. Nadine McCleary and her team.

What am I running to? I’m running to that daunting part of life when it’s time to pivot. My second and final year as a Peace Corps volunteer in Rwanda is coming to a close. It’s time to head off and face whatever’s next. What better way to go than to set out running?

If you’re able, consider joining me on my trek with a donation to Dana-Farber in the name of my dad, John Gfroerer, or a visit to your local Runner’s Alley for a new pair of your own running shoes.

Happy Father’s Day.

You can donate at danafarber.jimmyfund.org/goto/runacrossrwanda