My mother met Mister Rogers on the beach behind her rental cottage. She was sitting in an old beach chair reading. Mister Rogers was taking his afternoon swim in Madaket Bay.
The year after he died, I decided to preserve his memory (and entice my brother to bring his family to Nantucket the following summer) by creating a race: The Mister Rogers Memorial Triathlon.
The course consists of a half-mile swim in the waters adjacent to his Crooked House, a twelve mile bike ride to/from the end of Madaket Road, and a three mile run to/from Madaket Marina. The last quarter mile throws a final challenge: a beach run between Madaket Road and Massachussettes Avenue.
A cool drizzle fell from a brushed steel sky as Chris, Abbi and I strode towards the finish of the event’s fourth running. As my sneaker struck the sand, a hooded figure turned towards me.
I wrapped my arms around his torso, and lifted him off the ground. As I caught my breath, he related his details of his flight, shared his assessment of the rising surf, the greeted Abbi and Chris. Which is when I was greeted by the next surprise.
I spun around and spotted my old friend, former Nantucket Inquirer-Mirror reporter Hadley St. John.
Standing there at the end of Madaket Road where cement gave way to sand, petting Hadley’s black lab and gawking as my disperate worlds collided — Hadley and Fish and Abbi and Chris — I thought of Mister Rogers.
Every interviewee for Chris and my documentary, “Mister Rogers & Me,” has said the same thing: “Fred loved bringing people together.”
Standing there at the end of the road, my time doesn’t matter (16:59/49:17/26:36). What mattered was all of us there together, there at the edge of the island, there where pavement and cell service and everything that man tries to control gives way, and gives up, in the face of an ever churning, ever changing sea.