Friday would have been my dad’s 77th birthday. I celebrated with my running buddies by cooking, baking and eating his favorite foods—lobster bisque, blueberry pie, Coors Light and Peter Pan peanut butter, to name a few—and by remembering all the qualities that made him a great dad.
There are many, many qualities to list, but the one that I want to talk about today is the fact that my dad never missed a single one of my swim meets, or cross-country meets, or anything that meant a lot to me. Some of my happiest childhood memories are of swimming in my beach-club swim league, and finishing a 25-yard race to see my dad standing by the edge of a pool with a warm, dry towel ready for me to step into. He always wore the wide, easy smile that makes me a little weepy to conjure now, and always gave me a big hug once I was wrapped in the towel.
He would always say something excited and nice about my performance, and always homed in on what was really important by asking if I’d had fun. It’s hard to imagine feeling more safe, or more loved.
In 2010, when I found the Daiquiri Deck Tropical Splash Open Water 5K Swim in Sarasota, just south of my parents’ home in Florida, my dad made the trip to come see me, though it was tough for him to spend the morning standing and walking and otherwise out of his comfort zone considering his wide array of health complications. He hung pictures of me finishing the race on the wall of his pool room. He was as proud of me at 30 as he was of me at 7.
Same deal in the 2011 swim, when more health complications made the trip an even tougher one for him. Through a combination of his will to make it to the finish line and my mom and Steve’s ingenuity (tactics included catching a ride from a beach buggy across a long expanse of sand), he was waiting there at the finish line with a smile and a hug.
He can’t be there physically to offer comfort and congratulations anymore. But I know that for the rest of my life, I’ll reach for that feeling of love and support from those childhood swim meets when I need encouragement and motivation during a tough race, and will rely on him to be a silent cheerleader whenever I need it most.
In other Motivation Monday news: I ran a 5K on Friday. I know—I was surprised, too! I accompanied a friend to the the White Oak Classic 5K, held at 11 a.m. Friday for FDA employees. On account of the fact that I am not an FDA employee, I bandited the darn thing. We had a covered a lovely, easy first mile together in 8 minutes, thanks to the long, steady downhill. It was hot and sticky, but who cared about that? Not me! At least, not until I realized the course was out-and-back, meaning I’d have to come back up during the last mile. I started the race looking for a good, hard run, thinking I might surprise myself with my time. I finished the race grateful I wasn’t the guy getting loaded into an ambulance with heat exhaustion.
Baseball fans (and anyone who likes rooting for the underdog) may want to check out this in-depth interview with Colorado Rockies pitcher Jamie Moyer, who at 50 is the oldest player in the major leagues. His story about overcoming addiction to get where he is today is both inspiring and heart-warming.
What’s motivating you this week?