Wednesday, June 6, 2012

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

The single greatest coach in my life has died.  Monday, my dad lost his second battle with lymphoma.  The cancer (almost like it knew) was just out of reach of any possible treatment from the physicians.  Dad went "two for three" against cancer - blood cancers specifically.  I've seen my dad every day of his hospitalization since March, but this day I had to go into the office.  I got the call at 7:40 am as the express train mercilessly whipped through the NW suburbs.  Just hours before, leaving the hospital at 1:00 am (20 hours in the hospital), I told my dad that I'd be back in the afternoon.  I had to meet people who were pretty senior in the airline.  I conducted my meetings, as per normal.  We went through the strategy of my program and it got some pretty solid reviews and excitement was flowing.  Then when the suggestion of a Friday meeting was brought up I had to tell them.  I may not be here on Friday as I lost my dad this morning at 7:40 am.  Immediately, three directors and several VPs stood up (pissed OFF) and said, "WHY ARE YOU HERE?!"  I explained that I wanted to get us going as things that I don't effect were in motion.  I wasn't needed at the moment.  Additionally, 1) My dad worked hard.  He taught us the values of making sure we are not the fly in the ointment when it comes to work.  You get things done and help others get things done.  2) There was NOTHING to do.  The meeting with the funeral home and church were later.  The hospital had taken the appropriate steps to take care of dad.  Mom was napping - finally - after three months of GO GO GO to advocate and care for dad.  Let me tell you that my "real job" at United Airlines has a lot of pretty amazing people.  When I emailed my boss's boss's boss (and all leadership between) to inform them I'd be out for a few days - INSTANTLY had offices emptying out to talk with me and offer support.  I'm on an amazing team of extremely talented and hard working people (easily the best I've ever worked with - even better than Andersen Consulting - and THAT is a statement, because those people were amazing).  I think these guys are even better.

I am wavering from missing my dad: fishing buddy, triathlon fan, coach to being happy that dad is no longer sick.  Without going "off the reservation" on you, I believe that my dad went to heaven and is now with a lot of friends and relatives who went before us.  I'm sad for me and those with me here on this Earth.  Now I'll take the lessons my dad taught me and move on with him in my heart.  

Trying to be positive (and transition back to being a triathlon blog) the only races my father ever saw me race... I was on the podium.  A second (age group).  A third (age group).  A third (overall) and a first (overall) small races all, but dad never saw me do poorly.  I'm grateful for that.  Dad knew me as a champion swimmer, water polo player and great baseball player.  Unknown fact about me... I only started swimming to get stronger for baseball.  True story.  Then a certain baseball coach I played for - who really needed a guy like me on his team - decided he didn't want a guy who was out hustling his more talented players daily.  When I hurt my arm - he cut me.  Probably the best thing that ever happened to me... I went right back to swimming and water polo which paid for my university education at a NCAA Div. I school - the big boys.
Mom & Dad
Meanwhile, in the world of triathlon...  My athletes were kicking ass.

I cannot begin to tell you how proud I am of their hard work and dedication through self doubt.  This weekend we had overall wins by Greg Thompson and (overall amateur) Chris Gilbert at MAJOR races on the east coast.  Chris was first amateur at the Mooseman 70.3 - that is no light task.  Additionally, Mindy and Don Soranno BOTH qualified for the ITU World Championships in Long Course Duathlon in Switzerland.  Mindy was 5th in her age group!! 

When I told my dad this weekend results my dad (who has been unable to speak for nearly four weeks) raised his hand with a #1 sign with his hand.  

The joy of their efforts has really buoyed me emotionally.  I'm so happy for all of them.  When we started, there were doubts, questions, pain (usually in workouts).  They weathered the initial storm and came out smiling.  I suspect I'll do the same.

Choose to be great.  

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