There is a running joke in my family that my brother and I raised my parents. My mom started that sentiment. I suppose it is because in their earlier years of parenting, they weren’t exactly models of the Cleavers. But I love them. And I am extremely thankful for their influence in my life.
The greatest thing I appreciate about my parents is that they always put family first. My mom and dad went to every football game and wrestling match I ever competed in through my senior year in high school. As a family, we majored in recreation and fun. My dad has always worked hard in everything he has done, including play. When we played, we played hard. We skied, camped, boated, fished, hunted, and traveled as long as I can remember. By the time I graduated high school, I had been to 42 states, Mexico, and Canada.
But to put into perspective just how much my parents supported me, let me share this story. Summertime was boating time. I have very vivid memories of sticky watermelon juice dripping off my chin, then jumping in a lake to wash it off. I remember catching toads and stuffing them in my shorts. We waterskied, tubed, knee boarded, and everything in between. We would catch fish and crawdads and cook them up. We played loud music, made bonfires, and I played with my trucks. We had a blast.
When was five almost six years old, my brother came home from middle school and said he joined the wrestling team. I always looked up to my big brother so of course I wanted to do the same. That was the beginning of a sport that has continued to shape who I am to this day. I was good at wrestling from the start. And as the years went by, my commitment level increased. It increased to the point that I was competing eight to nine months out of the year. And if you know anything about wrestling, it means long weekends, which meant less time at the lake.
It wasn’t for a number of years that I realized just how much my parents supported my wrestling pursuits until I learned that they had sold their boat because we just didn’t use it much anymore. My parents sacrificed something that was incredibly fun and exciting so they could sit in hot, stinky gymnasiums cheering from the bleachers as I competed against wrestlers from all over the country. Incredible.
Not only that, my dad got involved as well. From the time I started wrestling, he was my coach until my college days. He never missed a match. Actually, I would get extremely anxious if my match was about to begin and he wasn’t in my corner yet. We traveled by motor-home all over this country. My parents were with me as I competed in Arizona, California, Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, Missouri, Florida, Indiana, and Oregon. They also supported as I competed in football as well. And, just as in wrestling, my dad helped coach football as well.
One memory of my mom particularly stands out . I had lost a wrestling match to a highly ranked wrestler who hadn’t lost in four or five years. I was extremely upset by it. I remember my mom coming out to the motor-home where I was sulking. She told me she loved me and was proud of me. Then she basically asked why I was wrestling. She just wanted me to know that she loved me whether I wrestled or not. She didn’t want me to wrestle simply to please them. I sure did and do appreciate that talk with my mom. And mom, by the way, thanks for convincing me to take typing my senior year of high school. I would be really struggling with this blog had you not directed me to do so. 🙂
My dad has always been my hero. From his efforts in my life as a coach, to standing up to bullies (you’ll have to ask him or me about that), to fixing cars, catching the most fish, shooting the biggest buck, and being a committed father and husband, he has had a greater impact on my life than anyone else. I’ve written papers about him in both high school and college. I talk often about him. I respect him for his service to this country in the Armed Forces. I respect him for his accolades in cross-country skiing. I respect him for his commitment to my mom and my siblings and me. And I respect my dad and mom for their commitment to finish their lives STRONG.
Today, my parents are partnered with my brother and I in the LIFE business. It’s an interesting dynamic. I am their coach. The role has reversed. I have the wonderful privilege of giving back to them what they have given to me. And they have set the bar high.
A number of months ago I asked my mom and dad why they were involved with LIFE. What did they want to get out of it? My dad simply said, “I want us to finish strong.” Life didn’t entirely turn out the way they had planned or anticipated it to turn out. As so many others are discovering, a lifetime of working a job, or even being a business owner, hasn’t produced the results they had hoped. But where my parents differ from many others that may have passed their prime, is my parents have committed to keep digging, to keep fighting, and to finish strong.
And so I find myself still in awe of my parents. I am so blessed to have such amazing examples of perseverance, diligence, and hope. So although I may now be their coach and cheerleader, they still set the bar high for inspiring me and many others. My dad is in his seventies and my mom in her sixties, yet they are still learning, growing, and stepping out of their comfort zones. Wow. Thank you mom and dad for being the amazing people you are and continue to work on being.