As the Memorial Day weekend here in the United States gets into full swing, my thoughts today turned to my Dad who passed away 10 years ago. He was a Veteran of the United States Army and was very proud of that. And this weekend as we honor the many Veterans of the past that have died, as well as loved ones, friends, and people that we identified with, it is good to pause and reflect on what each of them gave to us. Many Veterans made the ultimate sacrifice for our country and served to give us the freedom that we so enjoy today. Our loved ones, friends, and others also had huge impacts on our lives in some way or another. Sometimes these days are painful I know. The memories come flooding back so quickly. But it is good to not wait for a special day. It should be any day that we think about those that meant so much to us.
My Dad was a great father, grandfather, teacher, and coach. He so loved his grandkids, our son and daughter Andy and Kelsey. He retired as one of the most successful high school football coaches in the United States. He coached many All-Americans and also was the football coach of Yankee Great Mickey Mantle in Commerce, Oklahoma. But with all the records and honors, he really never talked that much about that part of his life. He loved people. He loved teaching his high school students in American Government. He loved coaching. He loved to fish. Anytime, anywhere.
I remember many things about him but some of the most prominent things about him were that he was tuned into people. He was not a "Me" person. He was a good listener and he cared about those he came in contact with. He respected you. He valued whatever walk of life that you came from. A lesson that I value a great deal.
I felt safe with him. Safe in terms that I knew that he had high expectations and values. I knew he was there if I needed him. He wanted me to do my best and if at the end of an activity I could say that, he was happy and proud. (That is unless I was caught looking at a called third strike in baseball. Then we would have "the talk".) He made me want to try harder at everything. And that's not a bad thing. I have talked many times in my blogs about reaching for the stars and setting and working and reaching your goals. He always had goals. He always had a plan. Today we call them training plans. His teams won games because they were prepared. His teams were prepared both physically and mentally. Therefore, I grew up knowing that to be successful I needed to have a plan or a vision of what I wanted to accomplish. Preparation. Training.
I know as I train and run in my marathons and ultras, he has the best seat in the house. I know that he has cheered me on and given me an extra push when I needed it most. During the worst weather as I train, I remember his teams were still out there practicing. I train in all types of conditions because I want to be prepared the best that I can. I remember asking him why he practiced in the rain and he said, "because you play like you practice and someday there will be rain at a game and we want to have had that experience".
I also remember him staying up with me all night. Holding my head up so that I could breathe and sleep because I had asthma. I remember the countless pitches that he threw to me to teach me to hit and catch. I remember the many times he taught me the "special" things about fishing. His fishing secrets. Where to cast for the big ones. I remember his arm around my shoulders when I needed a hug both in good times and bad. I remember his tears when a relative or friend passed away. But I also remember the twinkle in his eyes and the smile on his face when he was happy about something.
So watch me run Dad. But most of all Dad, watch me be the kind of person you wanted me to be. A great Dad to my own kids, A loving person. Respectful of others. Not boastful. Humble, but proud of my efforts. A friend to all. An encourager to many. Thank you for all that you gave to me and others!
A quote that he always used, and I don't know if it was his or borrowed from somewhere else, but I have always remembered it: "What you have is God's gift to you. What you do is your gift to God".
May we honor all on this Memorial Day!
Forward we go! May your roads and trails be happy and safe!