As far as I know, we have had no history of cancer in our family and with much talk in cancer circles dealing with the possible genetic connection to cancer, I really did not expect the results that she had. Over the past few weeks, my family has been running around figuring out everything such as end-of-life matters that we never concerned ourselves with (a will, living will, etc) and with figuring out scheduling between the siblings to help Mom out in the weeks after surgery.
Starting on Tuesday, I’ll be on family leave from work. In reality, I just won’t be showing up in the office but plan to still get some work done from Wichita Falls.
I ask that you keep my mother in your prayers, especially as she undergoes an operation on Wednesday morning related to this.
I suppose one benefit of working more hours than you can count is you know that you still have to deliver your deliverables. In academics, you’re only hurting yourself if you don’t do something. In the real world, a lot of other people depend on your work to do their work—it is easier to keep focus.
In other news, my mom is having some medical work today. Your prayers are appreciated.
Editor’s Note: The medical work ended up resulting in a positive cancer diagnosis. After surgery and chemo, she is cancer-free as of 2016.
From Sports Illustrated, by Rick Reilly:
I try to be a good father. Give my kids mulligans. Work nights to pay for their text messaging. Take them to swimsuit shoots.
But compared with Dick Hoyt, I suck.
Eighty-five times he’s pushed his disabled son, Rick, 26.2 miles in marathons. Eight times he’s not only pushed him 26.2 miles in a wheelchair but also towed him 2.4 miles in a dinghy while swimming and pedaled him 112 miles in a seat on the handlebars — all in the same day.
Dick’s also pulled him cross-country skiing, taken him on his back mountain climbing and once hauled him across the U.S. on a bike. Makes taking your son bowling look a little lame, right?
And what has Rick done for his father? Not much — except save his life.
This love story began in Winchester, Mass., 43 years ago, when Rick was strangled by the umbilical cord during birth, leaving him brain-damaged and unable to control his limbs.
“He’ll be a vegetable the rest of his life,” Dick says doctors told him and his wife, Judy, when Rick was nine months old. “Put him in an institution.”
But the Hoyts weren’t buying it. They noticed the way Rick’s eyes followed them around the room. When Rick was 11 they took him to the engineering department at Tufts University and asked if there was anything to help the boy communicate. “No way,” Dick says he was told. “There’s nothing going on in his brain.”
“Tell him a joke,” Dick countered. They did. Rick laughed. Turns out a lot was going on in his brain.
Rigged up with a computer that allowed him to control the cursor by touching a switch with the side of his head, Rick was finally able to communicate. First words? “Go Bruins!” And after a high school classmate was paralyzed in an accident and the school organized a charity run for him, Rick pecked out, “Dad, I want to do that.”
Yeah, right. How was Dick, a self-described “porker” who never ran more than a mile at a time, going to push his son five miles? Still, he tried. “Then it was me who was handicapped,” Dick says. “I was sore for two weeks.”
That day changed Rick’s life. “Dad,” he typed, “when we were running, it felt like I wasn’t disabled anymore!”
And that sentence changed Dick’s life. He became obsessed with giving Rick that feeling as often as he could. He got into such hard-belly shape that he and Rick were ready to try the 1979 Boston Marathon.
“No way,” Dick was told by a race official. The Hoyts weren’t quite a single runner, and they weren’t quite a wheelchair competitor. For a few years Dick and Rick just joined the massive field and ran anyway, then they found a way to get into the race officially: In 1983 they ran another marathon so fast they made the qualifying time for Boston the following year.
Then somebody said, “Hey, Dick, why not a triathlon?”
How’s a guy who never learned to swim and hadn’t ridden a bike since he was six going to haul his 110-pound kid through a triathlon? Still, Dick tried.
Now they’ve done 212 triathlons, including four grueling 15-hour Ironmans in Hawaii. It must be a buzzkill to be a 25-year-old stud getting passed by an old guy towing a grown man in a dinghy, don’t you think?
Hey, Dick, why not see how you’d do on your own? “No way,” he says. Dick does it purely for “the awesome feeling” he gets seeing Rick with a cantaloupe smile as they run, swim and ride together.
This year, at ages 65 and 43, Dick and Rick finished their 24th Boston Marathon, in 5,083rd place out of more than 20,000 starters. Their best time? Two hours, 40 minutes in 1992 — only 35 minutes off the world record, which, in case you don’t keep track of these things, happens to be held by a guy who was not pushing another man in a wheelchair at the time.
“No question about it,” Rick types. “My dad is the Father of the Century.”
And Dick got something else out of all this too. Two years ago he had a mild heart attack during a race. Doctors found that one of his arteries was 95% clogged. “If you hadn’t been in such great shape,” one doctor told him, “you probably would’ve died 15 years ago.”
So, in a way, Dick and Rick saved each other’s life.
Rick, who has his own apartment (he gets home care) and works in Boston, and Dick, retired from the military and living in Holland, Mass., always find ways to be together. They give speeches around the country and compete in some backbreaking race every weekend, including this Father’s Day.
That night, Rick will buy his dad dinner, but the thing he really wants to give him is a gift he can never buy.
“The thing I’d most like,” Rick types, “is that my dad would sit in the chair and I would push him once.”
Update (2015): Just watch.
In many ways, it has been worse in the past couple of years than it had been for the previous five. While still at home, him not being there was hard, don’t get me wrong; however, now that I am “grown up” and away from the nest, the void seems deeper.
During my discernment process, there has exist the struggle of how do I know what to sacrifice? Is this really what I feel called to or has difficulty in one aspect or another driven me this direction? While I have discussed at some length these things with my mother, as well as friends, there is a noted lack of advice of the fatherly kind.
My father entered into the Air Force when he was 17 years old, he married my mom within a week of his 19th birthday. He had a child, my brother, within a year later. He spent almost 22 years in the Air Force, retiring as a Master Sergeant. He spent a few months outside of the military, then was hired onto for Civil Service with the DoD as an instructor. He spent 15 years doing that, working until two days before his death.
As a child, I had never put any thought into what type of discernment he went through. Did he join the military to get away from the farm? Was he actually interested in it? Did it fulfill him or did it try to seek that elsewhere? I assume, rightly or wrongly, the priesthood was never a major consideration. With a family as large as his (oldest of 10 surviving children) and none of them going to the seminary or a convent, I have the feeling that religious vocations weren’t fostered. I could be wrong but I simply don’t think my dad thought about it. Anyhow, how did he know my mom was the right girl? Was there doubt at the time? How much?
He stayed in the military for 21 years, including a tour of duty in Vietnam. Did he stay in because it was security for the family? Did he stay in because he didn’t want to leave? He left, from what mom passes down, because if he stayed, he was due for promotion and everyone being promoted to that rank in that field was being sent to Korea for a year. At almost 40 years of age, he did not want to be away from his family for a year again.
Before last year, I had not truly started asking these questions of myself and so I never thought to ask them of him. Now that I am starting to work on the “questions of life”, I want that insight. It was almost like losing him again, at least realizing there was more that was lost.
The pain that is felt every year in September is a little different each time. Last year, it was anger. It was being pissed off that he wasn’t around anymore. It was about why did he die, why am I without a father, why does everyone else have their fathers to talk to, to joke with, to look up to. That is still there this year, no longer to nearly the same degree.
This year, it is more about the void. Even if he would give me the worst advice in the world, so bad that I could see right through it, it would be something. It reminds me, oddly enough, of my Educational Constitutional Law class from freshman year. The Civil Rights battle for equal access to education started on the collegiate level in a state with public white-only institutions and no black institutions. Why? Because white students had something, black students had nothing. It is much easier to see a problem there than trying to figure out, like in the case of Brown v. Board, white students had a better school, black students had lesser schools. In either case, the point is there is nothing where something should be. Quality of that something, of that advice, is secondary to the fact that nothing exists now.
It was suggested to me by one of the Dean of Natural Sciences advisors to go to a support group with other people who have lost loved one. I went a few times but it wasn’t what I feel like I needed then or now. I think perhaps this is something that I need to get through, with my friends and loved ones silently supporting me as they have. There is nothing that anyone on Earth could do to fill the void that is left; it is now up to me letting the Holy Spirit fill that void with God’s love.
Grief is a funny thing. For each person, it manifests itself in different ways at different times. There are similar connections, of course, but there is always a bit of unpredictability about it. With all of that though, the bright side is we get better. This is one wound that time does heal.