To most, the preceding title may seem a bit obscure. To my family, and one person in particular, that title carries a lot of weight. As twenty years ago today, my grandfather passed away.
I realize this blog pertains mostly to my training. However, life requires its own acknowledgement in observing whom the athlete has become, as it’s responsible for the majority of my own development as an athlete, just as much as my sport allows me to reflect on who I’ve become as a person.
The following is a revised piece that I did for a college class. I enjoy writing new material and entertaining my musings from my training to grow as an athlete and individual. But I also believe there is much that can be learned from previous works, as hindsight seems to provide a bit more clarity. It allows us to view previous works from different perspectives. I’ll admit, this may be tough for some of my family to get through, as it was a bit difficult to sit down and write the first time, let alone revise it to my own liking, without the confines of a class rubric or word count. But I wanted to get this as near perfect as possible to properly illustrate my point and give it the respect it deserves.
“Grandpa Fuller’s gone,” my mother somberly utters as she hangs up the phone. These ambiguous words leave me, then only 5 years old, in a bit of a haze. Our family circled around the living room as the news hit us. My mother’s attempt to hold back tears are met by my father and sister’s condolences followed by tears of their own. As my grandfather was my mother’s only remaining parent after losing her mother to cancer a few years earlier, this loss was especially hard on her. The emotional tidal wave that hit my family was unapparent to me at the time of my youthful ignorance. My grandfather was gone, and in my naïve state of mind, I didn’t understand where he went. All I knew was that he had always been gone in a sense, since he lived in the Midwest, and we had only visited him once from what I recall. But where had he gone? Was he coming back? Only upon these two questions muttered by myself, was the idea in the back of my mind reinforced. My grandfather passed away.
Several years later we visited my grandparents’ graves in Chesterton, Indiana. In observance of Memorial Day, American flags had been placed on the gravestones of those who had served their country, including my grandfather’s. During my visit I came upon a staggering realization. Recalling that my grandfather had fought in a war, like so many other men of his era, I realized how much I didn’t know either of these two individuals. They both played such a huge role in my life, along with my siblings’, without me ever knowing.
The memory I have of my grandfather is negligible at best. What little I do recall is that of a stern yet gentle man. The only physical memory of him includes a family visit to Indiana, where it’s near impossible to escape the rural landscape that encompasses the state. The smell of humidity in the air, that’s characteristically familiar of the Midwest, still creates a bit of nostalgia to this day. The only insight I have of the man, I’m reminded by in that house, in that town of that state. It exuded the aromas and sights typical of the generation that saw this country through its second World War. The kind of house that had black and white photos on permanent display, with the smell of something always cooking on the stove, and creaky floorboards that wouldn’t allow a mouse to pass undetected, yet always felt like home; always familiar. Like the house, he appeared steadfast and traditional, appearing indifferent to opposing views, maintaining composure, but never loosening his grip on his own beliefs. Stoicism at its finest. A man I like to believe is reflected ever so slightly in who I’ve become.
With age being the benefactor of my wisdom, I fully understand the loss that my family endured. Family bonds are lasting and resolute. Each member fills their part, experiencing much of the world together, through similar, yet independently different eyes, providing unconditional love and support through various trials. The roles of the parents being the most important provide the critical structure needed to properly raise children and maintain cohesion. My grandparents raised their children through the oh-so familiar dysfunctions that amass in each family’s own unique way. My mother in particular, the youngest of four, took what her parents provided her and forged her own mold. As an eagerly strong-willed individual, she has done more for her family, than words can even begin to express the appropriate amount of gratitude. After a strenuous recovery from my grandfather’s death, she has gone beyond her duty in providing the physical and emotional support necessary to raise a family. Portraying that same steadfast demeanor in adversity.
She’s tested her physical and mental strength through numerous trials, including several marathons, always aspiring to earn a Boston Qualifier. Finally, in 2005, she attained that dream. She fulfilled her dream through perseverance, and even qualified a second time for the 2006 Boston Marathon with her time of 3:47:00. Her commitment to hard work, echoed by my father’s morals, and together, their cohesion, has provided this family the visceral foundation of strength and faith that can only be acquired through such dedication and confidence.
Along with fulfilling her dreams, she’s played a much more crucial role. She’s accomplished this with necessary tools, provided by her parents, to play a more crucial role in life: a mother. Along with her many accomplishments and successfully raising three children each with their own hopes and dreams, she has served as inspiration to many in a multitude of ways. As I continue my career as a competitive runner, my first and foremost inspiration came from her. She encouraged the pursuit of every dream I’ve had since my first day of cross-country practice in fourth-grade. Now training and competing professionally, after sixteen plus years of running, I have her and the rest of my family to thank for their love and support. More important than any award or honor I may attain in my running, it has shaped me into what I consider the individual I was meant to be. One of my proudest accomplishments includes that of my mother’s remarks about my grandfather’s presumed gratification in my accomplishments and who I am today. While he never had the opportunity to physically observe the pursuit of my dreams, I know he is still present within my family and me. As I thank my own parents for their love and support, my mother has both of her parents to thank for the necessary tools and strength they have given her to follow her most passionate dreams.
A man’s dream doesn’t necessarily die with his physical self. The friends and families that he affects through his actions and loving support grow to much more than anything he could imagine. The daughter that my grandparents raised has grown into a loving, educated, strong-willed mother and wife. As she has been shown to properly love those who matter most, she has in return taught a small portion of a new generation how to love, pursue their dreams, stand up for their beliefs and much more. Even more importantly, she has helped sculpt her three, once young children into mature, loving adults. And while time is not all that is needed to heal our wounds, the help of those closest to us keep us going strong, pushing forward together. What miniscule footprint we leave on this world once we pass is magnified thousands of times through those that are closest to us.