This August I realized a dream of mine. It was a dream that started almost 30 years ago but one that I was only able to start working toward three years and three months ago. You see, life, well it got in the way. Sometimes life lives you and sometimes, like this weekend, you live life. It’s a lot more fun living it.
My dream — start, compete, finish a half IRONMAN — although honestly anything that involves a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike and a 13.1-mile run, shouldn’t be considered half of anything. Like many who compete in IRONMAN events I was expecting to find something at the finish line. Not sure what, but something, and I did, just not something I ever expected.
What I found was the person I was trying to become, is the person I’ve been; I was in there all along. I had a dream, I set a goal and I made it. But … there was something else.
In many ways finishing means little for the thing I was hoping to find: the answer, the life-changing moment, well that was not found for the dream I really wanted to happen, the life-changing moment I want, isn’t so much to finish a triathlon but to finish the war waged on so many but such a nasty foe. That dream, to end multiple sclerosis. To find the cure at the finish line.
I don’t have the disease but know many who do. I’ve walked with them on MS Challenge walks trying to raise money and awareness to win the war. It’s my way of impacting life. When life impacts you, do something and impact it back. MS impacted my life or more so my dad’s. He had the disease and while he lost his battle many years ago, please know that with each swim, bike and run, we’re here trying to win this war.
Growing up I knew he was a different kind of dad in more ways than I can explain. He couldn’t teach me to ride a bike or play catch but he could be proud, he could support and he could love, and maybe that’s all we need growing up. But … there’s more to it than that. What I’ve learned is that this disease took from him who he was and who he wanted to be. I am lucky I crossed the finish line but he never could. He could never be the person he wanted to be and never find the answer he was looking for. You see life got in the way and it lived him rather than the other way around; MS saw to that.
While I rejoiced in crossing my finish line I couldn’t help but to be taken back to a memory that stays with me. It’s what I thought about when my daughter and wife congratulated me. I was 10 or 11 years old and my dad was running late getting home from work. He was to take me to my baseball game and I was to be the starting pitcher. Being late and rushing is not something my dad liked. Worse yet it meant parking further from the field, and walking was not his friend. When you see double and triple, don’t know where your feet are, can’t balance, it’s not fun walking a couple of hundred yards to sit in the bleachers.
Being late he told me to go ahead, you see usually he held on to my shoulder for balance or my mom would help him, but no mom that day and all he had was my shoulder. I knew if I ran ahead he would fall several times, so I walked with him. I could hear my coaches yelling for me to run ahead, even a player came out to try and drag me there. I was supposed to pitch but I couldn’t leave my dad. Finally, about 30 feet from the foul line they managed to drag me around the backstop and that’s when I heard from a woman in the stands, “Such shame, he’s such a good boy to have a drunk for a father.” You see no one really knew my dad had a disease and I was upset for what she thought, what she said. For he was my dad and did for me the things that mattered the most.
I threw that day as hard as I could, still upset. Crossing that finish line at an IRONMAN event, I found that anger; you see I am still upset. Upset that this disease is robbing so many of so much. I know the progress that’s been made but, it’s not enough and we’ll find another triathlon to compete in, in hopes that this time we’ll cross a different kind of finish line. One where we find the answer to my dream, an end to MS. So please keep fighting your battle and know that we’re here trying to help with this war. We call ourselves Team RKO. Fighting MS one step at a time. Hoping to raise money and awareness and hoping that those who see the back of our shirts or jerseys understand the six words you’ll find, “While we live, Let us LIVE!”
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