I grew up in a home shared by my parents and my grandparents. We didn’t know it was an extended family. It was just the way it was. My grandparents were in their 50’s when I was born and, growing up, I thought that they were very, VERY old. And they were.
My grandfather shared his wisdom in short, pithy, statements of fact. His three favorites, and these three covered nearly every imaginable situation were; “things happen”, “people are funny”, and “what’s done is done.”
Examples: Plane crash? Things happen. Man wants to marry his dog? People are funny. I didn’t study for my history test and failed? What’s done is done. He was not a man who wasted time on contemplation and reflection.
Being a grandfather myself I wonder what messages I’m sending to MY grandchildren. I wonder what they will remember when they think about the time we’ve spent together. I wonder what they will learn from me.
What I hope they learn is that life needs to be lived, not feared. When I stood at the starting line of my first race it wasn’t the distance that frightened me. As I’ve written, the miracle wouldn’t be that I finished, the miracle was that I had the courage to start. The fear was that I would be called out as an imposter, as a non-athletic interloper in a field of runners. It wasn’t a fear of failing. It was a fear of being found out.
What I hope they learn is that if you wait for the right moment to do anything you will never do anything. When I stood in a cold lake at the start of my first triathlon I had gone to the pool exactly twice before the race. The funny part is that even with years of training I never got that much better at swimming than I was then. If I had waited until I got “good enough” I would never have gotten good enough.
What I hope they learn is that the real joy is NOT in achieving a goal but it setting goals and trying to achieve them. When I decided to run my first marathon I spent months preparing. Every day of anticipation was a good day, whether I was training or not. I had set a goal and with every step I was getting closer to achieving it. The last 26.2 miles were just that; the last 26.2 miles. And when I crossed that first marathon finish line my joy came not from that success but in believing that there were other goals that I could set and achieve.
My most vivid memory of my grandfather is him sitting at a small table in the basement kitchen area eating an Italian sausage and peppers sandwich on my grandmother’s homemade bread. I hope the most vivid memory my grandchildren have of me is not of me sitting still.
What I hope they learn is that the best life is an active life. Being active, whatever that means, is the key to discovering a world beyond ourselves. Whether we walk, run, pedal, or paddle, we can discover all by ourselves what’s just over the horizon.
Waddle on, friends.
An Accidental Athlete is available in print and ebooks versions now. BUY THE BOOK
What others are saying: I laughed, I cried, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I could identify with so many of John’s experiences. While some may view slower runners like myself with disdain, John made me proud to be out there. I run for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and I have seen John speak at many of their events. He is a very entertaining speaker as well as writer. John is an inspiration to many people who never thought they could ever step up to a starting line let alone cross a finish line. – Lynn Nelson on Amazon.com