Thanks Mom and Dad

For my column in today's newspaper, I interviewed a four-time Olympic gold medalist. She is an amazing, lifelong swimmer, who was considered an "elite athlete" by the age of 11.

Her parents didn't attend a single one of her swim meets.

They found her embarrassing — their daughter, the athlete. Their daughter, who would rather try to keep up with her four brothers than play house with the neighborhood girls. Their daughter, who could have taken advantage of a full scholarship to Vanderbilt if only her father would have signed the acceptance letter. Their daughter, who was accepted to medical school and law school but was told by her father that she could marry a doctor or lawyer, not become one.

Their daughter, who buried all four gold medals with her parents. Two in each casket.

She giggled as she told me she imagines them hanging from chains like that ghost Jacob Marley who haunts Ebenezer Scrooge. This probably makes her sound a bit evil, but she really isn't. She said that burying those medals freed her from a whole heap of resentment, and she was able to forgive and say goodbye.

As I listened to her story all I could think was how my parents would fly to the end of the earth, take out a second (or third) mortgage on their home if need be, to see me compete in anything that was that important to me. They raised me to believe that women are powerful, and that my dreams are not just attainable, they're acceptable.

Jill — the swimmer, the athlete, the embarrassment — is now battling stage 4 cancer. May God bless her.

And thanks, Mom and Dad.


BookEnds, LLC said...

Kim sent this along to me so I had to comment. What a horribly sad story. I too feel very lucky to have parents who sat through countless volleyball games (while I sat on the bench), endless plays (and I really mean endless) and did probably one of the hardest things a parent can do. Encouraged me to move thousands of miles away because they knew it meant following my dreams.

Great, great post!


Kim said...

There you go making me weep again. Great post and great article.

P.S. -- Don't tell her I told you, but I read it to my mom and she cried too.

Robyn said...

Aww, shucks. :) You read what to your mom - the post or the column?

Amy said...

wow -- every day we realize how lucky we really are, despite the challenges we face. thanks for sharing.