I look down to see my three-year old girl tracing the “Nike” swoosh symbol on my cycling shorts with her finger.
It’s early morning, and I’m getting ready to bike to work. Like every bike day, I wear my LIVESTRONG bike kit and my daughter takes delight in sending me off with her little ‘swoosh’ tradition. She’s been doing so every day since she started talking a couple of years ago – sounding at first like “Thwooth”, and gradually becoming more recognizable as she’s grown. My, what wonderful times.
I reach down and give her a hug and kiss before leaving for work. Aside from my wife, she’s the most adorable girl I know, and wonderful big sister to her nearly one-year-old brother. It’s been a busy family year – and I enjoy these moments with her immensely.
It’s a misty morning in Seattle. On my bike ride to work, I have the luxury of exercise, as well as time for thought and reflection:
Next week I will be landing in Austin, ready to hit tarmac with guns blazing, to participate in the Ride for the Roses weekend. I’m looking forward to reacquainting myself with LIVESTRONG staff and volunteer colleagues that have become my friends through my seven years of involvement with LIVESTRONG – first as a participant, then Mentor, and now as a LIVESTRONG Leader. Most importantly, I look forward to celebrating the hard work and accomplishments of the past year, and also refocus and get re-energized for the next year of volunteerism for LIVESTRONG.
I also think about how LIVESTRONG has become such an important part of my life.
I think about LIVESTRONG. While I’m not a ‘survivor’, LIVESTRONG personally afforded me a cathartic and tangible means to cope with the passing of my father – my hero, my mentor, my friend – due to cancer. During his fight, he didn’t have the means and access to information, support and most importantly, to Hope, which is the core of this organization – and it is this drive for enlightenment to all cancer survivors that has made me champion its cause in my community.
I think about my family. There is an adage: “Behind every great man, there is a great woman.” If that is true, I should by all accounts be a seriously GREAT man. My wife is the pillar of our family, and has supported me through thick and thin. Each year, during the LIVESTRONG Mentor or Leader application process, I wistfully ask my wife if she is OK with me spending another year of evenings and weekends away from our young and growing family - to organize, lead, attend and volunteer at cause-related events, as well as train for rides. Without exception or pause, she replies, “I know that this is important to you. Do it. We’ll figure it out.” I love her with all my heart, even if she doesn’t understand why I need a few new cycling jerseys every year.
“Swoosh!” I look down while I’m pedaling and smile. I feel a certain lightness as I speed through the streets.
This year, I especially think about my kids. Three years ago, the carefree world that my wife and I took for granted came to a wondrous screeching halt with the birth of our daughter, and exploded again with the arrival of our son last October. We’ve never looked back. These kids are our world. Every mushy, drippy, loving bit of it.
When you become a parent, (much as when you are diagnosed I am told), your mortality hits you like a truck: you gain ‘life perspective’, and time is treasured. Every moment with your children is precious, and cherished. You want them to be healthy, and enjoy long, loving, happy lives. Maybe if I’m lucky, they’ll love me as much as I did my father. If I’m lucky, selfishly, I’ll have more time on this earth to spend with them, than I did with my father.
As I think ahead to traveling solo to Austin this year, I know that I will cherish my time you all - my LIVESTRONG family - while keeping my Seattle family in my heart and soul. During the Challenge ride, I will look down at the “I ride for Dad” decal on the top tube of my bike, and gain strength to go faster and further, knowing he is with me in spirit.
I will especially think of my daughter, who will turn three years old the day I ride in Austin – and know that she will understand that her Dad is doing something special, something right, in this crazy world.
Swoosh, my little girl, and Happy Birthday. I’m riding for you.
Daddy loves you. See you soon.