My first coach, cheerleader

I originally had a post planned about my latest training and parenting breakthroughs.
My thoughts constant return to my first coach and cheerleader — my dad.
One of my earliest memories is of playing in the snow with my father. I remember getting a plastic baseball bat and ball at an early age and playing catch with him.
By all accounts, my dad shouldn’t have been alive. He was born with one functioning kidney and wasn’t expected to make it to his fifth birthday.
Thanks ot faith and modern medicine, he’s now the proud grandparent of my three kids, the husband of my hard-working mother, and the father of myself and two younger siblings who serve in the military.
He taught me to throw a baseball like a boy. I threw a good football pass, and eventually had someone I could practice basketball with.
The baseball throwing eventually led to middle- and high-school careers in basketball and track and field. My specialties were shot put and discus. I loved throwing things far. It was cooler than running, which I loathed at the time, because anyone can run. It takes skills to roll a discus off your finger properly so it soars when you throw it.
In middle school, everyone who participated in a field event also had to run. I did the 400 meters and usually placed close to last. The only time I placed was when my parents watched.
It was a larger field, so we were in two heats — slow people in the first heat, fast runners in the second. I felt good that day and wanted to impress my parents.
I started passing people. Soon I was close enough to the front that even my teammates, who usually teased me for being a shot-putter, started cheering me on. I sped up, passed the last girl in front of me and won my heat.
I ended up in second place, behind the girl who won the second heat. The look on my parents’ faces after the face was one of the most gratifying things I saw in my brief 12 or 13 years. They were proud of me, especially my dad.
As I moved onto high school, I had a hard time taking my decent/good basketball skills from practice to a game. Sure I could make all of my free throws in practice, but I froze during games.
I had a hard time with sports and just wanted to give up. Then my dad gave me the speech I wish I listened to. I’m mentioned it before, but I think I’ll flesh it out more here.
I don’t come from a beautiful family. What we lack in beauty, we make up for by being smart and athletically gifted.
My father was a scholarship-caliber athlete in wrestling and baseball. He was also wicked smart. Back in his days, you couldn’t be both during high school and fit in. He said he lost focus and made decisions that caused him to miss out on those scholarships.
He told me to never give up on my abilities, and continue to work hard, because some day it would pay off.
I ended up moving to a new state for my senior year of high school. Everything I built at my old high school was gone. I finally gained the acceptance of my fellow track and fielders. I had a plaque as the best shot-putter/discus-thrower to prove it.
I rebuilt my senior year. I helped coach the shot put and discus people on what to do as most of them never saw a discus. It wasn’t the same. I lost focus and just did enough to finish my senior year.
My first cheerleader/coach was still there but he now had my younger siblings to tend to.
In November 2012, my husband and I ran a 10K together. My parents were kind enough to endure an hour of watching the kids as we ran through downtown Raleigh, N.C., and the area near my alma mater, N.C. State.
When I finished, I found my dad sitting under a tree with his wide brimmed hat while holding my youngest son, who fell asleep five minutes before I finished.
I couldn’t tell whether he was happy for me. But while talking with him afterward, I saw he had that gleam in his eye from my middle school race. Yep, I still want to make my dad proud.
My father has lived for more than 10 years with the help of a kidney transplant. Without the kidney of a kind donor, my uncle and dad’s brother, my father wouldn’t have been able to for cheer me in 2012. He wouldn’t have seen his first set grandkids.
As I watch my kids run around a track with me or walk to the park, I think of my dad’s speech.
What will my defining role as a parent be? Will I be remembered as the nice woman who bakes cookies, or as the evil witch who eats them all?
What speech will they remember — “Don’t eat the toys,” or “be nice to (fill in blank)”?
Am I setting a proper example? My parents weren’t perfect (no one is), but they set the bar pretty high.
I wish I wasn’t a mountain mamma and lived a bit closer to my immediate family. My kids need some of that love only grandparents can provide. I need that reassurance only a parent gives.
Love you mom and dad.

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