I heard it first from my mother growing up and I have carried it with me since. Being in the epicenter of my own earthquake, I don’t always see much beyond the destruction and chaos and carry enormous fear of the impending aftershocks. I am reminded that somewhere past the dust and debris I will see that like all previous events, experiences not only shape you, but provide necessary tools to cope even when you think you don’t have them. Events don’t happen without people, and those people are what shape you.
I am an only child. That simply says a lot. I was fortunate and am grateful to have been exposed by my parents at an early age to everything from art and cuisine to travel, culture and fascinating people. My mother, profoundly creative and always looking for an adventure, long ago recognized a spontaneous creative spirit in me and provided the freedom to express it, and has offered incredible support over the years. Being the daughter of an athletic father, sports were another fixture in my life. My being an athlete was the common ground that I shared with my father. Beyond that, we really did not truly understand each other until I was nearly finished with college.
My father, the youngest of three children, grew up Irish-Catholic without much in the material sense in Boston. He had a father who went to Dartmouth and a mother who graduated from Bates before she was 20, spoke 4 languages fluently and then lost it all to Alzheimer’s. My father played in the Little League World Series; was drafted as a catcher by the Detroit Tigers out of high school but chose to play college hockey at St. Xavier in Nova Scotia; lost all his front teeth playing the splendid sport and then humbly went home to Boston after two years playing too much hockey and not too much school work. He turned it around and graduated from Boston University undergrad and grad, settled down, had a family and used all of this as the basis for teaching me about adversity, respect, persistence, attitude and pain.
Having spent hundreds of hours in ice rinks with my father growing up, I was desperate to play hockey. He would have nothing to do with it. His daughter was not going to grow up to resent him for the scar on her face from the stick or skate blade she would inevitably take to the face. There was no negotiating, it was not to be my sport. Yet, imagine my surprise when he agreed to take me to sign up for co-ed lacrosse in 8th grade. It was really boys lacrosse, but since our town had no girls league, they allowed girls to sign up. There were only about 5 of us who played in the whole league. To be honest, I had no idea of what I was really getting myself into, it seemed like a cool sport. However, I know now my father knew exactly what I was signing up for. This was full equipment, full contact, deck your ass on the ground and knock your lights out, welts the size of large fruit from balls rebounding off your body, and a challenge.
Years later, setting aside the physically brutal part of it, those fields were a learning experience in persistence, earned respect and strength of spirit. So at games, while my mother stood part gasping and shielding her eyes, my dad stood quietly next to her with a slight grin and twinkle in his eye; life lessons were being taught.
Never give up.
Always keep your head up.
Hit your adversary squarely with 110%.
Work past the pain.
Never expect someone to cover your ass if you don’t cover theirs.
Respect is earned, worked and fought for.
Take a deep breath, pick yourself up and do it all over again.