The first time that I was ever "published" was centered around an event when my son was injured and needed surgery at the age of two. I've been through a lot in my life, but nothing ever like that terrible night in 2003. We were at Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago - a phenomenal organization. I remember asking our amazing nurse if she went home and drank herself numb every night because I couldn't understand how someone could be that strong and not need a crutch. My wife, at one point, thought we should set her up with one of my friends. I thought about it, and then said, "None of them are good enough for her." (Sorry guys)
I wrote a letter about my experience feeling helpless as father and asked for support for Children's Memorial Hospital. It was published by a major Chicago paper on Father's Day. And my son was fine a few days after our visit. I remember thinking about all of the parents at the hospital who's sons and daughters had bigger problems than we faced. Parents will be strong because they have to be strong. But exactly how strong can one dad be?
So, this brings us to the world's strongest dad - a father among fathers. Ron sends this story from Sports Illustrated's Rick Reilly about Dick and Rick Hoyt (Dick is a retired Air National Guard Lieutenant Colonel). It's a great story about a father and son who saved each other. It's been making the email rounds and I thought it would be a great story to read before the weekend:
Strongest Dad in the World
Sports Illustrated Issue date: June 20, 2005, p. 88
I try to be a good father. Give my kids mulligans. Work
nights to pay for their text messaging. Take them to swimsuit shoots.
But compared with Dick Hoyt, I'm suck.
Eighty-five times he's pushed his disabled son, Rick, 26.2
miles in marathons. Eight times he's not only pushed him 26.2 miles in a
wheelchair but also towed him 2.4 miles in a dinghy while swimming and pedaled
him 112 miles in a seat on the handlebars -- all in the same day.
Dick's also pulled him cross-country skiing, taken him on
his back mountain climbing and once hauled him across the U.S. on a bike. Makes
taking your son bowling look a little lame, right?
And what has Rick done for his father? Not much -- except
save his life.
This love story began in Winchester, Mass., 43 years ago,
when Rick was strangled by the umbilical cord during birth, leaving him
brain-damaged and unable to control his limbs.
"He'll be a vegetable the rest of his life," Dick
says doctors told him and his wife, Judy, when Rick was nine months old.
"Put him in an institution."
But the Hoyts weren't buying it. They noticed the way Rick's
eyes followed them around the room. When Rick was 11 they took him to the
engineering department at Tufts University and asked if there was anything to
help the boy communicate. "No way," Dick says he was told.
"There's nothing going on in his brain."
"Tell him a joke," Dick countered. They did. Rick
laughed. Turns out a lot was going on in his brain.
Rigged up with a computer that allowed him to control the
cursor by touching a switch with the side of his head, Rick was finally able to
communicate. First words? "Go Bruins!" And after a high school
classmate was paralyzed in an accident and the school organized a charity run
for him, Rick pecked out, "Dad, I want to do that."
Yeah, right. How was Dick, a self-described
"porker" who never ran more than a mile at a time, going to push his
son five miles? Still, he tried. "Then it was me who was
handicapped," Dick says. "I was sore for two weeks."
That day changed Rick's life. "Dad," he typed,
"when we were running, it felt like I wasn't disabled anymore!"
And that sentence changed Dick's life. He became obsessed
with giving Rick that feeling as often as he could. He got into such hard-belly
shape that he and Rick were ready to try the 1979 Boston Marathon.
"No way," Dick was told by a race official. The
Hoyts weren't quite a single runner, and they weren't quite a wheelchair
competitor. For a few years Dick and Rick just joined the massive field and ran
anyway, then they found a way to get into the race officially: In 1983 they ran
another marathon so fast they made the qualifying time for Boston the following
Then somebody said, "Hey, Dick, why not a
How's a guy who never learned to swim and hadn't ridden a
bike since he was six going to haul his 110-pound kid through a triathlon?
Still, Dick tried.
Now they've done 212 triathlons, including four grueling
15-hour Ironmans in Hawaii. It must be a buzzkill to be a 25-year-old stud
getting passed by an old guy towing a grown man in a dinghy, don't you think?
Hey, Dick, why not see how you'd do on your own? "No
way," he says. Dick does it purely for "the awesome feeling" he
gets seeing Rick with a cantaloupe smile as they run, swim and ride together.
This year, at ages 65 and 43, Dick and Rick finished their
24th Boston Marathon, in 5,083rd place out of more than 20,000 starters. Their
best time? Two hours, 40 minutes in 1992 -- only 35 minutes off the world
record, which, in case you don't keep track of these things, happens to be held
by a guy who was not pushing another man in a wheelchair at the time.
"No question about it," Rick types. "My dad
is the Father of the Century."
And Dick got something else out of all this too. Two years
ago he had a mild heart attack during a race. Doctors found that one of his
arteries was 95% clogged. "If you hadn't been in such great shape,"
one doctor told him, "you probably would've died 15 years ago."
So, in a way, Dick and Rick saved each other's life.
Rick, who has his own apartment (he gets home care) and
works in Boston, and Dick, retired from the military and living in Holland,
Mass., always find ways to be together. They give speeches around the country
and compete in some backbreaking race every weekend, including this Father's
That night, Rick will buy his dad dinner, but the thing he
really wants to give him is a gift he can never buy.
"The thing I'd most like," Rick types,
"is that my dad sit in the chair and I push him once."