I guess it’s obvious, based on my last post and this one, that I’m doing some reminiscing. It’s too easy to forget about what we’ve done and have experienced in the past, even though this is what has made us who we are. Not only to remember the good times and get re-stoked, but to remember the hard times we have struggled through. Isn’t there some quote about hard people coming out of hard times?
My Great Uncle died last week. And as someone who never knew my grandfathers, he was a grandfather to me. And since he lived here in California I’ve seen him more over the previous 6 years than I have my own father. I stayed with him when I raced my first serious triathlon in 2006 and he came to the finish. As a stubbornly independent person I never asked him to come- or even considered that he might. But he did. Even though we are blood he didn’t know much about me outside of being a traveler who shunned work and authority. But finishing that race seemed to prove to him that I could work hard at something and do well. I earned his respect. That quality- forcing people to earn your respect- is something I hold very dear. Maybe it’s the New York in me, but I don’t think there is enough of that in the world and it made me proud to earn the respect of someone I look up to.
Even in his last days he was super coherent and intellectually above most people I communicate with. He forced me to think about every word I said as I knew it could be challenged or need to be justified. Another solid trait- not letting people get away with bullshit. He also had a giant TV, the first HD one I had ever seen, and we’d watch nature shows. One time surfing came on and we talked about my cousin’s husband and their surf shop. He told me that he had never understood ‘extreme’ sports until he saw this (and again, showed admiration and pride in his family members not only surfing but having the know-how to open a successful shop). He articulated in a way I never could how he ‘got it’ and riding a wave through an ocean appeared to be the most beautiful experience in the world.
When someone close to you dies the lesson is obvious: life is short and there’s no guarantee how long it will last. It’s all very cliche, but what would you do knowing you would die soon? I’m a committed procrastinator so the ‘get out and do it!’ lesson is for me as much as it is for you.
My Uncle Bob’s admiration of surfing touched me. I’d tell myself, ‘I need to try and surf some more’ but there were always things in the way. Well, those things are what is between me and living life. I’m going surfing Tuesday morning, two days after his memorial. I can’t think of anything that would be more important, or more fun. Thank you, Uncle Bob.