Sitting on my back deck tonight, I’ve finally made myself sit down and write a post I’ve been putting off for a long time. 18 years ago tonight, my wife and I went to bed like we had many times, but it would be the last time it was just the two of us. As my wife showered prior to a doctor appointment the next morning, her water broke. By 3:30 that afternoon, my life was forever changed, as Alex Christopher came into our lives.
I’d planned to write this post before his graduation in May. I couldn’t ever make myself do it. A part of me wants to put it off until he leaves for college in about 5 weeks. I know in my heart I’m just putting off the inevitable. I know there are thoughts I want to put down because a part of me worries that I haven’t told him all I want to tell him before I send him out as an adult. At the same time, I know he is so ready for the next phase of life. That being said, this post is for you, Alex. In it, I want to share some of my favorite memories and then a few pieces of advice. I hope you take them all with a grain of salt, knowing that many of these may make more sense a few years from now than they do today.
It’s hard for me to list just a few memories, there are so many good ones. I’ll try to share a few that stand out to me, and I hope they are good ones for you, too.
1) Learning to ride your bike in the church parking lot. You were not what one would call a “daredevil”, but you kept at it and became more confident with practice. Your sister was not so cautious, and I can remember rides with you calling out to her to slow down and not go so fast. I like how you still look out for her to this day.
2) For this one I’ll combine a few, as the theme of the memories are similar. They are the first times I saw a competitive “fight” in you during athletic competitions. I’ll always remember a baseball game in King City in which you pitched in a close game and got a big strikeout, and you pumping your fist as you came off. I can see it like it was yesterday. I also remember a summer swim meet in Kansas City when you were probably 11 or 12 and you won the 100 IM and almost puked afterwards. Or the time you tied for the last finals spot at KC Center and had to do a swim off, only to be beaten by .01. I saw you push through tough times in all of those situations, and I believe you got important life lessons out of sports in those instances. I loved watching you compete.
3) In 8th grade, you decided to do the play instead of track. I can’t remember the name of your character, but I got to see a whole different side of you as you played that part. It was cool to see the young man you were becoming and I just remember being really proud of you.
4) I could list so many swim memories- probably because we spent so many hours with you at meets. A few stand out in my mind. Your day at Mizzou your senior year was such an awesome day. It was a testament to your years of hard work and it was amazing to watch you compete at such a high level. I’m so glad Mom took that picture of me talking to you over the rail at the end of the meet.It’s one of my favorite pictures ever of us, and I’ll always cherish it.
Seeing you break the school record at Henley and the look on your face. Priceless.
And last but certainly not least, watching you at State your senior year. Watching you process the finality of it all, while I was trying to do the same. Swim has given us so many good memories, and you take with you that ability to focus and work hard towards a goal. I’m thankful you found that outlet for your talents.
5) The variety show your senior year. If you had told me your freshman year that by your senior year you would be singing a solo and playing the piano, I would have been skeptical. You have grown in both talent and confidence as a singer, and I’m so glad you have had that creative “place” to share those. I love that your stress reliever is to play the piano in your room. That’s how your Grandpa Sigrist used to “wind down”, as well. It’s cool for me to see that pass on to the next generation.
6) Graduation. I’ve never been prouder to be your Dad. Being able to give you diploma to you was one of the moments in my life I will always cherish the most. Thank your for being such a fine example of a scholar-athlete and representing yourself, your school, and your family in such an outstanding way. Thank you for letting me be part of that special day.
While those are great memories, I feel that on the day you can legally buy cigarettes (I suggest NEVER) and lottery tickets (I suggest great moderation) and can vote (pick the best candidate, not the party), I should give you a few pieces of advice that I hope you take with you to college and on into life.
8) Be nice to people. This seems simple, but so many people seem to struggle with this in life. John Wooden said something along the lines of you can never have a perfect day unless you have done something for someone who can never repay you. Be nice, it’s a disappearing skill. It really does come back to you.
7) Read. Read as an escape. Read to improve yourself. There are so many great authors (Wooden would be on that list) that can help give you perspective on life. I know it will be tough in college, but incorporate it into your life beyond school.
6) Call your Mom. Or text her. Not a lot, but once in awhile. While we know you don’t need us, we still WANT to be needed. This advice is the same whether you are 18 or 28 or 50.
5) Always love your sister. I’m so happy that you two have such a close relationship. Work to keep it that way. Some day Mom and I will be gone and it will be up to you two to tell the stories of how we did something goofy or just recall a good memory. You will need each other some day. It may be just to talk to someone that isn’t your parent or colleague, or it may be to decide what to do with Mom or Dad’s living arrangements. You will need each other. Love her. Always.
4) Find a girl who loves you as much as your Mom and I love each other. I know you’ve heard my mantra about the two most important choices in life: what you do for a paycheck and who you spend your life with. I’m not worried about that first one for you, you are going to have lots of options. Number two may be even more important. I hope we’ve been a good example for you of a loving family. That being said, there is NO hurry to find that girl. God will help you with that. That leads me to number 3.
3) Go to church. Regularly. Don’t just be a “C and E (Christmas and Easter)”, but be there way more often than not. This may be even more important during college, when it may not be so easy to do, especially if your roommates are all sleeping in on Sunday. It’s vital to nourish your spiritual life as well as your physical life. Speaking of your physical life, let’s look at number 2.
2) Take care of your body. Do not let yourself get out of shape. It’s not feasible to stay in the condition you have been in for the last several years while swimming, but it’s important to keep those good habits of regular exercise so you don’t gain the infamous “Freshman 15″ or whatever it is these days. This may sound trite, but those habits you form now will be lifelong. Take a look at the health of your ancestors. Do what you can so you can be healthier than all of us.
1) Go to class. These last 3 are especially geared towards your time in college. If you forget all the others, please remember these. I purposely tried to keep them simple. I really do believe if you follow those 3, all other things in college will fall in line.
Enough with the advice. You are ready for anything, and I’m confident you are going on to do great things. I can’t begin to describe how much I’m going to miss you. Recently, we all watched a movie one night (one of my favorite things to do with you), and I tweeted about how I knew there weren’t many days left like that. A friend who has gone through this stage told me that those days still happen and they are even cooler because the relationship evolves to something different. That being said, I will miss my “boy”, but look forward to watching the man you are going to be. Even if you aren’t my “boy”, I’ll always be your Dad and just a phone call or text away. I love you.