Friday, September 7, 2012

A love letter to my Iron Support Crew

This week has been a huge week of reflection for me. Reflection on the choices in my life which have brought me to this point.

We, as human beings, make decisions every day, some of them are good and some of them are very bad. No matter what we are not free of the consequences of our actions.

We make every day decisions - what to wear, what to eat, whether or not to exercise. We make life decisions - to get married, to have a baby, or to buy a home.

Sometimes we are not truly conscience of some of our decisions and what impact they have on our lives. Time slips by and suddenly you become aware of where you are and have to decide if you like it or not.

20 years ago my life was changed forever. While I was living in Chicago, my brother-in-law was killed. As a result, I moved back to Rochester to start a life with my sister and help her out with her three young children, one of which is my partner in crime, Cheryl.

My move home shut one door and yet opened another. I settled into a life of helping my sister adjust to her life without a life partner and while I would do anything to bring Steve back to us all, I can't change it. Just as I can't change the impact it had on my life.

When I moved home, I met this young, quiet young man who liked to hunt and to fish and he was so incredibly NICE. I mean nice. The kind of man I pray my daughters marry some day. When Jeff said I love you for the first time it took me by surprise. I wasn't sure I was ready to hear those words, but once I thought about it, I knew no one was ever going to treat me better than he did. He made me his number one priority and that, my friends, is a very good feeling.
Our Wedding Day

We were married on November 6, 1993 and immediately moved to Milwaukee, WI to start our life together. We bought our first home there. We had our first child there. But the need to be closer to our families brought us back to Central Illinois.

In 2001, I was pregnant with our 3rd child and watching my mom's health beginning to fail. Jeff thankfully agreed to let me become a stay at home mom knowing full well I would be devoting a lot of my time to my parents in Rochester. While dealing with my mom's health issues, my dad completely ignored his own. Instead of having one parent with failing health, we now had two. My mom passed away in May of 2004 followed by my dad's passing, as he predicted it would be, 10 months later in March of 2005. Throughout that entire period, my dear husband never once questioned the amount of time I spent with my family back home or the amount of money we were laying out for gas  as I traveled back and forth. I cannot thank him enough for that.

In 2007, we moved into our newly constructed home. I know many people say that building a home can be tough on a marriage, but that was not the case for us. I'm sure I drove Jeff crazy with some of my ideas and plans, pushing against the construction budget, but again he was my rock and always provided sound logic whenever I argued for or against something.

When we found out my mom was not going to get a liver transplant, I'll never forget her words. "I have so much more life to live." I've carried that with me always. I did not want to follow in my mom's footsteps and have regrets during the final days of my life. I was determined to live life to the fullest and see as much of the world as possible.

At the 2009 WDW Food & Wine Festival
I've always said I don't need fancy houses or cars, but memories are things that I want to carry with me always. Jeff & I agreed to make vacations...time spent with each other and with our kids...a priority. I wanted to create positive memories for my children like I had. Memories of vacations. Being the 8th child of 9, I felt vacations were the only time I got 100% of my parents' full attention. As a result, we have traveled...a lot. Mazatlan, Mexico. Disney numerous times. Daytona Beach. Cruises. We've been blessed to be able to travel with great friends and create memories with our children. 

On our 2012 Cruise 

Why am I rambling about all of this? Because again, I have had a full week of reflection after completing my Ironman. Time to reflect on the choices in my life and their consequences. Time to be thankful that I have a life partner who sacrifices so much to allow me to achieve my dreams.

Abby & Jeff at IMLOU 8/26/12
The process to become an Ironman can be a difficult one for everyone involved. My husband never questioned my need for new gear, or a weekend in L'ville to train. He took his own bike apart and sent a wheel home with Cheryl to practice changing a tube. When her cadence sensor fell off, he removed his from his bike and sent it with me to make sure Cheryl had the peace of mind of having all of the equipment necessary for her to be successful on race day.

On race day, he walked down with me to transition, taking care of my nutrition mishap. As much as I was worried about it, I knew if anyone could make it right it would be Jeff. He is always calm and logical. People respond to him well. I knew he would find a way, one way or another, to make sure I had what I needed for my bike.

When completing any difficult journey, the most important moments are those spent with your loved ones. On race day, it was comforting to know that  my family was out there, waiting to see me and would give me the boost I needed to take the next step. More important for me was seeing the look of absolute confidence Jeff held from the moment I said I wanted to do an Ironman until the moment I crossed the line. Part of this journey has been a struggle. I was filled with doubt when I struggled during my Olympic swim. I was ready to give up my Ironman dream, but Jeff just shook his head. He knew I wouldn't walk away and his confidence in my ability to overcome my demons made me lift my own expectations of myself.

Jeff & I in T2

While I was off doing my run, my husband waited patiently for Cheryl. He walked 4 miles with her as he talked her through what it would take to finish before midnight. She was convinced she was not going to make it because at mile 125 of the day, your brain just doesn't do math very well. Instead, Jeff walked her through the math problem calculating her miles left and pace required to finish. Suddenly, Cheryl's whole attitude changed as she listened to her Uncle Jeff provide a logical plan for completing her Ironman.

A sweaty kiss for my love
After Cheryl & I both crossed the finish line, Jeff did what he does best. He took care of us. Our bikes and gear needed to be cleared from the transition area by 12:30 am. Because everyone else was concerned about Cheryl, we all went to medical. Jeff did what needed to be done. He went to transition, grabbed my Dolce and gear bags and chugged them back to his hotel room. Then repeated that as he gathered Cheryl's things as well.

Once, a very long time ago, Steve's mom said she wished she could understand why he had to die. Unfortunately, with all of these type of situations, there is not a good answer. But I did have a response which I believe may have helped.
I don't know why Steve had to die and if I could bring him back, I would, but the one positive thing that came out of Steve's death is that I met Jeff and I now have three beautiful daughters. 
Steve's mom smiled. I know those words can't really soothe a mom's broken heart, but she, like most people I know, love Jeff. She even told me once she considered him her 3rd son. A tough pill for me to swallow considering her two sons married two of my sisters. I thought she would say that I was like her 3rd daughter, but as I said it's hard not to love someone who provides you so much comfort and support.

There is nothing I can do to thank my dear, sweet husband enough for being my rock not only in the last 9 months, but over the last 20 years. He allowed me to dream and he helped me make that dream a reality.

Thank you, my dear Iron Support Crew, and I love you.

No comments:

Post a Comment