In high school, I was a swimmer. First and foremost, I swam. I put more time and effort into the pool than I put anywhere else. I'd love to tell you that I was a great student and worked hard in school, but that would be a lie. The numbers don't lie. I swam anywhere from 1 1/2 to 3 hours a day Monday-Saturday not including meets that would last whole weekends. I didn't put anywhere near that amount of time and effort into getting good grades or excelling academically. I did well enough at school pretty easily. But I had to work hard to do well in the pool. Objectively, I was an okay swimmer; middling really, and it took a lot of effort for me to do as well as I did. I didn't do well enough to be recruited by any colleges, but I didn't realize that was going to be the case until it was too late for me to do anything about it. So I swam all through high school and into the summer after I graduated, without being anything close to a star athlete.
I'm not entirely sure how my dad, who was a star athlete, felt about having an oldest son who he literally had to teach, step-by-step, how to run, throw a baseball, and catch a football. Even after all his efforts, it was pretty obvious to just about everyone that I was never going be a star of baseball, football or soccer. I quit baseball after 5th grade, and soccer soon followed. I never played a down of organized football. That my father never let on that he was even slightly disappointed is to his everlasting credit and I am more grateful for that than he may ever know.
Instead, all I knew was that my father and my mother were completely invested in our (my brothers, sister and my) lives as swimmers. And as unimpressive as I was on an objective level, my dad was totally behind me. Over the years, I have carried a sort of token of his support around with me wherever I have lived. My senior year in high school, I finally qualified for Eastern Zone Championships. To give you an idea of how unimpressive that was, my younger brother qualified for the exact same Eastern Zone Championships, and he was in 8th grade at the time (he was a much more gifted swimmer). I brought home a few medals from that meet and another middle-level championship meet that year, and as a surprise, my father mounted and framed them for me as though they were Olympic Gold. He did not have them mounted and framed; he did it himself. I'm not sure I appreciated it at the time. I lived in a dorm and don't think I hung them up until I had graduated college. But I kept those framed medals, and have hung them in every place I have lived since then.
Those framed medals traveled with me from Centreville, VA, to Washington, DC, to New Haven and Middletown, CT and back to DC. After 15 years of being moved and re-hung, the mounting has had enough. It basically fell apart. I now still have the medals and the frame stored neatly away, but I doubt they will ever go up on a wall again. Even the frame barely holds together. But every time I look at it, I think about my dad and how much he supported an awkward, slightly weird, middling-level swimmer of an oldest son. I appreciate him every time I think about it, and although I may need to relieve my closet of that frame, I want to keep that memory somewhere in my brain for the rest of my life.