Erik Quinn: The Heart of a Family: CAN

Sunday, November 26, 2006


I thought I would share what Brian and I heard and saw in church today. I tried to write a little about it, but all I can bring myself to say is that by the end of the story and the video, I had tears running down my face, soaking the neck of my blouse. Below is the story and the video. I hope you find it as encouraging as I did.

This weekend I came to the realization that all of the dreams I originally had for Erik are slowly but surely fading into a numb mist. I profoundly mourned the loss of them at the beginning of all of this, but the pain of that loss has subsided greatly day by day. I imagine there will always be pain there. However, there are so many possibilities open to Erik, and I am looking forward to the future with newfound anticipation and hope. When I dared to stop and feel what is in my heart today, I could almost feel the presence of new dreams forming there, the details of which I know are not mine to visualize yet. They are no longer my dreams. Only Erik can show them to me as he grows.



Team Hoyt
Sports Illustrated, by Rick Reilly

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 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 year.

Then somebody said, "Hey, Dick, why not a triathlon?" 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 Day.

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."

Can World's Strongest Dad


Blogger Kerry said...

Thanks, Nance, as I sit here with tears streaming down my face. :) We have nothing to ever complain about, that's for sure.
love -K

4:08 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

There are no words.

Thank you.

8:46 PM  
Blogger Kati said...

Hayyayyyy... tears on my face and pullover...
In these moments I feel that we are lucky... maybe I wouldn't have enough strenght in this situation!

Love, Kati

4:16 AM  
Blogger Amy K said...

Our children will take us on a journey we never would have dared to go, our dreams for them will be bigger than ever before, they will make us stronger than we ever could have imagined.

6:10 AM  
Blogger Aspen said...

I have seen this story too. And yet, it never stops the tears from pouring down every time I watch it.

It’s a beautiful story and an inspiration to anybody that watches it.

Thanks for sharing.

8:44 AM  
Blogger samuru999 said...

As I wipe my tears...
all I can say is...
thank you for sharing this...
and may God bless you!


1:51 PM  
Blogger Teresa & Shawn said...

Beautiful. I hope you don't mind, but I am going to point my readers in your direction to see it.

5:51 PM  
Blogger kathi said...

That is the most amazing story I've ever heard, and I'm crying like a baby as my son and I watched the video. That is what parenting and love is all about. Thank God those parents didn't accept the worlds opinion of their son.
I'm going to borrow this, thank you so much for visiting me and leading me to this.

6:17 AM  
Blogger Leesa said...

What a wonderfully touching story!

6:31 AM  
Blogger taiautumn said...

Seriously Nancy...sweetest thing I've ever seen. Thanks for sharing! I love these kids!

11:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

such a touching story I actually read about them in one of Chris' triathlon mags or saw the story on a Iron man I can not remember...but i love it every time

2:14 PM  

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