Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanks for the influence!

This year for Thanksgiving I'm reminded of the people who were big influences on my life when I was younger.  I have a large family, my parents are both alive and still married.  I still have both grandmothers and lots of aunts, uncles, and cousins that I'm very close to.  Those influences are obvious.  I learned how to be a man of integrity by watching my father in his business dealings, and how to treat other people by watching my mother selflessly celebrating others' accomplishments or milestones with joy.

I also became very close with a handful of teachers in high school and college, all music teachers.  The point of this post is to thank them now, because one of them passed away suddenly over the weekend.  It is very sad, and I'm still kind of in shock.

My high school chorus teacher is incredibly fun.  She was the only teacher we regularly addressed by her first name, Jane.  Her first year teaching at the high school was my freshman year, so I started there 3 days before she did.  Over the years I ended up abandoning my locker and using a cubby in a cabinet in the chorus room instead, just so I'd have a good excuse to go in there between every class.  I was president of the Concert Choir my senior year and led rehearsals when she was absent; wielding even more power than the student teacher who became my accompanist.  I got to know her kids, now she has grandchildren, went to her house a lot, and we used to lead trips out of town with the chorus.  We always had a blast, and I learned how to have fun and enjoy living in the moment with her.  She's going to retire at the end of the school year, and it is well deserved.

Lindsay O'Rear was the minister of music at my church growing up.  He is an incredible musician, retired several years ago, and still keeps a garden at the church with my mother.  His kids are a few years older than me, but we stay in touch too on facebook.  He taught me how to determine what's really important and how to hold it with reverence.  He knew all of the "don't sweat the small stuff" theories 20 years before the books came out.  Again the church choirs used to travel every summer, we used to get into trouble and he would bail us out.  Church trips were always so much fun.

Michael Rice was my voice teacher at the Fine Arts Center, a magnet school I went to senior year for voice lessons and an AP Music Theory class.  That's when I decided to be a music major in college.  Mr. Rice is still the most incredible pianist I've ever seen, and we became quite close as friends during and after that year.  He was the accompanist for the Greenville Chorale for 13 years, so he was always getting tickets to events at the Peace Center for things like the Greenville Symphony or traveling Broadway musicals.  Sometimes they were box seats, sometimes I'd bring a date, sometimes it was just me and him or a handful of other students.  One time we even went to Atlanta to see The Secret Garden, just the two of us.  That was a really special memory.  Sometimes when I would come home from college on the weekends I would sneak in to watch his last class for the day and visit some after school.  When I was pledging my fraternity I found out that he also pledged the same fraternity when he was at Furman.  He always smiled and had a graceful joy that was infectious.  You just had to like the guy, there was no other option.  He traveled by himself most of the summer, and learned the language for wherever he was going to travel to before he got there.  His favorite word in any language (also my favorite word) is the swedish word for strawberry.  Google it if you need too.  I'll pronounce it for you if you ask me in person.  He gave me optimism and the habit of being open minded, and my love for languages.  I still have "learn to speak" cd's in my car for italian, german, and french thanks to him.  Michael Rice died suddenly on Saturday, he was only 58 years old. 


On another sad note; one of Kelley's aunts has been fighting leukemia since april and is about to lose the battle.  She knows that she only has a few days left, but is still quite lucid and able to sit up and talk to you.  We went to visit her in the hospital monday night and she was laughing and telling stories, then watching DWTS.  Cancer is such a strange thing.  Your body makes it, and it will attack and destroy everything else inside the body but it can leave the mind totally intact like that.  She's one of Kelley's mom's sisters, and we are all very close.  They are the only other branch of the family that lives in NC, and being closer to them is a big reason we wanted to move here from Greenville in the first place. 

I do a lot of races to support cancer charities, and most of my family that we've lost has been to cancer.  It's the biggest reason I try to maintain and promote a healthy lifestyle.  If you treat your body right, maintain a healthy weight, and exercise regularly the body has no reason to produce cancer.  Losing someone else that I care about this much to a disease that I hate this much is difficult to put it mildly. 

When I finished the Ironman, Kelley's mom was watching the live feed from the internet.  She had Aunt Johnnie on the phone for the feed.  So from her hospital bed, Johnnie heard the guy call out "John Flynn you are an ironman" and was proud of something I did.  You can't buy that kind of support.  And now I feel like there's nothing else I can do for her.  It's going to be a tough holiday season this year.

Speaking of weight and a healthy lifestyle, I've put on all of the pre-ironman weight again.  10 lbs in 2 weeks have come right back.  Looks like I'm going to have to start watching my intake again pretty soon.  A racing weight isn't supposed to be maintained after the race is over, so I'm ok. But I do want to stay around 175 lbs, that is maintainable.  Race weight was closer to 165.  I blame the halloween candy and chicken wings that I have been enjoying liberally. 

I also got back in the pool last night!  RAM practice felt good, I took it kind of easy without really trying to push the speed or endurance too far.  My ankles really hurt doing a flutter kick.  I guess Ironman really knocks all the joints loose.  The pools are all closed for Thanksgiving, so I can't swim again until next tuesday, so the ankles should feel better by then.  They haven't bothered me while running or biking.  You wouldn't expect to find an ankle problem in the pool.

Enjoy the thanksgiving holiday!


Wes said...

happy Thanksgiving to you and our family, brother.

Viper said...

Have a great Turkey Day. Cheers!

Hugh Jass said...

That's terrible about your aunt. It's great to hear that she's in good spirits though. My grandpa was really upbeat all the way to end of his cancer battle which was really inspiring.

KC (my 140 point 6 mile journey) said...

You are very blessed to have had such awesome influences in your life. How cool was that about you Aunt being able to hear them call out that you are an Ironman. Priceless!
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving John!

Diana said...

It's not uncommon to gain back some weight....your body was in a constant stressed mode from all the intense training causing chronic inflammation....all in due time things will fix themselves!
Sorry to hear of your Aunt-may she have some peaceful days to remember everyone with. Cancer is still a big thing-it sucks, no better way to say it than that!
Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

Dana said...

My thoughts are with you. I have an auntie like Kelley. She lives in TN, but we are more like sisters, even though we are 19 years apart. You turned out pretty well John. It seems to me that you accomplish everything you try to do. That takes determination and stamina. Those kinds of things aren't just built into us biological. They are given to us by the influences of those around us. Some people are able to achieve it by themselves, but most need the love and support of those around them. Blessings and love to your family this Thanksgiving.

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

That is so sad about Kelley's aunt :( Cancer really sucks. Really. My aunt has been fighting it for quite awhile, and she seems to have 9 lives, but i worry that eventually, her body will not be able to fight it...

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!