“At one point in your life you either have the things you want or the reasons why you don’t.” -Andy Roddick
My dad was just three years old when his father passed away. At the same time, his mom had lost two children during child birth. At this point in his life, when most kids were just starting preschool, my dad had lost his father and was left with four siblings and a single mother. A mother who was more scared of not being able to provide for her children, than of her well being. A mother who wanted more than anything to be able to provide a future for her children, even brighter than the one she had.
From an early age, my father carried the overbearing reality that he would never know his father, or be able to enjoy a life with a father. As a young boy, my dad carried the empty feeling of knowing he would never be able to have father and son talks like most kids do, when they are struggling. It was instilled in him that failure and aloofness was not allowed. From an early age, my father carried a job to help support his family in any way that he could. He prevailed when reality tried to shut the door on opportunity. Anything Life threw at him he prevailed.
During his senior year in high school, the soccer phenom, Kurt Swanbeck, led his team to a Massachusetts State Final. This was after a long childhood of setbacks and hardships, created by the things he carried. My dad, at the age of thirteen, lost around 60 pounds in the hospital, and near the end of his stay had a priest come in and gave him his last rites. This means that the end was near for the young man Life tried to kick to the side and kill. Now nearly 18 years old, he was being recruited by some of the most prestigious schools in the country, including Brown, Columbia, Uconn, and more. That same fatherless kid, who carried more than anyone his age should have had to, was beginning to prove everyone wrong. Everyone that doubted his future because of his fatherless childhood, and all those who looked past the kid that they should have be helping succeed, rather than kicking him to the side like he didn’t even exist. That same year, my dad would be named an All-American, one of only eleven in the country. The award didn’t mean anything in regard to soccer for him, but it was a way to show the father he never knew, that he prevailed, and that yeah, he made. It was like that final stamp of success that spit back in the face of those who socially cast him aside.
Often, people say that they weren’t able to achieve the things they strived to do, because of the things Life made them carry. My father took the things that Life made him carry, and turned that into the motivation that fueled his social, professional, and academic successes. Well, my father attended Columbia University, a school he should never have been admitted into. He almost left prematurely, because school and soccer seemed to be too hard, but eventually, he took the life lessons, created from the things he carried, all his life, and turned them into his motivation to succeed and persevere. Later, my dad played professional soccer in the ASL for the Nashville Diamonds and was called up to attend the Olympic Trials for our national team. My dad also received his Masters degree from Columbia University, a school he almost left, because of early inadequacies in school and in soccer, not because of his lack of work ethic, but from lack of appropriate opportunity, guidance, and preparation.
Kurt Swanbeck has carried many things in his life; some good, some bad. In my eyes, the eyes of his son, he wonderfully reflects the first part of the introductory quote. “At one point in your life you either have the things you want or the reasons why you don’t.” He may not be a millionaire, or able to play the game he loves, or be able to retire before he’s seventy, but his character has prevailed, and he has succeeded in more ways than one. Kurt Swanbeck been able to enjoy his life, and pass along stories upon stories, life lessons upon life lessons, to future generations that have looked up to him for guidance, preparation and opportunity, and who flock to him when in need.
My dad changes the lives of anyone that crosses paths with him for the better, whether they are one of his cherished players or a complete stranger he meets at the store. My dad is able to make them feel loved, and a part of a family. A family lead by a strong father figure, which, in the end, is perfectly ironic. Not because it is something he never had, but because it is something he was never taught to be. The things that Life made him carry turned him into a man that all boys strive to be, strong, compassionate, and kind.
Life is funny in that it often chooses, the weakest, not the mightiest of this world, but always the strongest of heart, to carry the most. It lays a burden on the man or woman that is often not ready for any of the responsibilities passed on to them, but in the end they strive and flourish larger than anyone else could have in a million years.
This is just a tidbit of my father’s life, and is only the beginning of a great story. Truly the meaning hidden in between the lines of this story, is something pretty special. It’s not about how you let the things you carry determine your life but it’s about how, to quote Rocky Balboa, “ hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward”. Life will make you carry things, good and bad, but your only way to achieve success in life, is to be able to carry as many things that life throws at you because, oh yeah, to quote Rocky one more time, “that’s how winning is done!”.