Recently I was invited to attend a military retirement ceremony. As normally happens there was a lot of pomp and the ceremony. What impressed me more than the ceremony was the retiree’s speech. He had been a fighter jet pilot, and he talked about the flights that meant the most to him, the ones that defined his career. I won’t bore you with all the details, but he talked about super high flights, super low ones as well as some others that were in between. The last one he focused on was one of his first solo flights, and how at that moment even being so young, that moment changed his life forever, and some times how he wished he could have that moment back. Not so he could change it but so that he could relive it and savor the moment more.
The point of his talk was about valuing those moments. Stepping out of that moment (looking back) and looking at the time around those moments and realizing what they meant to you, to your family, and to the world around you. How they shaped your life, how they changed you.
I started to think about maybe the top 5 (because he picked 5) times, the top 5 moments in my career to date that have shaped who I am. First, I realized that my career is boring. So I expanded on the idea to include the rest of my life.
I thought it might be a fun experiment to try to write those ideas down, talk about what they meant to me and then share them with the world. Then I thought it might be interesting to invite some other people to do the same thing.
When I set out to write this post, I had some pretty specific ideas about what I wanted to write, but when I actually sat down to write, I found that they didn’t really meet with what I think I wanted to this series to be about. I mean I could talk about the day I got married, or the day I first become a father. Without a doubt, those were huge moments in my life. They shaped who I am. Both of those have completely changed who I am. Becoming a father, taught me that I love being a father, and getting married has taught me and will continue to teach me what it means to really love, and thank you for that my dear.
While these events were important, there are a few events that have changed me in other ways. The first of those was the day I got off the plane from JFK airport and walked into Frankfurt International Airport. What followed was almost 7 years of cultural shock. I spent from just before my ninth birthday until after my 16th birthday living in Germany. We traveled every chance we got. I learned to ski, I speak some German to this day, and I have respect for the culture of Europe that I don’t think I would have gotten had a not lived there.
The next event that defined who I am was only about 6 weeks later. When we moved to Germany there was no housing available right away. And we were stuck in a hotel. We didn’t speak the language, we didn’t really know our way around, and even though we had a great sponsor who showed us around, it was pretty easy to get depressed pretty fast. That was what was happening to my mother who was stuck in the hotel all day while my father went to work and my brother and I went to school. It was spilling over, so one day my father said pack some bags we are going on a trip. While there was some moaning and groaning, we all piled in our newly acquired car and headed south to Garmish. We spent the weekend in the General Paton hotel. My brother and I got our first experience of ordering fish by picking it out of the tank.
Understand that it rained and sleeted all the way down, as it had almost every day since we had arrived in Germany. We had seen nothing except the same grey skies that we had seen in Frankfurt. And even though we had a nice room and a good meal, I think even my father was beginning to question driving the 6 hours to just spend time in an even more cramped hotel room. That first night about midnight, my dad got up to get a drink of water on his way back to bed he took a moment to peek out the curtains. The next thing we knew the curtains were opened wide and all of us were awake. “You have got to see this,” he said.
The sky had cleared up, the moon was out and right out our window were the Alps bright as daylight in the moon light. It was that moment that I think turned our minds around, and we all decided that we wanted to be there. The beauty of what we were seeing was to this day indescribable. It also started my life long fascination with living in and around the mountains. So to my poor wife who probably had no idea why was so excited that whole drive out to Colorado just before we got married on seeing the mountains for the first time, it is my dad’s fault.
I met my wife the year before we left Germany, and I have always maintained that I knew she was the the one for me the day I first noticed her walking into our classroom. The fact that I didn’t notice her until the ned of the day and that she was in most of the rest of my classes that day, well we will just gloss over that part. While I still maintain that is the case, I was young and stubborn (read stupid.) It was not until I was sitting on a mountainside in France, that I realized it was not the girl I was dating that I missed, and that I was my wife-to-be that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.
The birth of each of our kids has been something special. Our first son was taken away from us and put in the NICU only 24 hours after he was born, my wife had an emergency C-section and we were 200 miles from home with no money and no way of getting back. I remember holding him and thinking what the heck have we gotten ourselves into. And each kid after that had their own surprises. Our first daughter, and 5th child was born while I was away at school, I remember getting the call about 5:30 am that my wife was going to the hospital, and then failing the quiz that day, and the rushed trip home that weekend. The three children that we planned to have at home and because of one complication or another ended up in the hospital anyway, and then our current youngest being born at home when I ran out of the room to get a towel and the look on my wife’s face when I came back and she was holding that precious little one. My children have change my life in ways I can’t even begin to describe.
Each one of these moments has changed my life. They have defined who I am in ways that even before I started writing this I didn’t realize.
Later this week Scott Roche will take a stab at telling us about his defining moments.