James: This is an inspiring, beautiful, tearful, joyous story of a father and son bonding and accepting each other for who they are and celebrating that relationship:
My name is Richard E. Hoyt Jr., and I have cerebral palsy. I cannot speak or walk. To write this story, I'm using a computer with special software. When I move my head slightly, the cursor moves across an alphabet. When it gets to the letter I want, I press a switch at the side of my head.
I am half of Team Hoyt. We are a father-and-son team, and we compete in marathons and triathlons around the world. Our goal is to educate people about how the disabled can lead normal lives. We started racing in 1979. My high school was having a road race to raise money for a lacrosse player who was paralyzed in an accident. I wanted to show this athlete that life can go on, so I asked my dad if he would push me. My wheelchair was not built for racing, but Dad managed to push me the entire 5 miles. We came in next to last, but in the photos of us crossing the finish line, I was smiling from ear to ear!
When we got home, I used my computer to tell Dad, "When I'm running, I feel like my disability disappears!" So we joined a running club, had a special running chair built, and entered our first official race. Many of the athletes didn't want us to participate, but the executive director of the event gave us permission. Soon we were running three races a weekend, and we even did our first double event a 3-mile run and a half-mile swim.
Dad held me by the back of the neck and did the sidestroke for the entire swim. We wanted to run in the Boston Marathon, but we were not allowed to enter because we had not done a qualifying run. So in late 1980, we competed in the Marine Corps Marathon, in Washington, D.C., finishing in 2 hours, 45 minutes. That qualified us for Boston!
A few years later, after a road race in Falmouth, Massachusetts, a man came up to my dad and said, "You are quite an athlete. You should consider a triathlon." Dad said, "Sure, as long as I can do it with Rick." The man just walked away. The next year, the same man said the same thing. Again, Dad said he'd do it, but only with me. This time the man said, "Okay, let's figure out what special equipment you'll need."
So on Father's Day in 1985, we competed in our first triathlon. It included a 10-mile run, during which Dad pushed me; a 1-mile swim, during which Dad pulled me in a life raft with a rope tied around his chest; and a 50-mile bike ride, during which he towed me in a cart behind him. We finished next to last, but we both loved it. Soon after, we did our first Ironman Triathlon. We've now competed in more than 950 races, including 25 Boston Marathons and six Ironmans. During every event, I feel like my disability has disappeared.
People often ask me, "What would you do if you were not disabled?" When I was first asked, I said I'd probably play baseball or hockey. But when I thought about it some more, I realized that I'd tell my father to sit down in my wheelchair so I could push him. If it weren't for him, I'd probably be living in a home for people with disabilities. He is not just my arms and legs. He's my inspiration, the person who allows me to live my life to the fullest and inspire others to do the same.
Happy Father's Day, Dad. And thank you.
James: Are you crying? I know I did after I read this story. What a wonderful expression of love and commitment. I am reminded by this story that I really have nothing to complain about in life. As some of you know I live with schizo-affective disorder and am disabled because of it so this story hit me even closer to my heart.
I'd like to share with you an email that I wrote to my father after reading this wonderful story:Dear Dad. I was reading this story (link below) here in our hotel room in Manitou Springs and It really touched me to the point of tears--tears of joy because It made think of you and I. All the times that we spent backpacking together but especially I thought of my disability and how you have pushed me along in my "chair" (refer to the story)--and I want to push you in your "chair" as the son in this story would like to push his father in the father's "chair." You and mom have done so much to push me along and keep me going in my life before schizoaffective and since. You have been so understanding of my illness, comforting and supportive both financially and otherwise---I could never have done it without you and still can't. I think of all those years growing up when I didn't understand why you worked so much and so hard but now I know why--you were pushing me in my "chair." Dear Dad, the tears that I am shedding as I type this email are tears of utter joy, love and appreciation for all that you have done and sacrificed so that I might have a better quality of life. How could either of us known that I would be diagnosed with a major mental illness--and yet, here we are--surviving and thriving together, as a team. Buddies. Dad, you're my buddy and I love you so so so much. I look forward to many years to come together. Love, James
James: I hope all the American father's have a joyous father's day today and I hope the father's from other countries around the world will appreciate the wonderful relationship between parent and child. Those relationships are definite lessons on interconnection, inter-being and understanding its importance.
~Peace to all beings~