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1 Year Ago… 1 Year From Now…

October 22, 2010

So I’m gettin’ ready for my next 5K – The Iron Aiden 5K – which is tomorrow, and I realized that today is a significant day for several reasons.  10/22… One year ago today I lost one of the coolest people I’ve ever known (my grandfather), and a year from today my quest will be complete – the Tough Mudder is exactly one year away.

It’s quite the conundrum emotionally – I can’t believe that one year from now I will be doing arguably the toughest thing I’ve ever done in my life.  But, at the same time, one year ago today I went through one of toughest things I’ve ever gone through in my life.

Lemme tell ya – my Grandpa was one tough S.O.B.  He was loud, ornery, and pretty much a big ol’ pain in the ass.  And he was AWESOME.  This guy worked with his hands from the time he was a young teenager making wagon wheels in Czechoslovakia (now Slovakia), then coming to the United States, being a cook in World War II, coming back to build is home from the ground up – literally mixing the cement foundation with my grandmother – to starting Michael’s Kitchens, one of the premier custom kitchen and bath locations in New Jersey.  Take your fingers… put your index finger and your middle finger together… that was the size of ONE of his fingers.  They were so big he needed a special phone so he could dial it.  If his hands could talk… Wow, what a story they would have.  At the same time?  Dude loved to bake.  I’m not kidding – pies, breads… you name it!  

Now, custom kitchens are a thing of beauty, and you need a steady hand and a keen eye due to all of the details that go into it.  As my grandfather hit his 80’s, he decided to slow down a little.  Yes, that is not a typo – HIS 80’s.  And when he decided this… he didn’t stop showing up at the shop at 6:30am every morning… he just made other things, like make wagon wheels, cutting boards, clocks and end tables to give away to family, friends and clients.  I’m lucky – I have a clock AND a cutting board!

Oh… he also, along with my brother, annoyed the hell outta my Dad – to their sheer delight.  Not so much my Dad’s delight, but this bonding with my brother was something he really enjoyed.  He wasn’t old school, he was ‘old country’… he loved his shop, he loved his family, and he LOVED having his family in his shop.  Many people have asked me why I didn’t go into the family business, and my grandfather, father and brother all have the exact same answer:

“Because he’s the smart one!”

When he passed away, my family asked me to be one of the lectors at the funeral.  If you don’t know, a lector is one of the people that read passages from the bible for the members of the congregation at a mass, wedding, funeral etc.  It was truly an honor that the family would ask me to do this.  As most of you know, speaking in front of people is not something that bothers me in the least.  Even at my biggest I still didn’t mind doing it.  But that day, as I was reading and looking out at family and friends, that podium was pushed to the limit b/c my legs were shaking SO much I needed to hang on to it to keep all 330+ lbs. of me up.  I have NEVER experienced that in my entire life – and I almost passed out in front of everyone.  Don’t think Ive ever shared that before… I may have, but either way – now you know!

So tonight, I am making a pre-race dinner for Scotty, Leah, Anthony and Kari (all of whom will be joining me for the race tomorrow… Angela will be too but she can’t make it tonight!), knowing that tomorrow’s race is just another step in my journey which will end one year from today.   For me there’s gonna be a little bit more meaning though – it’s going to be about knowing that, no matter what, I’ll never be alone, and that someone will always be keeping an eye on me and making sure that October 22nd will be a day to celebrate life – be it a past one or a new one.

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