Person of Influence

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I’m four. And I’ve spent the first three summers of my life on the boat. Watching my dad ski like a professional, I yearn to ski. The slalom effortlessly cuts through the glass-like water—my dad makes it look easy. Then, he climbs into the boat: “Tor, what did you think?”
I flash a grin and give him two thumbs up.
“Now it’s your turn.”
Within an hour, I’m skiing. My family cheers, but I focus in on my dad. His voice shouts, “Way to go, champ!”
I’m eight-years-old. I’m waiting behind the blocks before my first, 200 individual medley. I’m scared. This is the longest race I’ve swam. I’m going to disqualify.
My dad and I look at each other—he knows my nerves. He comes to calm me down: “You’re going to be fine, bud.”
Tears start to well.
“I know you can do this, and you do too. Go out there and show ‘em what you got.”
The race starts and, before I know it, it’s over. My dad waits, arms wide for a victory-hug.
I’m thirteen- years-old.
“We have to go where the work is, Tori,” my dad says, trying to console me.
He’s leaving for Cleveland for the first time. But more trips will follow. Five days a week for the next year, the person who I go to for everything will be 500 miles away. It will be a year of Sunday night hugs goodbye before his 4 a.m. flight. It will be a year of dad traveling. But my dad made that choice for me, knowing I don’t want move away from the place I call home.
I’m seventeen-years-old. A familiar time has returned. This time, the work is in New Jersey. But I’m more mature and realize what he does is best for our family. The nights I spend at the pool or stuck in a pile homework make his absence less noticeable—but it doesn’t make them less painful.
It’s a Wednesday night and the first swim meet of my senior season. Dad is in New Jersey and mom is in the stands. My mom comes over to say good luck, and a familiar face stands behind her. I can’t hide my excitement—I give him a hug, not caring I’m in a wet swimming suit.
I swim my first race at a season’s best time.
“That was great, bud! You smoked them. You made it look easy,” he says smiling and giving me two thumbs up as I walk back to the team area.
My dad makes being away, working hard and sacrifice look easy. But I know it’s not. Some weeks, it’s five days and four cities, and then he’s right back at it the next week. But no matter where he is, he’s still able to find time for my mom, my sister and me—and this is only a small reason why he’s the most amazing dad and best friend.





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