Friday, September 4, 2015

My Hero

By Robin Misukonis

I was taking to a guy in the airport while waiting to board a plane to St Louis, he noticed the Ironman suitcase that I was wheeling around.  As always, when people notice something I’m wearing or have with me, is branded with Ironman or the MDot, they can’t help but ask, “have you done an Ironman”.  The conversation always goes one of three ways.  The person asking has done an Ironman in the past and wants to compare experiences and race courses.  He/she wants to do an Ironman and asks about my race experience to get assurance that he/she can complete the race.  Lastly, it is people who don’t know what Ironman really is, they have just heard a little about it and want to ask all kinds of questions about how you train and how you could possibly complete a race that long.  

The guy I was chatting with wanted to do an Ironman, but was afraid that he would not be able to complete one, he had only done sprint and Olympic distance races in the past.  Looking at him, he was in decent shape and I had no doubt with the right training plan and commitment he could do it.  

I asked him about his past races, people love to talk about their races so it was easy to get details of his race history.  I told him that anyone could finish an Ironman if they had a training plan and stuck to it.  I did warn him that the training is time consuming and not always easy. That you have days when you can’t even do short workouts without falling apart and doubting your abilities, but that in the end if you stick to it, it will all come together.  Our conversation drug on, the guy didn’t want to stop talking about it.  At one point in the conversation he asked me who my hero was. He expected me to say some great triathlete, runner, biker or swimmer, but that wasn’t my answer.  I didn’t have to think about it much to answer, and he was surprised when I answered, and asked me why I would choose this person as my hero and not a great athlete. 
I know you are trying to guess who my hero is now, is it God, is it a celebrity, is it a world leader, an athlete of some type, maybe a teacher or a friend.  Nope, it is none of these.  It is someone I have known all my life and have total respect for, who I’m afraid of disappointing, someone I want to grow up to be like.  It’s my Mom!  I know people pick parents as their hero all the time, so there has to be a reason for it.  
Mom at 16

So after I finally shook the guy, he was kind of following me around, I started thinking why I chose my mom.  This guy’s question kept nagging at me, so since I was spending my day hanging out in various airports, I decided that I would write a blog post about why my mom is my hero

She isn’t an athlete, she never had a big job, her job took skills to do and she liked it, but it didn’t pay very well, she is far from famous, well except for her homemade salsa, it’s pretty famous in Edwardsville.  Her biggest accomplishment is raising five happy, healthy, successful kids on a budget not large enough for one person to live on. That’s my opinion though, she might think here biggest accomplishment is something else, like maybe living through a zipline adventure or something like that. 

Mom, Dad and Darryl

By the age of 30 my mom was working as a beautician, and we all know that’s not a high paying career, she had 5 kids between the age of 2 and 10, and she was widowed, raising us all as a single parent.  It sounds like a really sad situation doesn’t it, but you are really wrong if that is what you are thinking. 
Mom with me and my brothers
You see, we were poor, we lived in the projects, but we really had everything a person needs to be happy.  We didn’t have the best clothes, but they were always clean, and we were always clean, well except for Aaron and Blake, there was not enough soap in the county to keep them clean, but at some point each day they were clean.   

We didn’t get expensive junk food or soda, we didn’t go out to eat ever, we cooked everything at home.  We had a garden and grew a lot of our food that my mom canned to help us through the winter.  We wasted nothing, I’m embarrassed to say that I find myself wasting food sometimes,  and hear my mom in my head saying “don’t waste that”, I should know better.  We were never hungry though, well I was sometimes if I didn’t get to the dinner table before my brothers did.   

We may have lived in the projects, but our apartment was a real home. My mom would make stuff to decorate it with, and she would refinish old furniture to make it look nice. The house was clean or as clean as you can keep it with 5 kids. We all had jobs around the house and in the yard, my mom would say “just because your poor doesn’t mean you’re not clean”.  She also believed that we should all know how to take care of ourselves, we all knew how to cook, clean, do laundry, cut grass, plant a garden and can food. There were no boy’s vs girl’s jobs, we all learned to do everything.  We had tons of friends, and of course they were all poor too, funny thing is, none of us knew we were poor, because poor is relative.  There were so many people living around us that had so much less, that we thought they were poor, not us.
Darryl, Robin, Joel, Aaron, Blake
Any activity we wanted to join my mom somehow, someway found the money to pay for it.  I played soccer, ran track, was a girl scout and even played the violin for a while, well, I’m not sure you could call it actually playing, I was pretty awful.  The point is activities cost money that she didn’t have but she always found a way for us to participate. 

We celebrated all holidays, decorating, having a holiday dinner, presents at Christmas, not expensive stuff, but we always had gifts to open and were happy with whatever we got.  Family events and activities were a tradition and we still have many of them now. Every winter my uncle and aunt would come over on snow days and we would play board games all day long, which is one of my fondest memories from my childhood.

Someone once told me my family was like a clan, there were so many of us and we did everything together. I kind of like being part of this clan, in the end, it’s always your family that you can count on.  

All grown up
After my dad died my mom met someone, a friend of my uncles, his name was Jimmie  and we all moved to rural Edwardsville with him.  It was a big change going from the projects with a million friends to having 10 kids in a 5 mile radius, but of course we adapted and made friends and found activities to get involved in.  If fact this is when I started running.  You could say this was the start of my athletic career. 

As we grew up we all got jobs, bailing hay, cleaning horse and goat stales, cleaning houses, cutting grass, shoveling snow, we all worked hard to make money.  This is where you see our upbringing influencing our path in life.  We knew that if we wanted stuff that was not necessary we needed to work for it, nothing came without hard work.  We learned that from our mom, she may not of made much money, but she worked hard both at work and at home.  She never asked for handouts, she figured out how to get by with what she had.  She also was a sucker for helping people, we had multiple kids live with us throughout our childhood, because they had no place to go and she couldn’t let that happen even if she was barely scrapping by. It was not easy and I remember her saying “when you think it can’t get worse it will, so just quit whining and figure out how to make the best of it”.  I wish she would have had an easier life, but she always made due with the hand she was dealt. 
Mom was never a gambler
Jimmie died before my mom was even 50, and she never had another man around, she said “everytime I find someone they die”.  I guess she didn’t want to take another chance on that happening again, but I think she likes being the queen of her own castle though. 
Mom and Jimmie
So after lots of hard work and sacrifice that me and my brothers will never truly understand since we all live easier lives than she did, she is happy, still working in her garden and making salsa, but she is retired and enjoying some well deserved rest.  
Relaxing on a cruise
I am happy, I have 3 great kids, well most of the time they are great, I have a good job, and I am an Ironman 3 times over. How did I get here, well I grew up with the greatest hero of all, who led by example and never gave up.  Isn’t that what an Ironman does!  I’m glad I’m where I am today and even though I have times when I don’t think things can get worse, they do, but I know my mom made it through those tough times and I can too.  I am an Ironman, there is nothing I can’t do, well, maybe I can’t hold a tune, but that’s about it. 

We all need a HERO…pick one that will show you how to be happy!