As a young boy, our family frequently traveled to Omaha to visit my grandma, uncles, aunts and cousins. My mother was born and raised in this city; my dad met her while going to law school at Creighton.
I brought my son, Frank, here seven years ago to play in a baseball tournament and watch a game of the College World Series. Yesterday, I came back, this time for the funeral of my youngest brother, Tim, who passed away from cancer Sunday evening.
If you’ve read my book, The Unbeatable Man, you may recall some of the mentions I had of Tim.
Last night, as I was preparing for sleep, a good many “lost” memories of Tim resurfaced. With closed eyes I revisited the way Tim swam, the way he bridged (he was nearly impossible to pin), the way he walked and ran and talked. Simple, ordinary things, really, but all distinct and memorable.
In 2009, when The Unbeatable Man first came out, I remember how my mother sobbed as she read the passage about Tim in my book. I asked her why she was crying. She showed me the page. Uggh.
A few days ago I took out a copy of The Unbeatable Man to find that passage again.
On that section, I wrote about Tim not watching my matches at the state tournament, how he stayed in the corridor, out of the stands, out of fear that his presence would jinx me.
You might wonder how someone develops a superstition such as this. It’s rather simple. I watched him and he lost. I watched another time and he lost. I didn’t watch him and he won. Damn, must be my fault when he loses. I want my brother to win, so if I don’t watch him, he will win.
Strange and true – yet some sort of superstition such as this is part of the reality of every prominent athlete or athletic family I have ever met.
Of far greater benefit to me though, was how Tim met with me in the early morning hours, before school, and once again at night, after wrestling practice. Why? To help me drill the moves I needed to “perfect,” so that I could achieve my goals of making it to the state tournament and coming home a champion.
Three workouts per day, for six weeks.
Tim was with me for each of these workouts, helping me hone my skills.
As a result of this training protocol, I won 14-straight matches, almost all of them by lopsided margins. The training strategy was a huge difference maker – but it required a cooperative partner for it to work. And Tim definitely was that cooperative partner.
So I’m back in Omaha to say goodbye to my little brother. Uggh.
Rest In Peace, little brother.
Note: By reading the full story of The Unbeatable Man, not only will you be incredibly moved, but the proceeds will go to Tim’s wife, Anya, and his daughter, Maya.