The Love of a Father and a priceless poem

In the spirit of family, holidays, and Thanksgiving I am reminded about my family and about my father.  He is 81 now and doing great.  I am so grateful he is my Dad.  He has been, and continues to be, a great influence in my life.

Here is a poem that he wrote about me when I was about 16 years old.  I do not know if I became this person or he saw me for who I really am.  It rings true for me today, and it moves me every time I read it.  The setting is a frozen lake in the upper midwest.


Stark lean   silhouette   against  a  darkening   sky

Measures  effortlessly   the  ice  in  ten  meter   strides.

An imaginary   track  precisely   surveyed  in his   mind

Guides  his   turn  and  glide   strokes  in  mock   slow  motion.

Each  movement  carefully   calculated  to  maximize   the   thrust

With  arms   reaching   out,   pulling  back,    swinging  high behind.

Each  foot under  body   center   starts

Gigantic leg   strokes   too  long   for  the  horizontal   torso.

Seventeen inch blades   cut  the  ice   subtly

So   sharp  they   could  easily   shave   the  peach  fuzz  from his   chin.

Breathing   as   measured  as   the  pace   stroke and  heart  rhythmically  beating   to  match.  Muscles  flexible   in   spite   of  the   cold,

Straining   to  balance   the   relentless  press  of   spirit.

Why  does  he   stretch   so?      Who  is  he   racing?

The   other   skaters   are   already  laughing   and  drinking  hot  chocolate

Does  he   race   Olympic  ghosts   McDermott  and   Blatchford?

Or  is  he   chased  by  his   own image?

And what does  he   hope   to win?      A fleeting   flush of  triumph?

A  medal  or   trophy?      A   record   someone  will  break  tomorrow?

Or  does  he   try   to   catch  the  goal  of   self  respect

The  lake  ice   is   never   smooth

With unforgiving   cracks   to keep  his   mind  alert.

A  chilling  gust keeps  balance  honest.

Powdery   shavings  and  grooves   show  other   skaters  have  gone   this  way Were   all   so  highly  motivated?      Or   so   stubborn?

Did  they  feel   the  pleasant numbness-Not of  cold  but of  tendons   too   stretched?

He   counts   six  more  full-effort laps.

Is  this   enough  to  beat  the  best?

Unsure,   he   fast-paces   eight  more.

A   swirl  of light  snow  blends  with him  at  the   far  turn.

High  flying  geese   seek  a  cornfield   –  not  these   icy   shores.

Honk  from  a patient parent’s   car   calls  him.

He   slows,    straightens,   and   circles   to  let  the   real world   return.

H.   W.    Conner

One of my favorite parts is the passage about self-esteem, self-respect and self-image.

I have come to believe that this is part of my struggle.  I want to please my father but the core precept is of my own self respect.  So I must earn my own respect, somehow.  Sports and specifically speed skating has provided the perfect method for me to do just that.  Working on my own self esteem through doing esteemable things was the ticket.  It has taken me a long time to understand this.  Then acting on it without fear was even more risky.  But I had learned that taking that risk has huge rewards.  Breaking down those old barriers was the key to the door.  Then I had to walk through the door and execute my plan.  The result is that I am able to build my own self esteem.  This is the only kind that really counts.  This permanent foundation building is essential to my happy, peaceful, serene life today.  It helps me figure out who I am, and be comfortable in my own skin.  It helps me set the priorities in my life.  Having my priorities is essential in making the big as well as the small daily decisions.

Thanks Dad.

With my Father Harold Conner at the rink in Salt Lake City, Utah

4 thoughts on “The Love of a Father and a priceless poem

  1. Your dad is a wise man and a father who not only sees the potential in his son, but encourages it. I love the comparisons to the ice and esteem. Ice is not ice unless it’s a solid and firm foundation that can withstand the blades of the skaters. A good solid foundation of integrity and people who believe in us determines and develops our character and esteem as we withstand the failures and successes of life. Inspired by your poem. Thank you for sharing Bruce.

  2. Thanks for sharing Bruce. You highlight an important concept here. Parents, teachers and coaches can only affirm or point the way toward creating self-esteem. The real source comes from within and is drawn out to be forged by our prioritized actions utilizing our gifts, usually in the face of adversity. Parents, teachers and coaches can destroy or undermine self-esteem, but we can’t create it. That comes from hard choices and hard work.

  3. Your fathers poem is powerful and your insight thoughtful. it makes me look at my boys and myself and all of our reasons for the love of the sport as well . Thank you for sharing

    Janet Naess

  4. The poem is beautiful and you are lucky. The best part is that you know both points and are thankful for it all. Thank you for sharing the honest soul of a speedskater.
    See you on the ice,

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