Monday, January 12, 2009

Tuesday's Tribute

Tuesday's Tribute
Yet Another Jay and Deb Production.

When An Angel Enters Your Life

20 years ago there was a young lad who had been very blessed athletically, had some decisions to make about where to accept a scholarship to play his sport and get an education. Originally he decided on The University of California at Berkley. Upon further review, due to the fact that he was coming out of a Junior College early, he did not yet have his Associates degree. Thus deeming him ineligible for play. So that left him Arizona State, Utah and Virginia Tech. He had always been an adventurer, so Virginia Tech it was.

(Cue The Beverly Hillbillies Theme Song)

Come and listen to a story about a man named Tony.
A poor athlete student, barely kept girlies out of his head.
Then one day he was looking for a school that would not be a wreck,
And up through the Blue Mountains came a place called Virginia Tech.
School that is, Maroon & Orange, The Hokies.
Well the first thing you know ol' Tony's living there,
Kinfolk said, "Tony study hard while you are there,
Said study hall and the library are the place you ought to be."
SCHREACH......... but football & girls and so many things, oh goodness, gracious me?

Enter stage left one of the most wonderful, down to earth, elegantly simplistic, very direct and stern, yet kind loving woman I have ever had the honor to meet.
Lois Berg. Associate Director of Athletic Academic Advising. (say that ten times fast.)

Lois-"Tony, nice to meet you. Reviewing your academic progress, you are an Athlete Student. You need to become a Student Athlete. Do not waste the gift you have earned in a full scholarship."

Tony- " Yeah, k, well, gotta run. Things to do, girls to meet and places to go."

Lois- " Hey, Tony, have you ever read the back of your birth certificate?"

Tony- " Umm no." (thinking in the back of my head what a weird f-ing question.)

Lois- " It reads simply: No Guarantees, No Warranties, this is life."

Tony- "No Way." (Crazy woman.)

Lois- " Read it when you get back to the dorm. We will talk more tomorrow."

So the relationship began.

Regressing a bit. My time line might be a bit off, but it is the meaning of the story and the strength that should build in you as you read.
At some point during 1984 on an icy road in Colorado Lois and her husband were returning from a long day's work at one of Colorado's beautiful ski resorts. Not a long drive, but one that very quickly changed things for Lois permanently. An on coming vehicle hit ice going far too fast and careened into the truck Lois in which Lois was riding. The truck left the road in a violent collision and Lois ended up while still in the truck, pinned to an aspen tree. Her right arm between the two. Her arm was a total loss.

I have never pretended to understand the pain, the mental anguish and the internal struggle to regain one's self perception she went through. Although, you could see it in her eyes as she spoke to you. By the time Lois entered my young, somewhat gelatinous life, she was hitting her stride again. In the years since the accident she had lost everything. Everything but her fire and her will to piece by piece rebuild herself and her life. And rebuild, did she ever.

Lois took me under her wing. I was a long way from home. Meeting new people, having new experiences and searching to become a respectable young man. Lois was like a family member for me. She would spend hours talking to me about academic challenges, approaches and strategies. She would then don her friend/older sister cap and talk to me about life and growing up, and the many challenges, pitfalls and road signs that come with that journey. As I said, you could see her struggle in her eyes. Her eyes were the conduit to her soul, the crystal ball to her moods and attitudes. She taught me it was ok to cry once in a while. I also learned it was ok to let her cry once in a while. She lost her arm for God's sake. She had torment and frustration to be sure, but it was through her torment that she built some of her greatest masterpieces of strength. She had the heart of a lion in that little frame. Her passion for life was infectious. So much that my Junior year she sat within review of my academic status and proclaimed,

"Mr. Utah, you're going to graduate."

Just her believing in me that I had really become a student athlete was all the fuel I needed to set my sights. No one was going to stop me now. (well, except maybe the Calculus With Matrices professor from some foreign land with the heavy accent, that try as I might even my malt-o-meal decoder ring could not help me decipher what emanated from his mouth.) Some how, by the grace of God, I passed. Now a great deal of work went into the final result, but I did it, and I think it made Lois's heart swell with pride.

I had lost track of Lois for a time until last week. I honestly got a tear in my eye when her name popped up on my screen. She was such an integral part in me becoming who I am today. The lessons in strength and tenacity that she imparted on all she met is almost indescribable for words. She became a legend at Virginia Tech for work with Student Athletes. She is beloved and respected by her many colleagues, notably Nikki Giovanni, her close friend and author of Sacred Cows... And Other Edibles. Since those good old days Lois has helped , guided and molded many student athletes to graduation.

To quote a few passages from Emerson's, Success:
" To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children. To leave the world a bit better. Whether by a healthy child, a garden path or a redeemed social condition. This is to have succeeded." All of us that you have touched are stones in your gardens path. Some of us may even be your redeemed social conditions, but you will always have our affection. Lois, you can stand proud for you have accomplished so much more than that.

I am a stronger, more resilient person for having met Lois. I can only thank the good Lord for allowing our paths to have crossed. Lois, you are very special to me and always will be. Keep touching the lives of those in which you come in contact. Enjoy retirement, you have earned it.

Oh, by the way, just to reconfirm, you were right.

No Guarantees, No warranties, this is life.


Tenakim said...

What a nice tribute- so glad you had a "Lois" in your life!

Brandy said...

We could all use a Lois in our lives! What a wonderful tribute to her!

Deb said...

this is beautiful, tony! knocked another one out of the ballpark!

The Frugal Angel-Guided Psychic said...

Tony, you made me cry... What a beautiful tribute. So nice that you can put into words what people mean to you.... what a gift. I'm sure Lois had a part in that too!

It takes me back to my college days....

KatieZ said...

Wow, what a woman! She is really great! Glad you had someone to lean on and even more glad that you were a leaning post as well!

Great job!

Michelle said...

Now that is a tribute! I really enjoyed reading your story!

Mountain Mama said...

Awesome! Thanks for sharing yours and hers story.

Jay @halftime lessons said...

Wow, Tony, what a great tribute...wish I had that kind of guidance through one wanted to mentor a sarcastic dumbass.

A fantastic post, my friend, and LOVED the song...I was humming along.


Heinous said...

Great story. It's nice to remember the people that guide us so well in life. Here's to Lois.