Friday, September 15, 2006

A Father's Love

This love story began in Winchester, Mass., 43 years ago, when

Rick was strangled by the umbilical cord during birth, leaving him
brain-damaged and unable to control his limbs. ``He'll be a vegetable the rest
of his life;'' Dick says doctors told him and his wife, Judy, when
Rick was nine months old. "Put him in an institution.''

But the Hoyts weren't buying it. They noticed the way Rick's eyes
followed them around the room. When Rick was 11 they took him to
the engineering department at Tufts University and asked if there
was anything to help the boy communicate. "No way,'' Dick says he was told.
"There's nothing going on in his brain.''
"Tell him a joke,'' Dick countered. They did. Rick laughed. Turns
out a lot was going on in his brain.

Rigged up with a computer that allowed him to control the cursor
by touching a switch with the side of his head, Rick was finally
able to communicate. First words? "Go Bruins!'' And after a high
school classmate was paralyzed in an accident and the school
organized a charity run for him, Rick pecked out, "Dad, I want to
do that.''

Yeah, right. How was Dick, a self-described "porker'' who never
ran more than a mile at a time, going to push his son five miles?
Still, he tried. "Then it was me who was handicapped,'' Dick
says. ``I was sore for two weeks.'' That day changed Rick's life.
"Dad,'' he typed, "`when we were running, it felt like I wasn't disabled anymore!''

And that sentence changed Dick's life. He became obsessed with
giving Rick that feeling as often as he could. He got into such
hard-belly shape that he and Rick were ready to try the 1979 Boston Marathon.
"No way,'' Dick was told by a race official. The Hoyts weren't
quite a single runner, and they weren't quite a wheelchair
competitor. For a few years Dick and Rick just joined the massive field and ran anyway,
then they found a way to get into the race officially:

In 1983 they ran another marathon so fast they made the qualifying time
for Boston the following year. Then somebody said, "Hey, Dick, why not a triathlon?''
How's a guy who never learned to swim and hadn't ridden a bike
since he was six, going to haul his 110-pound kid through a
triathlon? Still, Dick tried.

Now they've done 212 triathlons, including four grueling 15-hour
Ironmans in Hawaii. It must be a buzz kill to be a 25-year-old stud
getting passed by an old guy towing a grown man in a dinghy, don't
you think?

Hey, Dick, why not see how you'd do on your own? "No way," he says.
Dick does it purely for "the awesome feeling " he gets seeing Rick
with a cantaloupe smile as they run, swim and ride together.

This year, at ages 65 and 43, Dick and Rick finished their 24th
Boston Marathon, in 5,083rd place out of more than 20,000
starters. Their best time'? Two hours, 40 minutes in 1992--only 35
minutes off the world record, which, in case you don't keep track
of these things, happens to be held by a guy who was not pushing
another man in a wheelchair at the time.

"No question about it,'' Rick types. "My dad is the Father of the Century."
And Dick got something else out of all this too. Two years ago he
had a mild heart attack during a race. Doctors found that one of his
arteries was 95% clogged. "If you hadn't been in such great shape,'' one doctor
told him, "you probably would've died 15 years ago.''So, in a way, Dick and Rick
saved each other's life.

Rick, who has his own apartment (he gets home care) and works in
Boston, and Dick, retired from the military and living in Holland,
Mass., always find ways to be together. They give speeches around the country and
compete in some backbreaking race every weekend, including this Father's Day.
That night, Rick will buy his dad dinner, but the thing he really wants to give him is a gift he can never buy. "The thing I'd most like,'' Rick types,

"is that my dad would sit in the chair and I would push him once.''

From Sports Illustrated, By Rick Reilly

If the video doesn't play for you, please go here.


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