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A Gift of Greatness

December 24, 2011 - Ernest Hohmeyer
When I was younger, I always wanted it to be tomorrow.

I remember being six or seven and my father telling me that I had to be older before I could play in the big sand pit that was at the other end of our property.

_____________________________________________________________________________ “At the Age of 0-1: Mary, of the House of Stuart, becomes Queen of Scotland.* ______________________________________________________________________________

At age 14, I wanted to be 16, so that I could take Susie on a real date with my own car.

And when I was 16, I wanted to be 18 because my dad had always told me “at 18 you are on your own.”

Wow, freedom!

_____________________________________________________________________________ “At the Age of 6… Mozart gives keyboard concerts across Europe.”* _____________________________________________________________________________

The world was so full of possibilities back then. I was a monthly subscriber to an adventure magazine. It had cool stories with stickers of color photos you pasted in. I read about sea explorers, inventors and astronauts.

That’s what I was going to do. I was going to become a Navy pilot, get into NASA and be the first one to Mars.

I see this in my own 11-year-old son now. Just like I was, he is the youngest of three and always trying to keep up – wishing it were tomorrow. That youthful dance of optimism in his eyes, the confidence in his gait that there is no obstacle he can overcome.

______________________________________________________________________________ “At the age of 19… Bill Gates co-founds Microsoft.”* ______________________________________________________________________________

You reach a point in your life when you realize that you will not become that Navy pilot or famous astronaut. For some of us, we begin to ask the question “what happened?” and “is this all I was meant to be?” Some of us amusingly call this “midlife crisis!”

_____________________________________________________________________________ At the Age of 52… Ray Kroc, milkshake machine salesman…officially starts McDonald’s.”* _____________________________________________________________________________

With all this in mind, our family recently went to see my mother. While we were there, my 11-year-old "the-world-is-my-oyster son" greeted us each morning with his incessant request to visit the local dive shop. At first I could not understand why my son wanted to go to the local bar, but then realized he wanted to learn more about scuba diving.

Now when I was younger, that was also one of my dreams as part of my life as a Navy pilot. I wanted to go explore the depths of the ocean too.

But that was when I was younger.

After keeping up this interest for several days, I knew he was serious about learning more. What was I going to say to him - "I am too old"? “I’ve become too much of a realist," knew that this was dangerous and I was a bit scared?”

I had to save face with my son. After all when I was his age my own father was a mythical figure who could do anything. That of course all changed when I was in college and asked him for the keys to the car.

_____________________________________________________________________________________ “At the Age of 64… John Pierpoint Morgan forms U.S. Steel, the world’s first billion dollar company.”* _____________________________________________________________________________________

So off we went father and son to talk to the gang at the “dive shop.” My son just fell in love with all the gadgets of the “dive computers,” “BCD’s,” regulators and air tanks. I could see it in my son’s eyes; he was going to be the next Navy SEAL or Jacque Cousteau.

So I gulped and signed up with both of my sons and myself to get our “Open Water Diver” license. I was really amazed that my daughter and wife wanted to join too.

Now I was really in a pickle.

Off we went to that first day of diving: six hours straight in a deep water pool where you had to raise your hand just for permission to go to the bathroom.

None of us had ever breathed underwater and let me tell you my wife and I—not the kids mind you—were fish out of water.

It would have been one thing to simply learn how to breathe underwater and swim around. But no, this is quite a serious sport with safety foremost in mind. You have to learn how to breathe without a face mask, what to do if you should run out of air underwater and breathe through your “buddy’s” regulator.

I didn’t sleep that night at all.

It is worse than worrying about how to pay next month’s bills when there is no snow on the ground.

Over and over I kept asking myself “what am I doing?” I can’t do this, I’m too old. The next morning I walked over to the breakfast table and announced to the family that I was quitting and they could too. I thought for sure they would as they had all struggled, some to the point of tears.

They all looked at me and said “That’s okay Dad, if you want to quit that’s fine. We’re scared too, but we want to keep going.”

I couldn’t believe it.

I always thought you learned from your elders. How was I to know that as a parent you could learn just as much from your kids?

____________________________________________________________________________________ At the Age of 77… John Glenn returns to space, after an absence of several decades.”* ____________________________________________________________________________________

They were unsure too but were determined to see it through and took it on as a challenge. They were interested in this new world of underwater exploration.

However, I could also tell they believed that if it was a challenge they could overcome, it would make them more equipped to face other obstacles that may be in front of them in the future.

We all passed the course.

It was a wonderful family bonding experience that all of us will never forget.

I will never forget the feeling of accomplishment and that sometimes it takes hard work and overcoming your own self-doubt to achieve something worthwhile.

I also realized that you are never too old to try something new and that each of us has an ability to do something great. My kids may never become Navy SEALs – and then again maybe they will. I never did become a Navy pilot though I did get my pilot’s license.

My Dad was not famous either. But to me he was the greatest because he never gave up on me. He always believed in me no matter what bonehead moves I made.

I realize that perhaps we need to continually challenge ourselves, to think out-of-the-box and experience new things.

We all can’t be great, but there may be greatness in simple things and small moments.

I don’t remember all the presents that I got for my parents, but I do remember that my father always took the time to write words of encouragement on my Christmas and birthday cards. I don’t have all the presents anymore, but I have all the cards that I still look at when I am down.

I’d like to think we all possess a gift of greatness, even if it is simply through a supportive hand.

And we are never too old to try.

Merry Christmas!

_____________________________________________________________________________ At the Age of 94, Leopold Stokowski, conductor, signs a six-year recording contract.” * _____________________________________________________________________________

*Quotes are from the book “There’s Always Time for Greatness: Who Did What When From Ages 1-100” by Andrew Postman.


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