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Sunday, May 19, 2019

Cheerleader In Chief

The subtitle to this blog refers to "the people and rides to make it happen." One such person who has made many things happen for me is my Mom. Among other things, she always has been my Cheerleader In Chief.

From an early age, I played sports, especially football, basketball and baseball, the conventional sports in small town middle America at the time. Because Dad was almost always my coach, he took me to practices and games. See, 2018 post, The Best Coach I Ever Had. But not always. If Dad didn't, Mom did. And Mom was at every game year round, regardless of the sport, regardless of the weather, and regardless of anything else. She was always there, sharing every victory and defeat, every high and every low, with the right words and the right presence. Always.

Decades later, my wife Colleen experienced first hand the depth of Mom's involvement with my sports. Thirty rows up behind home plate at a Colorado Rockies baseball game, Mom quietly called balls and strikes on every pitch. Sitting beside her, Colleen expressed surprise at Mom's knowledge and accuracy. Mom gently patted Colleen's arm and said, "Dear, I've seen a few baseball games."

Carol Ann Rist, Salutatorian, Centerville High School 1954.
Carol Ann Rist grew up on a small family farm near Centerville, South Dakota, surrounded by a legion of cousins, aunts and uncles. With essentially no high school sports available to girls, Mom excelled in the classroom, graduating Salutatorian, played in the band and performed on the sidelines as a cheerleader. After high school, Mom graduated with a teaching degree from Augustana College, where she also was a varsity cheerleader. After college, Mom generally stayed home with her growing family, but occasionally substitute taught to keep her teaching credentials current.

Through it all, Mom kept everyone balanced and grounded. In a culture often dominated by athletics, she required from us a healthy dose of household chores and emphasized academics. From the very beginning, Mom spent countless hours reading to us, allowed us time to read ourselves and demanded that we attend to school work before "extra curricular" activities. You always knew that school came first. And it did.

Mom further insisted that we take piano and dance lessons in elementary school and that we played in the band or orchestra through high school. She steadfastly made sure we practiced and took us to years of lessons, rehearsals, recitals and concerts. Although I never developed a passion for creating music, I enjoyed playing and hanging out with a completely different crowd from sports. None of those experiences or relationships would have happened without Mom. And even back then, I attributed my footwork as a quarterback, point guard and shortstop to both Dad's coaching and Mom's dance lessons.

In addition to inspiration and encouragement, Mom also ran interference for me with Dad, who generally preferred that I work in the family business, if not playing sports. Mom appreciated the value of investing significant effort into academics. More importantly, she understood what it meant to me, so she created time and space within the family dynamics for me to study. My academic goals and achievements directly result from Mom's influence on me and on the rest of my family.

She has always been my Cheerleader In Chief.

Thank you, Mom.

Carol Ann Rist, Student and Cheerleader, Augustana College 1954.

Augustana College Homecoming 1954.

Mom also kept us well-dressed, at least when off the field.
Craig, Candace and Cyler at Dad's International Harvester office in Grand Island, NE in the mid-1960's.

Mom still going to baseball games well into the late 1970's for Chris, my youngest brother.

Mom and Dad still in the stands, sporting team colors and supporting me in 2016
at the 40th year celebration of the 1976 Yankton Bucks State Championship in football.
Being Mom never ends.

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