College Bound- “Carpe Deium.”

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Perhaps one of the most interesting experiences for the 59 year old kid and his wife Janet, has been raising our son Jack. He has been a true blessing in the highest sense of the word and as a strong willed child, he has provided some interesting input and challenges at times in a household where all focus was on his daily needs. We are headed off to Ohio University in Athens tomorrow and as many of you have experienced in this endeavor, there is a lot of anguish, trepidation, but excitement for the years ahead. The experiences that will be available for Jack in an academic setting away from home are wonderful and fulfilling.

Recently contemplating as I drive to work, ride my mountain bike on the trails, and sit by my fireplace, I think back to when we first brought Jack home and his “tricks” on the living room floor. My mind is flooded with images of sandboxes, teaching him to ride a bike and the turnaround in Malone’s driveway. Taking him hiking, teaching him to ski, how to throw a baseball, how to bat, what pitches to take and what to leave. The Jersey Shore, Vail, Tahoe, Utah. The basketball years appear in my mind with AAU and school – the tournament travel, the practices( never missed), and the games -wins and heartbreaking losses. X-Box, girlfriends, our times as a family in the foundation of our church. It has been a blur and at 19 years old, he is ready to go and we look forward to his success in a new environment. We will miss him, but Athens is not that far away and we are always here for him and look forward to seeing him on his breaks and on the parents weekends. But this is his time,not ours and the transition will be an interesting time for Janet and me as well as for Jack.

This is nothing new for a lot of people who have raised children and see them off to school or a new job. But it is a new experience for me, and I have felt in the last few years that I have been running out of time. Time to be together, time to impart what little wisdom I can offer, and time to establish a good relationship with my son. I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve and have my bladder placed squarely behind my eyeballs. I am an open person and what you see is what you get. Jack is a little different as the strong willed child and his demeanor with me is sometimes not what I had envisioned as a father and son. We do have unconditional love for each other and that being the bottom line, I can deal with the fact that we are truly different people……….and that’s ok.

Dr. Terry Thomas, in a message delivered in our church this past weekend, stated very eloquently that you are not justified by the opinions of others or by your children. If you are seeking approval from them, or validation, justification, or whatever you require, or want to feel better about yourself, you are barking up the wrong tree. God is the source of justification, not what we do. He loves us warts and all, and understands that as parents, we do the best that we can for our children and as we transition in sending them off, we can sit back and see the fruits of our labor and the exciting possibilities of higher education under His care.

Janet and I have taken the opportunities to relay to Jack our experiences in college. The fun times, the pitfalls of getting behind in the first semester, and the ultimate end game of studying hard and getting the “skin.” The “skin” and good grades gets the good job, but the larger advantage to higher education in my mind, is that the college experience takes the burrs off. It polishes you, it teaches you how to relate to other people, how to study, how to execute a plan. College is not for everyone, but for those who choose to attend the college of their choice, the end results give memories that last a lifetime and friends who remain in your life forever. We have said it all to Jack and now is the time as we drive down I-79 tomorrow and into the Buckeye State, to take a breather, let go, hug him and wish him the very best that Ohio University has to offer. Being the opportunistic guy that I am, I have found all the great trails to ride and my wife and I are finding the best restaurants and points of interest so that when we do visit, we can enjoy seeing Jack grow and when he needs some space, we can enjoy Athens ourselves. As we drive back, we will also begin to focus on each other. The one constant is that Janet and I are a team. We were together at the beginning of our marriage and will continue to be there as a team in this time when new oportunities will arise for us.

As a hovering parent of an only child, I must admit that I have been dreading this day since Jack’s freshman year in high school. But as the process of college has ensued, I am trying to look at it as the natural progression that all of us go through as we mature from childhood to adulthood. I can’t control any more and the process of “letting go” is a new experience for the 59 year old kid. I joke about the fact that I may age chronologically, but never mature. So as I see the process with Jack, maybe we both can mature together? My wife will appreciate it. Wish us well,pray for us if you like, and thanks for reading.

Life changes- new opportunities!

photophotophotophotophotophoto The 59 year old kid is always up for new opportunities especially when life changes a little bit. Our one and only is headed off to Ohio Universiy in the fall and things will change around the McCloskey household a bit when he makes the move. However, instead of being melancholy as we will miss him, we will be excited about the new opportunity for him at a great school with a great course of study in the business program. But instead of looking like the typical sap in the “Ohio U Father” T-shirt with wing tip shoes, plaid shorts and a straw hat and camera, I want to be able to enjoy some of the ammenities that Athens, Ohio has in store for my wife Janet and me. If you reference my previous post about “Cycling in the Buckeye” from 9/26/2013, you will notice that there are a lot of excellent road and mountain bike adventures to be had in the state to our west.

One of the things I wanted to do during the orientation program at Ohio U was to see what kind of cycling opportunities there were in the Athens area. It is an intertesting location in Ohio in that it is more like West Virginia than the typical Ohio flatland. There are rolling hills as it is on the northern tip of the southern Appalachian chain. I called Athens Bicycle http://www.athensbicycle.com and spoke to Peter Kotses who guided me to several options in the area. For one, there is a 17 mile bike path that connects Athens to Nelsonville,Ohio that is quite an enjoyable ride along the Hocking River. It is also a gateway to Sells Park which is the local City of Athens park. The Athens Bicycle Club has done a masterful job of cutting and marking singletrack mountain bike trails in the park and thanks to an access from the Dale and Jackie Riddle State Nature Preserve, this park now connects to the trails in Strouds Run State Park whose trails were also created by the Athens Bicycle club over the past several years. There is a lot of riding out there and as I made my way through Sells Park on the Rockhouse Trail and onto the Finger Rock Trail, I had covered a lot of ground and had to get back for the orientation program. Looking at the map which you can download from the Athens Bicycle website, you will be able to see that there are miles of trails that eventually end up at the bottom end of the beautiful Dow Lake. I did a big favor that morning on my 5:30 AM ride when I personally cleared all the cobwebs on the single track with my face so that the riders who would follow me later in the day would have a clear riding path through some pretty dense forested trails. These trails will be a wonderful riding experience for me in the next four years of visiting my son in Athens.

My wife Janet is not one to sit around either and as we utilized the bike path, we noticed that Rt. 50 was an excellent road cycling venue which extends all the way into West Virginia and on through Maryland. In fact, the Race Across America(RAAM) was making its way through Athens and we saw all of the male and female leaders of the race at various times of the day and night riding through on their 3,000 mile journey across the country. I stopped to talk to a British group who were riding in the team competition. I asked them if they knew my friend Danny Chew who won the event twice and they were not familiar with him. Time marches on and the million mile man Danny was not known to the up and comers of RAAM. In any event, road cycling is also a viable opportunity in the Athens area.

Janet and I are hoping that our enthusiasm for new things will extend to our son Jack who seemingly likes the school and the wide open world that awaits him with the college experience. I have encouraged him to seek out opportunities at the school that he might not be familiar with and potentially enjoy activities that he never dreamed would interest him. Ohio U and Athens is a real outdoor activity center and I have encouraged Jack to take advantage of the great outdoors as well as getting involved in school organizations,clubs, and intramural sports. Life is his oyster now and we know that he will hopefully take full advantage of these great opportunities. One thing is for sure, Janet and I will be looking forward to our newfound recreational playground when we visit Jack and we will also take advantage of the many post ride watering holes and restaurants which line the main drag of Athens. Yes, we will miss Jack on a regular basis around our house but as long as he is happy and enjoying his new experience, we will get used to this new life as empty nesters. But we will not sit around and feel sorry for ourselves. We have a lot of life to live and one of the great new opportunities will be visiting our son in a wonderful place that we have only begun to discover. OU? Oh yea!! Thanks for reading.

WE ARE!!!!!!!

photophotophotoPurple Lizard Mapsphotoband_TIPS Well maybe not me, but this is the cheer of my wife’s alma mater, Penn State University. If you look it up on You Tube under “Origins of We are Penn State Cheer”, you will see a heart warming story. On any home game, you will hear one side of the stadium cheer, “We Are” and the other side cheer ” Penn State.” Now for a guy who went to a small little school up in Northwest Pa, this brings chills to the spine. It is inspiring and is the mantra for all of those like my wife and her wonderful friends who all went to school together at a fabulous university in a fabulous little town -State College,Pa. Happy Valley.

I would like to speak in this post of the idea of friendship which is embodied in the relationship that has developed over 30 years with my wife Janet and her PSU friends. Let’s start with Mark and Kathy Ritchey who so generously open their home to all of us during the annual rite of the fall-Homecoming weekend. We kill their house but the smiles and the hospitality of the Ritcheys is unmatched. They are generous to a fault and their home is our home. Their daughter Megan plays for the Women’s Soccer Team and Kathy and Mark are like second parents to all of those girls and coaches.

A big motor home rolls in for every home game and especially on Homecoming weekend. It is driven by a little spitfire of a gal named Judy Smith who was a cheerleader for the Lions back in the day. She and her husband Mike drive into the Valley and bring the most amazing food for the tailgates. Nothing beats Judy’s Yum Yum bars and her exquisite turkey served with home made cole slaw on fresh challah rolls. Mike Smith is one of three non-PSU persons like myself and fortunatly for me,he is a mountain biker. For the last 25 years, we have ridden together before the game up on the great trails of the Rothrock State Forest. Our route can be found on the Purple Lizard Maps available at all the bike shops in town. We hit the Longberger Path to the John Wert Path( a rocky hell of a trail), up Heckendorn Gap via Treaster Kettle Road, and then rocketing back down the Longberger to the finish. We have ridden a lot of the trails over the last number of years in all kinds of weather. I will never forget Doc Smith sliding on the ice over this wooden bridge right near the start of the ride. A tough start for Michael but he is a tough guy and the rest of the ride was uneventful and enjoyable. Mike is our medical guy. With all the pub crawling and the scavenger hunts designed by the diabolical Kathy Ritchey, we need a medical man on staff.

Valerie and Bob Reading are another wonderful couple and Val was one of the original(roomies). Bob is an amazing athlete. Mike and I took him for one of his first mountain bike rides and his road riding prowess showed up hard in the climb up the Gap on Treaster Kettle. He left the mountain bike guys in the dust on the climb and Mike and I looked at each other in wonder. Bob still looks like he could play college football. Valerie is one of the friendliest persons I have ever met and her culinary skills along with her sister Diane and her husband Billy, make the tailgate the envy of the alumni crowd. These three can cook up a storm along with Judy’s grub and my wife Janet’s “to die for” chile. Beth O’Donnell another roomie from the day, also prepares a feast for the tailgate and her husband Mike, a former PSU player, enjoys the feast with all of us. Mike is a friendly, capable financial guy who is a dedicated volunteer and generous supporter of all that is Penn State.

Then there is the incomparable Mike Procopio. Copes is a labor attorney from the West Coast via Sharpsburg, Pa and PSU. When he applied to Law School, he looked up the next school in the “P” section of the college manual and found Pepperdine. He was accepted and the next thing you know, Mike is looking at the bikini clad co-eds on the beach from the library window. He is a capable guy and the group has no better friend than Copers. He would give you the shirt off his back and then some. Mike Dunlay(aka the Dunz) is the ringleader of this group. A successful restauranteur from Chicago, he is shown above holding Joe Paterno on his shoulders in the famous Sports Illustrtated cover commemorating the teams National Championship. Dunz is also the guy that I refer to in my earlier ski post on “Characters.” Dunz was the guy I took to Killington to ski with my friend Eric and his national class ski racing son, Travis. Dunz shows up in wrap around Clint Eastwood sunglasses and Cincinnati Bengals billowing cotton pants. We all skied fast that day as usual and the Dunz rocketed down the trails of Killington hollering and laughing all the way down much to the amusement of my friend and his son. People kept asking me if he was an NFL player and I said politely “No- that is ……..the Dunz” He is another guy who would take a bullet for the girls. Another generous guy to a fault who would do anything for his Penn State crowd.

Now you might ask yourself, why am I spending such detail on this group? I am trying to portray the archtypal description of friendship embodied here. As an outsider, I have had the opportunity to observe this crowd for a long time and they are truly a tight group. They have been friends for over 30 years and make the effort to see each other not only at Homecoming but at other times of the year, all over the country. They make the time for each other. They call each other. They value their friendships. I am pleased that they consider me a friend as well and they have always welcomed me into the their midst as an honorary Lion. Pretty nice for a guy who didn’t really make the most of his college experience. Janet is a good friend to all of them. My mother used to say that to have a friend is to be a friend. I see Jan calling her friends from PSU, getting together with them, laughing with them, crying with them, and it is really heartwarming to see how much she enjoys her friends for all these many years. So as inspiring as this is to me, it should be to you as well. Cherish your friends. Make plans and take the time to get together with them. We are getting older. Our kids are growing and will soon have their own path and friends in life. But I expect this group to be rock solid for many years to come. I want to tag along and when the crowd screams,” WE ARE” I will shout back ……”Penn State.” Thanks for reading.