What if someone asks you the definition of love.? You may spend a lifetime or more but will not find a better answer than Love is commitment. Well the story in this blog is a pure elaboration of committed love or you can say the purest form of love that can be. This is the story of Dick Hoyt a father whose exceptional love transformed his suffering son into an achiever; Judy Hoyt a mother who fought for the education of her disabled son.
Rick Hoyt was born on jan10, 1962 in Holland, Massachusetts. He was the first son of Dick and Judy Hoyt. Rick was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at birth after his umbilical cord became twisted around his neck which caused the blockage of oxygen flow. The doctors told that his brain was damaged although it is functioning properly, yet he will not be able to control or move his muscles. Rick also had reverse tongue where food that usually travels down the throat, instead travels upward which hampers feeding and proper nutrition levels. Explaining his condition Rick wrote in his book:
“I would sleep for hours on end. I didn’t cry or eat well. I didn’t roll off my stomach, and I certainly didn’t sit or crawl,”Rick Hoyt
Doctors suggested Dick that the best thing to do in their case was to leave Rick in a good institute and carry on their life without worrying about a thing. Dick However didn’t agree to such proposition. He said:
“I’m just a dad, and it meant everything to me to be able to take my son home,”. “And as he grew up, we knew he was smart, and funny, and curious. It was our job as parents to make sure he received all of the opportunities everyone else has.”Dick Hoyt
Dick knew that his son was intelligent and was understands everything happening around him. As per the book:
“A spastic wave of his arms, a nod of his head, or a glance in a specific direction were amongst the very limited weapons that Rick has in his communications arsenal,”
“Due to the way his muscles constantly tensed, writing and sign language were not possibilities either,”Dick Hoyt
Till the age of 12 Rick was unable to communicate vocally.
“We had long since learned how to interpret our son’s smiles and nods, his “yes” and “no” head shakes, but as good as everyone in the family was about figuring out what Rick needed, we were still only making educated guesses.”Dick Hoyt
In late winter 1974, engineering students at Tufts University in Medford, Mass., led by Dr. William Crochetiere, the engineering department chairman, developed a communication device for Rick. The device spoke for him by allowing him to select letters by tapping against a console for words. When he was about to use it for the first time everyone in the house was excited to hear from him the first time. Judy was hoping that his first words would be MAMA while Dick wanted to hear DAD. However, when Rick first used the machine, he said Let’s go Bruins. His father knew that his son has an athletic spirit right at that moment.
In 1977 Rick told his Dad that he wanted to run a race to help for charity. It was to benefit a lacrosse player at his school who had become paralyzed. Dick was 36 at that time and moreover not even a runner. Dick agreed to help his son. It was their first race together. While running Rick told his father:
“Dad, when I’m running, it feels like I’m not handicapped.”Rick Hoyt
His words inspired Rick to make his son feel the same every day. He wanted him to know that he was greater than his disability and together they could achieve everything they wanted. Dick started practicing everyday with a cement bag when his son was busy in school. He prepared himself so much that he was able to set a personal record of 5km run in 17 min. They became Team Hoyt and started participating in races /marathons/triathlons. The view of a father carrying his son in his arms and then pushing him through the finish line in a wheel chair will surely give you goosebumps. For the swimming portion of the triathlon, Dick pulled Rick in a specialized boat with a bungee cord wrapped around Dick’s waist. To bike, the pair used a two-seater bicycle with a custom-made seat, and for the final road race, he pushed Rick in his athletic chair.
In January 1988, after a year of racing to include one Ironman, a half Ironman, three Olympic-distance triathlons, five marathons (including one in Barbados), three half-marathons, and fifteen short road races, I wrote a letter to the Hawaii Ironman officials to get permission to compete in the 1988 event…I emphasized our experience and passion for the sport and what we could bring to a worldwide event. Finally, I wrote about the honor it would be for us to compete in the race. We were preparing for our eighth consecutive Boston Marathon when the word came back from the Ironman World Championship: Our application had been rejected. The officials were concerned that the swim would be too dangerous for us. I took their response in stride. We had been rejected before, so I hadn’t expected this to come easily.”
“In 1989, when Dick and Rick completed their first World Championship Ironman triathlon in Kona, Rick became the first disabled person in the world to ever compete in and complete the Ironman in Hawaii. Due in part to his efforts, Ironman now has a physically challenged division. Nearly twenty-four years later, Rick became the first disabled person to be inducted into the Ironman Hall of Fame.”
“I knew the credit went to my son. He was my motivation. Something gets into me when I’m competing along with Rick that makes us go faster. My strength comes from him, as if it moves from his body into mine. The strength that I got from my son that day enabled us to become Ironmen.”Dick Hoyt
Dick in an interview shared a memory about a conversation with Rick, where he asked Rick that if he hadn’t been disabled than he could have been a footballer or maybe a basketball player and then he wouldn’t have been so close to him. To which Rick said that If this would be the case then I would have been dragging you around with me in a wheel chair to win races. He says that” I know my son would have taken care of me the way I am taking care of him “.
They have till now completed 1130 endurance events including 72 marathons and 6 Ironman triathlons. They had run Boston Marathon 32 times. Also adding to their list of achievements, Dick and Rick biked and ran across the U.S. in 1992, completing a full 3,735 miles in 45 days. A bronze statue in honor of the Hoyts was dedicated on April 8, 2013, near the start of the Boston Marathon in Hopkinton, Massachusetts. ESPN honored Team Hoyt with the Jimmy V Perseverance Award at the ESPYS on July 17, 2013. Dick Hoyt is now 79 years old. Throughout all the attention and glory, Dick said he doesn’t like to be singled out as a special father.
“This for me was what it means to be a father,” he said. “But Rick has graduated from public school and from college, and he’s achieved more than many people will in a lifetime. And we’re going to keep going (in racing) until one of us can’t anymore.”Dick Hoyt
I hope you have enjoyed reading about this rare love story. There are many videos available of the duo on various platforms. The references have been made from the book: One Letter a time and Devoted: A story of father’s love. Go through them to know their struggles and achievements. It is said that Love is rare but if we look closely it may be near; Love your Parents and live by the team Hoyts motto : Yes, You Can!”