There are some people you meet in this world who make you take a deep breath and reflect on yourself. People who have overcome incredible odds, who never stop moving forward, who never refuse to quit, who simply are an inspiration because of their outlook on life.
I'm lucky enough to call one of those people brother and I want to tell you why.
With the recent release of The Season: RUSH, I wanted to write something to explain a little of my inspiration. Some of you may know that I'm a huge hockey fan. Back in 1999, when the Dallas Stars won the Stanley Cup, I was standing in front of the giant projection screen television (the kind that took up half the room) in my parents' living room, jumping up and down for joy. There might've been a few shots to celebrate afterward, too. It was beyond amazing. I was hooked on hockey, no doubt about it.
Skip forward a couple of years to when my youngest brother was in high school. He decided he wanted to play hockey. A goalie, in fact. The coolest position on the team, if you ask me. So, my parents told him to go for it. And let me tell you, he did.
Not only did my brother play hockey when he was younger, but he also played basketball and any other sport that struck his fancy. Nothing could stop the kid.
Okay, now on to my point of this story.
My youngest brother, Bryan, was born clubfooted, also known as Congenital Talipes Equinovarus (CTEV). Both of his feet were turned completely inward, the soles of his feet touched the inside of his calves. His was a severe case.
This is a rare deformity, according to what I read, roughly 200,000 cases per year. There are ways to correct clubfoot - surgery, corrective devices, etc - and my brother underwent everything, including surgery, which resulted in casts on both of his feet.
Keep in mind, when my brother was born, I was 10. Of course, I thought he was the greatest thing since sliced bread. What 10-year old did not want their very own living, breathing baby doll? Granted, my parents wouldn't let me lug him around all the time, but we were very close.
When he was 2 or so, I remember dressing him up with sunglasses, hats, and other miscellaneous things, I would have him pose with my stuffed animals, pretend to be fixing his hair with my hair spray. I love showing him those pictures. He probably thinks I was a little nuts (probably still thinks that). Truth is, I love him. He is my baby brother.
At a very, very early age, he had surgery - which required the doctors to lengthen the muscles and tendons in an effort to get his feet to move into a more normal position. He spent years in casts and corrective shoes.
His left foot remained smaller than his right and has caused him a lot of pain over the years. As can be the case with people with clubfoot, his calf muscles remained smaller than normal as well, more so on his left leg than on the right.
If someone ever told him that would stop him, he clearly didn't listen.
The thing is, he NEVER quit.
All through his teens, my brother has forged ahead, doing whatever he wanted - snowboarding, hockey, basketball, golf. You name it, he's done it. Hell, he still does it. Just last month, he did a Spartan race.
And he has never let his foot be his crutch, so to speak. My brother is completely comfortable in his own skin and that is something that I truly admire about him. So many times, people try to hide the qualities that make them unique. They try to convince themselves that their differences don't exist and hope others don't realize they do. Not my brother. He knows his limitations, but he works to be stronger, go faster, do more than most people who haven't been in his shoes.
And that, my friend, is real inspiration.
My brother had prosthetic inserts for his shoes for a long time, which helped to some degree. They didn't alleviate the pain, though. Just recently, he found someone who actually designs a brace that helps his weaker foot to hold more of his weight. It has taken him some time to relearn how he's done certain things throughout his life (running, jumping, etc), and I have to say, his smile is brighter than ever. The guy's incredible.
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not here trying to exploit my brother. He'll probably blush to the roots of his hair to know there are baby pictures of him on this blog post and yes, he even tried to convince me to wait a few weeks and use a different picture of him currently because he is bigger than before (he works out his arms because I pick on him ALL the time).
No, this wasn't to embarrass him. I'm simply telling you that he was my inspiration for RUSH. In fact, he is my inspiration in a lot of things.
Keeping in mind, I am a huge hockey fan. I have pucks signed from goalies I'm completely infatuated by - Belfour, Turco, Lehtonen, Niemi - but I have ONE absolute favorite goalie. My brother.
Bryan, #39, will always be my favorite.
Of course, my brother is still anxious to get back out on the ice again. I don't think it'll take much considering his son Mason is more than ready to follow in his dad's footsteps.