The Old Man and the Sea

Age 4, early morning walk on the beach in Provincetown with my grandfather.
Age 4, early morning walk on the beach in Provincetown with my grandfather.

“If the sun is up, you’re up” were the dreaded words to hear from my bedroom doorway at 6:00am, as the sun began to creep over the dunes in Provincetown, Massachusetts. My grandfather’s motto was if the fish and clams were awake, we were awake and there was no time to lose.  As a teenager, those wakeup calls were painful, but without them I wouldn’t be the person I am today. As I got older, I grew to love the early mornings on the beach. In fact, that was the time I spent exploring the ocean world with my grandfather, Puppy, which spurred my love for marine fisheries and sent me on my way to UConn to study just that. Looking back at my time here at UConn, I have faced down every obstacle or challenge that has come my way with something I learned from my grandfather on the water.

 

Curiosity. As we walked across the sandbars at low tide, we weren’t just walking through a murky tidal pool; whole new worlds opened up in each little splash of water. When I asked about a strange looking critter, even the man who seemed to know everything would say, “Beats me, but we can find out.” Never stop exploring and asking questions. The second you do, life gets pretty boring. Join clubs, take some random classes, try something completely new; as my grandfather said, sometimes you can teach an old dog new tricks.

 

The dunes overlooking Provincetown, where I grew up exploring with my grandfather, and will be biking across to the finish line this August.
The dunes overlooking Provincetown, where I grew up exploring with my grandfather, and will be biking across to the finish line this August.

Forgiveness. Puppy never got upset when I covered his car in sand, let all of the live bait out of the bucket trying to get the biggest minnow, or smashed his favorite fishing lure against the jetty rocks with a terribly misjudged cast. He was quick to forgive, simply asking what I learned that day and if it had been worth it. From him, I learned to let the little stuff go.  It’s not worth getting mad at roommates for leaving the room a mess, or classmates for not doing their part of a project. Life is too short not to forgive people for their shortcomings and learn from your own.

Get messy. Even when we were dressed up for a night out to dinner, Puppy would tell me if you want to catch that razor clam as it shoots down into the black sand, roll up your sleeves and dig deeper. You will smell and your outfit will get filthy in the process, but don’t let your fear of getting dirty keep you from experiencing amazing things within your reach.  Jump in on every opportunity UConn presents to you and let your life get messy.  Get in over your head with classes, or commit to one too many clubs; you’ll grow in the process, and the mess will be worth it.

Enjoy every single second. Life is too short, and my grandfather made this clear to me time and time again. In 2006, Pup was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, Merkel cell carcinoma, and given a 10% chance of survival. Even radiation and treatment didn’t keep him from being out on the water. He made it very clear that he was not going to let cancer get in the way of his love for life, his family, and the ocean. Thanks to the amazing dedication of doctors at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Robert Madden is now cancer free and still arguing with me over the latest fishing regulations in Massachusetts. Don’t get hung up on a bad exam grade, or turn sour on what you enjoy because you are stressed out. Our time here at UConn is short, so enjoy every second of it.

 

I want nothing more than to spread curiosity and enthusiasm for the marine world the way Puppy did for me. In his honor, my dad and I will bike 163 miles in two days, and raise $4,500 for the Pan Mass Challenge, the world’s biggest fundraiser for cancer research and treatment. The ride will be challenging, but the finish line overlooks the dunes and the jetty of Provincetown where I spent countless hours with my grandfather over the years, learning many of life’s important lessons. I began my studies at UConn because of a passion my grandfather instilled in me, the lessons he taught me helped me though challenges I faced here, and I will cross that finish line reminding myself that life is short, to stay curious, to forgive often, to get messy, to find adventure in every second, and to embrace all of life’s challenges.

This ride is for you Pup. Thank you for everything you taught me. To P-Town or bust. Closer by the mile.

 

For more information about the PMC or to make a donation to support cancer research and treatment, please visit: http://www2.pmc.org/profile/ED0116

My dad and I with my grandfather on the day of 2015 PMC registration. My dad will be riding his 11th PMC in August, this will be my first.
My dad and I with my grandfather on the day of 2015 PMC registration. My dad will be riding his 11th PMC in August, this will be my first.