Maybe it's the way this election year has played out. Or the fact that the United States seems so lost in the world right now. Or just the pervasive sense in these parts that we're entering a depression. But, whatever the reason, I've been finding myself flooded with unexpected patriotism lately. It makes me blush to admit. I know that I'm tuning into these Olympics more than I did for any of them since 1984 because of the intense media build-up to them that started several years ago. And I'm a little ashamed of that, too.
It doesn't matter, though, when I can bond with my daughter the way we did tonight. After absorbing her rage earlier, telling her it was alright to be angry, that I wouldn't hold her lashing out against her, we needed a way to make things better. Talking about the historic importance of African-American swimmer Cullen Jones's place in the 4 X 100 team, helping her understand why Michael Phelps's quest to win eight gold medals is such a big deal, explaining that the astonishing last fifty meters of the relay swum by Jason Leszak represented a special sort of redemption after his disappointments in Sydney and Athens, watching the slow-motion replay of French swimmer Alain Bernard possibly costing his team the gold by turning his head to see Leszak at the end. It all took only a few moments, but felt like a palimpsest of a pattern in our relationship, one that makes me feel very good. We know how to come back together after being torn apart. It was her idea to sing along to the national anthem. I joined in without hesitation. It was perfect.
Tomorrow I'll tell her that my earliest memories of a historic event date back to the Munich Olympics of 1972. I had a thing for Mark Spitz, grasping his achievement in my four-year-old way even though I was not quite able to follow his races on our 19" black-and-white television. I'll probably refrain from describing what it was like to watch Jim McKay for hours, sensing that something grave was underway without having the cognitive ability to comprehend the details. But there will be a time for sharing that as well. Maybe I will manage to connect it to what we shared together tonight.