Sunday, September 16, 2007
The Judo Gods Love Me
This week, the judo gods love me. First, Ronda wins a silver medal in the World Championships in Brazil. Less than twenty-four hours later, the opening day of the USJA/ USJF West Coast Judo Training Center goes off without a hitch.
I am only slightly less Catholic than the pope, the major difference being that the pope goes to mass more often than me. Every time Ronda goes away, Julia and I go down to St. Anne's Shrine and light candles for her. We always say prayers and light a candle in her room the day she competes. It is a family tradition that goes back over thirty years to when my grandmother did the same for me when I was competing.
On Friday, I checked the judoinfo site in the morning, the best judo site on the planet, and it showed she had won over Oka,the Japanese player who was the #3 ranked player in the world going into the tournament, so the day started off well. On my way in to a meeting at UC Riverside, 70 miles from home, I was chatting with a woman who said,
"My son just walked by and told me that Ronda is doing well. It shows on the website she just beat the Italian and she has the Brazilian to go into the semi-finals."
After she hung up, I called Jim Pedro, Sr. and asked him if he could leave me a message on my cell phone how Ronda was doing, since I was going into a meeting for the next few hours and wouldn't be able to check. When I pulled into the parking lot, I just could not wait, though, so I pulled up a site in Brazil on my iPhone. I was stunned. I don't read Portuguese very well. Actually, not at all, but it is pretty similar to Spanish, which I do read and I was pretty sure it said that both of the Brazilians had advanced to the next round, which would mean Ronda had lost.
Ronda always makes fun of me because I wear a St. Jude medal, have a statue of St. Jude on my desk and pray to St. Jude, who is the patron saint of lost causes. She says,
"Come on, can't you find a tougher saint for me? Do you really think I am a lost cause?"
I tell her that everyone feels like a lost cause sometimes, that I certainly have felt at times like judo in America is a lost cause and that she just might be the answer to some people's prayers. She remains unconvinced.
Well, not much could be more of a lost cause than praying someone would win when it was already reported that they had lost, but I sat in my car and said a prayer anyway and then went into my meeting with a heavy heart, feeling very sorry for my little girl because I knew how sad she would be. Still, my grandmother had always said that no matter what, you should always have faith and somehow God finds a way.
About an hour into the meeting, the phone rang and Jim Pedro's name popped up on the caller ID. I went in the hall to talk, thinking he might tell me Ronda was done or in the repechage and he said,
"Ronda won. She pinned the Brazilian and she's in the semi-finals against Bosch!"
I couldn't believe it, not that she had won but that she had won after I had read (or so I thought) that she had lost.
When I finally got home, I fell sound asleep, partly because I had been up working until 2 a.m. for the report for the meeting that day, and partly because I was just nerve-wracked. I really prefer the tournaments in Europe where by the time I wake up, it is over and I don't have to chew my fingernails down to the knuckle all day. I missed the phone when it rang the first time and when I called Jimmy back he yelled,
"You were ASLEEP? How can you sleep? I'd stay up all night for this and she isn't even my kid! Your daughter is in the finals! She threw Edith Bosch for ippon! Do you know how great that is? It makes it all worth it, all the lip she gave me and all the times I had to yell at her to work on her throws and all those hours of gripping drills, and all the crying she does in the dojo, not to mention getting her to clean her room!"
Well, you probably know by now the rest of the story. Ronda lost by a yuko in the finals. She called home crying. I wished there was something that I could have said to make it all better. I just told her that I loved her and that it was probably all for the best. I do believe that, too. I remember all of the times that I lost and everyone of them made me more determined. For the next year, remembering that last match in Rio will get Ronda to go one more round at those European training camps, to get up for the 6 a.m. run in the winter in Boston, to spend two hours in the corner of the dojo working on something new, when no one else is around, trying to find that key to winning it all.
She will find it. After I placed fifth in a tournament in France, I called home crying, too. My grandmother said, with absolute faith,
"It will work out in the end. You will win."
When I asked her how she could be so sure, she answered simply,
"Mija, God always knows what he's doing, even when you don't."