Several years ago, my friend Elizabeth Burke and I rowed twice a week through the Seattle winter. We ventured out without fail as dawn was breaking - rowing two single shells or a double. We'd row from the Fremont Bridge to the Chittenden Locks and back, or maybe across Lake Union and on to Lake Washington. Sometimes we'd come back to our home at the Lake Washington Rowing Club and wipe the ice off our boats. But we always came back with an irrefutable sense of moral superiority! We'd done it again!

Rowing - particularly Rowing Through the Winter - provides a richness of metaphors...instructive in my life as a Family Physician and the Home Dialysis CarePartner for my profoundly ill husband, Steve Williams. Now that Steve is gone, rowing reminds me of consistency and focus - so critical during grieving. Rowing requires balance, as does my life.

Row with me this winter. Linda Gromko, MD

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Frank Cunningham Coached Us, Too!

Frank Cunningham - former Harvard stroke, longtime coach at Lakeside, senior coach of everyone at Lake Washington Rowing Club, author - was recently awarded the most prestigious honor the rowing world bestows.

Frank won the US Rowing Medal of Honor!

From what I can tell, that's just about the biggest and best honor a rower and a rowing coach can receive.

Several years ago, there was a need for coaching women rowers "of a certain age." We became known as "Frank's Friday Fillies," or as some of us said, "The Perimenopausal Rowing Group,"

We rowed Friday mornings: mostly quads and triples. Four of us rowed Head of the Lake one year - and we weren't even last! The next year, the whole HOTL Regatta was scrapped due to gale-force winds. I was relieved beyond measure!

Frank, of course, coached us with his usual zeal. He knew that we "didn't have enough life left" to become great rowers. Frank even smiled when I'd describe my goal: my vertical pitch to mediocrity.

We were enthusiastic, and we certainly had a wonderful time!

I think the thing that stands out the most for me was that Frank knew we weren't headed for greatness - but he still extended his encouragement and skill to those of us who pre-dated Title IX. And just rowed for the joy of it. We got the same quality and consideration that the "big kids" did.

So Christmas eve morning, when I set out with Kim - one of the former Friday women, when we were graced with the best glass water I've ever seen, I thought of Frank. Every time I row - whether it's for fitness, for therapy, for the sheer joy of a temporary escape from the troubles of the day, I am appreciative.

How grateful I am to Frank Cunningham, and to everyone at Lake Washington Rowing Club who has helped add this profound enrichment to my life! Congratulations, Frank, and thank you.

Linda Gromko, MD

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