I like analogies and use them all the time. The Last Train is an analogy for my journey in life with a diagnosis of terminal cancer. I also like the analogy that life itself is like a series of train rides. As we grow older, our lives change, we get off one train and move to another.
So in writing a “bio” about myself, here are the eight train rides that comprise my life. I’ve included my primary nickname for each train ride, because as my “riders” know, I like nicknames and many times those names help define us.
Train One: I was born in Albert Lea, Minnesota in 1956 and my early years were that of an old black and white TV sitcom, real life Ozzie & Harriet kind of stuff. Model family. Dad a newspaper editor, mom a nurse, two older sisters Jill and Judi, church every Sunday, all home cooked meals, never any major conflicts. Well, I guess my parents did seem to argue every April when dad brought out that green metal box and they spread papers all over the kitchen table. But all in all, it was a perfect childhood filled with lots of love and good memories.
Nickname: “Jeffer” what my dad called me.
Train Two: We moved to Grand Island, Nebraska in 1963 and I experienced the fun of growing up. Playing sports in the schoolyard, sleepovers, riding bikes all over town, more sports, and even discovered that girls existed and had my first kiss with cute, little Jenny Painter.
Nickname: “Small” because I was really small growing up, the shortest kid in class, and it was very similar to my last name.
Train Three: Junior and Senior High School. Emotions start playing a big role. What can I do to be more popular? Why are some people so mean? Am I cool? Should I ask her to dance? She dumped me…damn that zit in the middle of my forehead! Happy years with my biggest regret not standing up to the bullies who picked on everyone. Peer pressure is a powerful force indeed.
Nickname: “Bootdog” a nickname used to make fun of me. I didn’t like it but didn’t have the guts to tell people not to call me that.
Train Four: College life at the University of Nebraska and new friends at the SAE fraternity and on the Husker tennis team. Wow, the freedom to make my own decisions was amazing! New friendships become deeper than ever before with some lasting a lifetime. Going to parties. Falling in love, getting my heart broken. Becoming a Christian. Discovering my talents for creativity and leadership. Very formative and fun years!
Nickname: “Schmahl” for obvious reasons.
Train Five: Life in the working world. I spent 14 years as a sportscaster at KOLN-TV in Lincoln, Nebraska working with a fun, creative group where we constantly challenged each other to get better. Marriage in 1981 to my Cuban bombshell, Maria. Experiencing the greatest joy in my life by becoming a father. Responsibility, real life stuff, I loved it all.
Nickname: “Schmee” the nickname that has stuck with me the longest.
Train Six: 10 years working for the Nebraska Athletic Department as the Director of HuskerVision…perhaps the most fun and rewarding years of my life. What an experience to be right in the middle of the glory years at Nebraska, three football national championships, traveling across the country, and seeing the students that I hire and train go on to amazing successful careers. The school song says it best, “There is no place like Nebraska.”
Nickname: “Schmee” what most of my Nebraska friends still call me.
Train Seven: Another 10 years working for the Texas A&M Athletic Department as the Senior Associate Athlete Director for External Operations. Long title…lots of duties overseeing marketing, sports information, television production, big screens, website, event management, lettermen, broadcasting, and sponsorships. In addition, I was the administrator for the A&M men’s and women’s golf and tennis teams. Aggieland…an amazing place where the love and passion of the “former students” for their school is unlike anything I’d seen.
Nickname: “Coach Schmahl” what the golfers and tennis players called me.
Train Eight: Maria and I moved to New York City in April, 2013 to help our son, Zachary, grow his Schmackary’s cookie business. A great adventure and up to now, the best year of my life.
Nickname: “Schmackdaddy” what they call me at the store.