It’s a story American dreams are made of — a small town family watching their Olympian son and brother bringing his life’s vision into focus.
On the cusp of seeing Fair Haven Olympian Connor Jaeger swim that swim of a lifetime, his family is embracing a searing sense of overwhelming gratitude:
“So often the most joyous occasions in our lives are shared in small intimate circle of friends and family," dad Eric Jaeger said. "This experience which we are living through now has demonstrated the power and beauty of small-town America as the people rally behind one of their own. We are most humble and grateful for the love and support shown to our family. The words 'thank you' can not suffice but they will have to."
Last week was the opening ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Connor Jaeger walked in the ceremony, since, as his Twitter feed and family will tell you, he is not swimming until later this week.
It was a first for the 21-year-old graduate of and Michigan University student.
"Walking in the opening ceremonies tonight, because I don't swim for another week," Connor's Twitter feed said. "Guna be sick (slang for excellent)."
And while he was walking, people who know Connor back home were welled up with pride and his family with gratitude for being fortunate enough to live the dream.
Connor's mom, Bernadette, says she can't express her gratitude enough, but she'll try. Not only is she grateful for her family and being a part of the embracing community family in Fair Haven, but for being a part of a dedicated family of swimmers from the early days of Connor's swimming to Olympic trials and beyond.
"I think that every one of those swimmers is an Olympian at heart: a racer, a competitor, a persistent fighter, a team member, a friend," she said. "How lucky are we?!
"I have been thinking over these past few weeks since Olympic trials of all the swimmers (and swim families!) we know. I am reminded of the passion they all share for their sport and the love they have for each other: the commitment they all made to swimming, the early summer mornings, the weekends on pool decks, the crazy meal times in between meet sessions and constant practices day in and day out. Eric and I will be ever grateful that this is the family our children brought us to."
This Olympian mom has been pinching herself over and over again and finding that she's wide awake.
Big sister Dana saw the dream turning to reality early on. That reality melded with her sister role, she said. And after a lifetime of doing the sisterly thing and "testing the waters" of some of life's growing up realities, she saw her little brother grow into an Olympian who is still very much the kid with whom she fights over custody of the TV remote. And that's Dana's source of gratitude.
She's grateful for what she defines as the basic, yet bountiful blessing of having a brother and best friend like Connor. The Olympian part, she said, is just more of their relationship that's as good as the gold.
Connor's self-proclaimed "protector, advice giver, confidant, chauffeur, best friend and number one fan" said that the Olympic path is one she was not able to clear for her little brother, but, she said, "turns out he didn’t need me to. I am so proud of my younger brother, the Olympian. I always knew he was remarkable ... and now, the rest of the world will, too. (P.S. — Olympian or not, the big sister always gets control of the television remote!)
"As an older sibling, part of your job is to clear the path and test the waters for all of the firsts growing up: First to go to the movies without parents ... First to drive ... First to go to college ... First to date ... (Note to younger siblings: Please be grateful to your older siblings because somehow the rules are always stricter the first time around!)"
Dana's perspective on a pretty status quo life with her little brother epitomizes the consensus that Connor Jaeger is just a good guy following his dream and heart.
It's that heart that people have come to know for which his father is most humbled and grateful.
"Connor is a great swimmer, competitor, athlete, etc ... and I am so proud of him and all that he has accomplished," Eric said. "But, that which gives me special joy is when I meet someone who knows Connor and they tell me what a great person they think he is ... Character defines you."
And this is a journey that the Jaeger family has seen marked by many defining moments along the way.