I haven’t been watching the Olympics so I don’t if you have seen, or heard about, the story of Hope Solo, goal keeper for the Gold Medal winning US Women’s soccer team. The important story isn’t that she won a gold medal, or even her success on the soccer field, it’s about her relationship with her father, a Viet Nam veteran, who spent much of his life homeless, living in the woods, and how he was still an inspiration to her.
In her own words:
From USA Today:
In addition to setting a goal of being the No. 1 goalkeeper in the world, Hope Solo now has added incentive to play her best: to honor her father, Jeffrey, who died of heart failure June 15 at 69.
Although her parents divorced when she was 6 and her father, a veteran, lived for a time on the streets of Seattle or in the woods outside the city, Solo and her father had a strong, unbreakable bond.
“I always had a very unique, close relationship with my father,” Solo says. “He was the happiest man I’ve ever known. He enjoyed the simple life. He never judged another person. His heart was pure.”
They were kindred spirits. They shared a deep love of sports — when she started playing organized soccer at 5, he was her first coach. They stayed close through the years, through weekly letters to Solo and her brother, Marcus. When Solo moved to Seattle for college, she and her father physically re-established their relationship.
“He’d call me from a pay phone, and we’d pick a place to meet. And I’d make him macaroni and cheese, and we’d sit in the woods in a tent and talk for hours,” she says. “He understood life and sports, and that’s why he knew me so well.”
Solo refuses to describe her father as “homeless.”
“He was a tough Italian guy who was raised in a boys home in the Bronx,” she says. “He always had that street sense in him. In terms of being ‘homeless,’ I’m always very careful not to define it that way. He chose to live in the woods. He enjoyed it. I’d offer him money, and he’d never take a dime. If I looked for him, I wouldn’t look for him at a homeless shelter.”
Six years ago, with Solo’s encouragement, he worked through volunteers at the Department of Veterans Affairs to move into a retirement home. Although he attended all of his daughter’s games at Washington, arriving four hours early to watch her warm up, he’d never seen her play for the U.S. women’s team. He’d looked forward to being at the Brazil game June 23 in East Rutherford, N.J., and giving Solo a tour of the Bronx. He died eight days before he could follow through with those plans.
“He was so excited to go back to his hometown, to see me in my USA jersey, to show me where he grew up,” she says. “Instead, my mom, my brother and I took the trip to honor him. And we took some of my father (his ashes) with us. We took him to Yankee Stadium. My dad was the world’s only Yankee and Red Sox fan.”
— Jill Lieber Steeg, USA TODAY