The Other Daughter

A blog by Lara Jackson’s sister

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Springtime is for awakening

Posted by Carly Rose Jackson on April 17, 2010

and rebirth.

I have many reasons for not adding to this blog for the past 6 months.  This blog is supposed to be about my sister’s swimming career. She’s still swimming.  Last fall she traveled the world (South Africa, Germany, Singapore) to compete in the World Cup.  But it’s hard writing about stuff happening so far away.  I was stuck in Boston, so I didn’t have much to write about.  Now Lara is focusing on school and training.  I’m still stuck in Boston.

On the other hand, I’ve been inspired by so many blogs written by friends (Broccolitarian Universe, The Voice and The Song, Giant Old Lady, In the Living Kitchen, Charlotte’s Web, Dulce De Leche Swirl) and people I found through the magic of the internet (Not That Kind of Girl, Full Gastronomic Tilt, “thought gently whispers . . .” ) that I thought maybe I could expand the subject matter.

The real reason I haven’t written much, though, is: since my dad died, I haven’t the heart.  He was my sister’s greatest fan, and his enthusiasm and knowledge helped me figure out the world of swimming.

So this post is about my dad.

My dad and I contemplate the vast hole in the ground.

Last week I was dog-sitting for a friend (author of aforementioned Broccolitarian Universe). As I walked with the dog along the Charles River, I decided to listen to Grateful Dead.  When “Ripple” came on, I put my iPod and repeat and listened to it at least 10 times until we got back to the apartment. 

Listen for yourself.

I looked up the song on Wikipedia, because I had no doubt there were many theories explaining the lyrics that resonated in my brain.  I found The Annotated “Ripple” which made the comparison between “Ripple” and the Psalms.  Ah, yes that was it.  It reminded me of a Psalm.

First verse:

If my words did glow with the gold of sunshine
And my tunes were played on the harp unstrung
Would you hear my voice come through the music
Would you hold it near as it were your own?

Words glowing with sunshine, songs played on nonexistant strings: what better image for those ethereal communications we sense when thinking about lost loved ones?  I still lose my crap when I think about my father’s voice coming through the music.  I know he loved the Grateful Dead.  I’m sure he spent many hours geeking out– like I am now– analyzing lyrics and appreciating melodies.  So yes, I hold on to this music, and make it my own, because it feels like I’m holding on to my dad.

Second verse:

It’s a hand-me-down, the thoughts are broken
Perhaps they’re better left unsung
I don’t know, don’t really care

Love for this hippy music was totally handed down.  He loved it, so he listened to it and shared it with me.  My thoughts are broken, because they are MY thoughts because he never shared HIS thoughts.  So am I really sharing an experience with my dad every time I listen to this song, or do I only THINK I am?  I don’t know and don’t really care.  So I keep singing it to myself, and for anyone who can hear me.


Ripple in still water
When there is no pebble tossed
Nor wind to blow

A Psalmist sense of causes and actions unexplainable by normal means.  Everything my dad was, his personality, morality, his love for certain movies and humor . . . all those things have participated in the phenomena that make me who I am.  When I read Ann Coulter or watch Lord of the Rings, I do it because he did.  But I also love those things for myself.  Who knows which of his off-hand comments have pushed me down certain paths?  I guess what I’m trying to say is, his life made ripples in my life.  Their causes are untraceable, they cannot be rationalized.

Third verse:

Reach out your hand if your cup be empty
If your cup is full may it be again
Let it be known there is a fountain
That was not made by the hands of men

This verse sends me straight to the Bible.  “My cup runneth over” from Psalms 23.  Many times when I think about how Dad was taken from us so suddenly, without reason, I feel like my cup is empty.  Nothing matters if a good man can be taken away.  But I have reached out in prayer to that fountain of blessings . . . and I realize that my life is good, despite the heartbreaking loss.  Those blessings do not come from men, i.e., they do not come in the forms of admiration, or jobs, or good grades, or nice things.  Just knowing this fountain exists can bring me through the rough patches.  Then I look around and realize my cup is full again.

Fourth verse:

There is a road, no simple highway
Between the dawn and the dark of night
And if you go no one may follow
That path is for your steps alone

Ah yes, a road.  There must be volumes of scholarship on the use of “road” as metaphor for life.  This also reminds me of Matthew 7:13: “Enter in at the narow gate; for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction.”  A highway is wide (broad), but life is a road.  If we pretend that life is easy: on a broad, flat surface, then we fool ourselves.  We cannot know everything another experiences, so we do travel down the path alone.

Fifth verse:

You who choose to lead must follow
But if you fall you fall alone
If you should stand then who’s to guide you?
If I knew the way I would take you home

The idea of leaders being followers seems to come from my Christian study.  Leaders only become leaders when they follow God’s Word.  I often put myself in the leadership position, and I have made my dad proud.  But now, I do strive to follow God’s guidance.  If I refuse guidance, and rely on myself, I will fall alone.  The last two lines seem to come straight out of my dad’s mouth.  Who will guide me through life?  My dad is gone, but as a mere mortal, he never knew the way either.  I know he wanted what was right and good for me.  And he would have given it to me if he could.  Instead he could only offer himself as an example, because no father, no matter how loving, can give his daughter everything.  His love was enough to help me find my own path.  So I go down that road alone, knowing he’s cheering for me not to fall.


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List of Offenses

Posted by Carly Rose Jackson on August 10, 2009

I can’t believe I flew across the country to go to a swimmeet.

Offense the 1st: flyingunited-airlines-boeing-747

There are a multitude of good reasons for the failure of the airline industry.  (for example)  I flew United from Boston to Chicago and then from Chicago to Seattle.  Flying is a de-humanizing activity.  Airports are run to make the passengers feel like cattle.  You are rushed into compressed spaces, stripped, searched, poked, prodded, judged.  Don’t try to talk to the security people, they are handlers, too busy for conversation.  But at least they smile.

The flight attendants for United almost never smiled.  They firmly told us to buckle our seatbelts and turn off all our electronics.  (Why is it necessary for me to turn off my iPod during take-off?  It has no wireless feature, and I need the music to distract from the fact that I’ve been strapped into a metal, airtight germ-incubator that’s about to hurtle thousands of feet above the ground.)

Now that the safety lecture is shown on tv monitors, the flight attendents don’t even have to do the safety dance!

Despite the indignity of flying, I jumped at the opportunity to come to the Pacific Northwest.  The second I drove my rental car onto the tree-lined highway, I was charmed by the trees and the mountains and the 10-lane highway.  Felt like home.

Probably my favorite part of the trip, however, was spending one-on-one time with Lara.  I haven’t spent time alone with Lara ever — at least, not since we stopped playing with Barbies.

Offense the 2nd: the pool.

One word: bleachers.

With all the fancy doodads in competition pools these days (check this out, I mean movable floor???), why can’t some R&D go into designing bleachers that accomodate the human rear end, not flat metal slats that cripple your spine.

The chlorine stung my eyes, and the echo chamber-qualities deafened me.  It was full assault on all my senses, not to mention BORING!  I can only stare at perfect abs for so long, though there were many many perfect abs on display.  Unless you know people to cheer for, swimmeets are boring.  Luckily I’m a champion day-dreamer and people-watcher.

fancy pool, with bleachers

fancy pool, with bleachers

This meet was far more casual than any meet I’ve been to since Lara graduated from high school.  Far more smiles, far fewer game-faces.  Only a handful of Olympians.

Lara swam in the 4oom free relay, which was fun to watch.  According to Lara, none of the swimmers were strong in the 100 Free, but they broke the meet record.  Congrats to Leone Vorster, Lara, Whitney Myers, and Genny Konicke.

Lara swam the 100m backstroke “for fun.” 

Lara jumps into the pool for the 100m Backstroke.

Lara jumps into the pool for the 100m Backstroke.

She swam in Prelims, but she didn’t make Finals, so I went to Seattle that evening.  I went up the Space Needle, but the coolest thing was the Science Fiction Museum.  There was a Jim Henson exhibit that was wicked awesome.  I almost want to move to Seattle just to work at that museum.  Unfortunately, no photography was allowed inside, so I can’t offer any proof of coolness, you’ll just have to take my word for it.

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Luck Be A Lady

Posted by Carly Rose Jackson on July 9, 2009

 . . . and that lady is a tramp!

Humans blink their eyes every 5 seconds.

Lightning can move 1 million meters in 1 second.

A hummingbird flaps its wings about 50 times a second.  That’s one wing flap every .02 second.

The time it takes to lose a spot on the U.S. National Team is .01 of a second.

Mom tossed and turned all night.  I woke up with a rhinoceros sitting on my chest.  We made it to Prelims early enough to get good seats.  As the meet progressed we stopped talking . . . then smiling . . . then breathing.

The Prelims for the 50 Free had 10 heats.  Lara would swim in Lane 4 in the 9th heat.  Dara Torres would swim in Lane 4 in the 10th heat.

Heat 1: 26 seconds, then

Heat 2: 25 seconds, then

Heat 3: 25 seconds, then

Heat 4, 5, 6, 7, 8: 24 seconds each.

That’s the thing about the 50 Free: days, weeks, months of anticipation, and the race itself takes less than 30 seconds.

The Heat 9 ladies did not come on deck immediately.  Mom and I reluctantly started to breathe again.  One of the swimmers had to change her suit.  There’s a meet official who examines every swimmer’s suit to make sure it follows the ever-changing FINA guidelines.  A swimmer in Lara’s heat had to change, delaying the meet.  The strain got to me.  Lara gets so primed before her race, any bump could throw her off.  I was wrong.

Lara swam a 25.31, fast enough to get her into Finals, with a shot of First Place, and a chance to compete at World Championships in Rome.

Lara seemed ready when we brought her lunch.  She seemed confident, prepared.

A few hours later, we returned to the pool, again early enough to get good seats in the sold out bleacher section.  We recruited the spectators around us to cheer for Lara. 

A short minute and a half goes by, and all that expectation deflated as we saw the horrible number 3 next to Lara’s name.

1st Dara Torres at 24.43 seconds

2nd Amanda Weir at 24.70 seconds

3rd Lara Jackson at 24.71 seconds

The difference one-one hundreth of a second can make.

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Go Fight Win

Posted by Carly Rose Jackson on July 9, 2009

GO LARA This morning Lara got 6th place in the 50 m-Free with 25.31; not her best time, but certainly good enough to get her into the A Final.  Lara seemed to be in a good mood when we brought her something to eat.  She does not intend to get less than 1st place tonight.

You can get results from  I will keep posting, so keep reading!

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Finally a decent profile

Posted by Carly Rose Jackson on July 2, 2009

This article sums up what this summer means for Lara, and for the rest of the Jackson family.

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Pro Athlete

Posted by Carly Rose Jackson on June 29, 2009

This summer, while I have been goofing off, reading all the delectable sci-fi I can get my hands on, my sister has been training hard for her first season as a professional athlete. produced this video showing the Arizona swimmers working out.  Lara’s tattoos make a cameo.

(photo by: Antoinette Jackson)

(photo by: Antoinette Jackson)

Lara was inducted to the El Paso Athletic Hall of Fame.  To the left is a photo of Lara at the induction ceremony, next to the plaque that will hang in the HoF.  For more about the HoF, check this out.

While we were in El Paso, preparing for my dad’s funeral, U of Arizona announced that Lara received the Ruby Award.  This is given to the top female athlete at the University of Arizona, which has a lot of athletes.

And Lara signed with a sports agency, PMG Sports.  Lara’s agent is Bobby Brewer, though he explained that all the agents represent all the athletes.  They have this to say about Lara.  I hope it will get more impressive, soon.

Brewer was a National Champion in the 100 backstroke.  Having competed at that level, he said he knows how to take care of swimmers.  The swimming comes first, after that come the promotions.

Lara has not signed any sponsorship contracts yet.  Her task this summer is to prove herself and make the National Team.  In one week (July 6), Lara will swim the 50m-free and 100m-free in the 2009 ConocoPhillips USA Swimming National Championships and World Championship Trials.  If she gets first or second place in either race, she will represent the U.S. at the World Championship in Rome.  If she does that, her career as a professional swimmer will be set.  Go Lara!

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Update on the suits

Posted by Carly Rose Jackson on June 18, 2009

As I was searching for official meet results for my next, very informative and entertaining blogpost, I found this article:

USA Swimming amends rules regarding swimsuits  (6/1/2009)

Basically those fancy suits that cover the whole body will no longer be allowed at competitive meets.  As of June 1, they count as “technological doping.”  What happens to all the world records broken in the past year?  I will find out.

I had a post about the swimsuits here.

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Posted by Carly Rose Jackson on May 9, 2009

Jackson familyFor those of you who know me and my family personally, you know why this blog has been inactive for so many weeks.

I had every intention of writing about the rest of NCAAs before writing this post, but I just can’t do it.

A month ago today, on April 9, 2009, I woke up to find a text from my mom.  It said, “Call me as soon as you get this.” It had been sent in the wee hours of the morning, so I knew something bad had happened.

I called her and she told me that my dad had been in a motorcycle accident and that he didn’t make it.

I have tried writing about NCAAs, and I tried to convey the disappointment that we all felt.  I intend to write about the banquet at the end of the meet, because I was so proud of my sister, and I want to write about it.  But thinking of that disappointment and shock seems so superficial after losing my dad.

I will continue to write about swimming, especially since my dad loved reading this blog.  He told me so many times.  I also learned, when I was in El Paso, that he talked about it with his friends and co-workers.

Spending time at home, listening to so many people share their memories of Dad, I realized what a thoroughly good person he was.  I never doubted how much he loved us when he was alive, but I think we were all surprised how willingly he helped others.

My mom says that he was not a saint, but from where I sit, I have no criticism or annoyance to remember.

This blog is called “The Other Daughter” and to some it may seem that I resent my all the attention my sister gets for her swimming.  I certainly don’t.  My dad was one who got the joke.  He would, since I inherited his sense of humor.

I suppose some day that thought will comfort me.  Right now, I just wish I could laugh with him again.

I miss you Dad.  I love you.


If anyone has stories about Dad and what a devoted swim fan he was, please comment on this blog.


His obituary:

For those of you who didn’t read it on Facebook:

El Paso Times (TX)

April 9, 2009
Section: News

Updated: Highway sign hits motorcyclist; he dies in crash
   Darren Meritz / El Paso TimesEL PASO — Keith Jackson, husband, father and motorcycle lover, seemed to have everything under control until he left work early Thursday in the windy darkness.

An accountant, he had stayed late at the office because it is tax season. Jackson had driven thousands of miles on his motorcycle, but nothing could have prepared him for the bizarre circumstances leading to the crash that took his life in Northeast El Paso. 

Riding his 2002 Honda Goldwing, he struck an exit sign that had broken and was swinging in the roadway as he exited from north U.S. 54 to Dyer. Police said they believe the sign broke because of high winds, which reached nearly 60 mph Wednesday night.

After hitting the sign, Jackson, 53, crashed and died on the roadway about 1 a.m.

Police said he was wearing a helmet and was not speeding. Wind, they said, was the big factor in the accident.

Always a motorcycle lover, Jackson never lost the urge to take in the open road. He often pressed his wife, Martina, to come along on a cross-country motorcycle trip like the one they took in 1980. They traveled from Portland, Maine, to Seattle, then to Southern California, where his parents live.

“Ever since we met in Boston – his first motorcycle was a Yamaha 400 – he just always enjoyed them,” Martina Jackson said in an interview hours after his death.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by two daughters, both college students.

One of them, 22-year-old, Lara, is a champion swimmer at the University of Arizona. She competed last summer for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team, missing by six hundredths of a second in the 50-meter freestyle.

Older daughter Carly Rose, 26, is a graduate student in journalism at Emerson College in Boston.

Martina Jackson said her husband for decades had a fascination with motorcycles.

“You haven’t lived until you’ve seen the Redwood Forest from the back of a motorcycle,” she said.

Keith Jackson came to El Paso in 1981 when he was stationed at Fort Bliss with the Air Defense Artillery. He went on to get his accounting degree at UTEP, then made a home and raised his family in El Paso.

He went home for dinner Wednesday night before he returning to the office, his wife said. He had been spending extra hours preparing tax returns ahead of the April 15 deadline, and probably was on his way home when he crashed, she said.

“He came home for dinner and we talked a little bit,” she said. “It sounds like it was a freak accident.”           Earlier this week the couple went to Tucson, where they attended a banquet for the University of Arizona swimming team. Keith Jackson was especially proud of Lara’s performance at the NCAA meet in March, when she set three American records in individual and relay events on the first day of competition.

In recounting the moment for El Paso Times Sports Editor John Erfort, he talked about how proud he was and how well life was going. Already, Erfort said, Jackson was thinking of 2012 and the prospect of Lara making it to the London Olympics.

Martina Jackson said she was awaiting word from the El Paso medical examiner, who she hoped would have more details about his death.

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NCAA Friday: the impossible happens

Posted by Carly Rose Jackson on May 9, 2009

Lara puts on her competition suit.The first event of Friday was the 200-yard Medley Relay.  U of A women have owned this race since Lara was on the team.  The Wildcats have the American record from the 2008 NCAA meet.   Hailey DeGolia, Annie Chandler, Lara Jackson, and Anna Turner swam 1:35.29.  This year, the Arizona women planned to break that record so that no one could touch it for years.

Naturally Lara was in a good mood.  I caught her while she deck-changed.  That is, she changed from her warm-up suit into her competition suit while on deck, instead of going into the locker room.  All swimmers do this.

The best part was when Lara’s teammates helped her out.
Deck change: a team effort.

Deck change: a team effort.

Texas A&M distributed seats in such a way that a few Arizona fans were stuck far away from the competition pool.  We were the B section.  For Lara’s events, though, Mom was given a seat so she could video-tape.

Because my family was stuck in the boonies, I ran over to the good side of the pool so that I could see Lara’s races better.  Arizona fans often made a nuisance of ourselves.  The Aggie ushers were constantly telling us not to crowd the rows.  But most races take less than a few minutes, so we mostly ignored them.

The last heat of the preliminaries for the 200-yard Medley Relay, I was crowded with a bunch of other spectators who wanted a better seat for this race.  I also wanted to get good shots of Lara swimming butterfly.  I had a good vantage point, but I was keeping an eye out for the Aggie usher, because I didn’t want him to bug me.  Danny was standing right behind me.

The backstrokers jumped into the pool.  The buzzer went off, and I saw Hailey DeGolia flinch.  Then she was still holding onto the block while others were swimming.  Then the horn that announces a false start sounded.  Some swimmers didn’t hear the horn, so the officials tried to get their attention.  I turned to Danny, who swam competitively.  “Does this mean they can’t compete?” I asked him.  He gave a nod and a shrug.  Nobody knew what would happen.

We soon found out. Arizona was disqualified and would not compete in this race.

This DQ brought the energy among the Arizona fans to a screeching halt.  We hoped and prayed that the swimmers would be able to push through this horrible set back.

It was a silly accident.  It showed us that you can plan, and train, and work as hard as possible, but chance can still derail all careful plans.  We cheered and pushed until the very end of that weekend, but the girls just didn’t have the heart to break through the entropy.  They did their best, but it wasn’t enough to win the NCAA title.

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Aside: the “Do you know who we’re with?” thing

Posted by Carly Rose Jackson on April 21, 2009

Danny, Mom, me, and Dad showing off the stars.
Danny, Mom, me, and Dad showing off the stars.

I wrote in my NCAA Wednesday blog about Danny coming all the way out to College Station to surprise Lara.  I know Lara was happy to see him there, but I was more directly affected.  Danny and I were buddies all weekend.

We first made our presence known by showing everybody our stars.  See the photo at right?  Mom is trying not to look embarrassed at how obnoxious we were.  Dad is just laughing.  By gray-shirt day (Friday), Danny and I had our routine down.

When something inconvenienced or annoyed us, (like when people were in our way, or there was no parking, or a restaurant was closed just because it was 11 p.m.) we would display our badges with Lara’s picture on them, and say loudly, “Hello?? Do you know who we are?  Do you know who we’re with?”

Like this:

The Jacksons, including Danny, display badges with Lara's picture.

Then we would turn around and point to the stars on our back.
Hey, it’s hard work being part of Lara’s crew.  We had to arrive early to warm-ups at prelims and finals.
We arrive; notice Danny's strut.

We arrive; notice Danny's strut.

We had to take plenty of pictures.
And if anyone strayed into our circle, we made sure she was fully equipped to join the fun.
My friend Rachel Davison recently moved to Austin.  She drove a couple hours to hang out while I was in College Station.  We gave her a shirt with stars, and she helped us cheer as the team left the the hotel for finals.
Though most of the time we played it cool, Danny did have a fanboy moment.  The five of us went out to dinner on Wednesday evening.  My swimmeet-veteran parents spotted some familiar faces: Annie Chandler and her parents and boyfriend Matt Grevers.
This is a blog about swimming for people who know nothing about swimming, so I’ll forgive you if you don’t recognize the name: Matt Grevers.  Click here and you will see that Matt Grevers got the Silver Medal at the 2008 Olympics in the 100-meter backstroke.  Click here and you will see that Grevers was in the 100-meter free relay that got a Gold Medal.
So Danny and my mom got a picture with Matt Grevers, along with his autograph:
A TYR ad featuring Matt Grevers.  Mom got his autograph.

A TYR ad featuring Matt Grevers. Mom got his autograph.

Can you see his signature next to his arm?  It says, “Go Cats & USA!”
Thanks Matt Grevers.

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