We were invited to a private showing of Let It Out, a short film about the Olympic spirit.  We were running late so I didn’t get a chance to survey the audience but I know a friend of Muhammad Ali was there (he was a featured interview) and I’m guessing Al Joyner was too by giggles of encouragement that came from the row in front of me whenever he was on screen.

While my husband was preparing for the evening with a quick shower, I went up in the attic (braving the heat and spiders) to dig out one of the official polo shirts of the ’96 Olympic Team and made him wear it along with their official “class ring” (gold with an emerald stone; Olympic rings on one side, gymnast on the other).  I figured if there was ever a place to show off that he was an Olympian, here it was among family. He has a tattoo on his back of the Olympic rings (practically a requirement to obtain upon return home from the Games) that you can’t miss but no one ever notices or at least no one has ever asked, “Hey, were you in the Olympics?”. They probably just think he is a crazy hardcore fan.

Let It Out was a really sweet film sponsored by Kleenex and thank goodness they were there to hand out the personal packs for the movie, because my husband and I were both a patriotic mess by the end of it. They showed all those things you expect: Jesse Owens, Miracle on Ice, the ’96 Women’s Gymnastics and Soccer teams, Michael Johnson, Muhammad Ali lighting the Olympic flame, and more. It’s always hard to watch those sorts of things without a tug in my gut, throat, and heart yearning for him to have one more shot at it. This time, no mistakes. Hit the routines. Win a medal. Any color. His team missed a bronze by 0.9 of a point. That amounts to someone’s fall off of an apparatus and a small step on a landing or a combination of bobbles or form breaks from a few of them. Minor mistakes that kept them out of the history books. For all the reasons I feel regret for him, I can relate to what Shawn Johnson’s mom said about watching the Olympics being a painful experience.

I wish there had been some sort of reception to follow so we could find out who was there because only “insiders” were invited through the US Olympic Committee as far as we could tell. It is always so cool to meet others in other sports. They have amazing stories to tell. Not too long ago I attended the birth of a baby whose father had been in 3 Olympics as a member of the kayak team. What a treat that was for me! I was so impressed they used their Olympic insignia bath set for actual bathroom towels! My husband’s are in a sealed container and have never been used. I’m too afraid to ruin them because there is no chance for replacement of that kind of swag.

Olympians share a crazy special bond and go out of their way for each other also. In 2002 my husband and I tried to take a “big trip” to Salt Lake City to enjoy the Games. Oh my GOD, we’d never been in weather that cold in our lives. I took a sweater. Even worse than packing like idiots, we went there sick as dogs. I spent most of the time in bed or sick in the bathroom. In fact, I spent so much time invisible that I didn’t meet our host until we returned home. There he was kind enough to act out what it sounded like to share a house with me for a week by imitating the sound of retching and farting. Nice! The big day we ventured out we parked in one area of Salt Lake and made our way around Temple Square to where the action was. We made it as far as the Olympic Alumni house and there the Winter Alums packed up the poor Summer Alum and his wife in warm clothes and let us sleep. For hours. We mostly watched the Olympics on the television from the condo we were guests in, forgoing the complimentary tickets we had to events I can’t even recall because we were nearly dead. It was a memorable experience.

We are setting our sights on London 2012 to make another attempt at the Olympic tourist thing. To assure me of good tickets to the gymnastics events I’ve asked my husband to resume training again. I’d give anything for him to have a second shot at it and I’d do a million things different to make sure there are no distractions. I’d love my children to live through that excitement. Only one was born at the time and she has no recollection of being tossed about the arenas by gold medalists or frolicking in the Olympic family village with toddlers from other countries. Thankfullly she has no recollection of the bomb (bonus trivia: Joey mentioned in that story won a bronze medal this week!). My other children have no idea of his accomplishments, as he was long retired by the time they came along. But, I’ll take whatever Olympic experience the man wants to give me. And though I was quite convincing in the presentation of my case, judging by the stare I got in return, I think I might be watching them from a flat or a pub.

As we left the theater tonight we were bombarded by Greenpeace activists (they outnumbered the Olympians 2:1) urging us to choose another brand of tissue in the future.  To save a rain forest!  I told them to suck it. With the Olympic spirit of course.