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I’m Sorry Dad

A Follow Up to the articles "For Dad" and "Follow Up: for dad"

He came to this country from India at the age of 15 and was living in New York City by 16. He was on his own. Becoming a success in a new culture did not come easy. Starting as a teller, he slowly rose through the ranks and became a Vice President of a major bank on Wall Street. He married a native New Yorker—East meets West. He left the house at dawn and came home in time to say goodnight to his kids. He was a hard working man. He provided a very comfortable life for his family. He retired in his early 50s, moved to Florida, and started his new job: golf. He played with the same passion he had for life. He took 10 strokes off his handicap, had defeated the game, and was now totally bored. Owning his own business is something my father had always wanted for himself. I was lucky to own my own business and had an opportunity to start another by purchasing a small gym. I mentioned it to my father on the phone one evening. Two days later, he called and asked if I would consider a partner. Surprised, I asked my father, “why on earth would you want to work again and why do you want to own a gym?” He said, “Americans are sick of being out of shape and they are ready to embrace health and wellness.” 

He was furiously passionate about the idea of owning a gym. He wanted in! He and my mother missed their children and grandchildren and my father was now fixated on helping people reach their fitness goals. It was also an opportunity for him to work with his son. My mother and father decided to move back to New Jersey from Florida. We bought the gym! That was August of 2006. He was very excited. The most excited I had seen my father in a while. He had a new project and a new challenge. He had big plans for success. We were to work side by side. Garden State Spine & Pain Institute had been getting patients out of pain and encouraging a healthy lifestyle for years. Now the gym would help the same patients stay healthy through exercise. Health and fitness, father and son. 

While preparing to move back to New Jersey from Florida and three days after closing on the sale of the gym, my father was cleaning out the attic of the now ‘sold’ house when he slipped, fell through the attic floor, through the ceiling, and struck his head on the cement floor of the garage which ended his life and instantly and changed mine forever. He died a month before his 61st birthday. 

THE SHOW MUST GO ON

I was determined to succeed in his name. I lost 45 pounds, got in shape, and tried to encourage people to follow in my footsteps. The gym we purchased was a womens-only gym that catered to entry-level fitness. What were we thinking?! A definite challenge for me, a man in his mid-30s. The staff and I overcame the obstacles and were able to provide personal attention to our members like no other gym. We would even open the front door for people as they entered! It was a safe haven for women to begin the journey toward a healthier lifestyle. The only obstacle we could not overcome was the lack of space. We didn’t have the proper facilities to truly spoil our members. We didn’t even have showers! I began to conceptualize the perfect gym. A co-ed gym with luxurious locker rooms, saunas, steam rooms, and beautifully tiled showers. I envisioned the gym having doctors, physical therapists and personal trainers on the floor coaching members while protecting them from injury. A gym and spa side by side, spa music playing throughout, a total zen feeling. The perfect mixture of East meets West. That is exactly what my father would have wanted.  

FIVE YEARS LATER

The one thing common to every construction project is that the job is never done on time. Due to unforeseen circumstances, the opening day for Focus Fitness kept getting pushed back. First a month, then a week, then a day, then another day. Finally, we received a certificate of occupancy from the township and were set to open. After all the postponements, Focus Fitness Exercise Salon opened up on the five year anniversary of my father’s death. Five years to the day! Much more than my father could have ever imagined, Focus Fitness is truly spectacular. It is like NO other gym, but everything a gym should be. It is everything you want and nothing you don’t. It is personal attention like you have never experienced before. From the unique specialty classes to the expert personal training, Focus Fitness is beautiful. It is serene. Towels, bottled water, soap, body wash, shampoo, conditioner, shaving cream, razors, cotton swabs, deodorant, mouthwash, and anything else you require are all waiting for you. Focus Fitness Exercise Salon is refined. Avid gym-goers have been waiting for a workout facility like this for a long time. Entry-level members are comforted by the warm surroundings and greatly appreciate the special attention. Want help reaching your goals? Do you want personal training or nutritional counseling? Do you want us to leave you alone? We give members as much or as little as they want. Shower and pamper yourself. 

Membership not your thing? No problem. You can pay for an individual class, buy a book of classes, a personal training package, or just buy a day pass. No need to become a member to enjoy all of the amenities. Of course membership has its privileges including member-only events and special discounts on all gym and spa services. A tour through Focus Fitness Exercise Salon always brings about the “Ooohs” and “Ahhhs” from guests. We are often told that it is the cleanest, nicest gym that they have ever seen. Focus Fitness is part of the larger Soul Focus Wellness Center which has been my greatest accomplishment and contribution to the community. It is my mark as a man and has defined my career! We help, inspire, and save people’s lives. I know that my father would have been proud. 

ANOTHER FIVE YEARS LATER

I wrote the article above five years ago. Focus Fitness Exercise Salon had just opened its doors on the exact day of the five year anniversary of my father’s sudden death. I dedicated the gym to him. I can’t believe that it has been over 10 years since you are gone, Dad! I miss you. You won’t believe what we have done! We did it! I promise that I will continue to build your dream and that your legacy will live on through me and Soul Focus forever. I love you. On the glass shelves in the Atrium, outside of the entrance to the gym, sits a picture of my father. I often hear people ask, “Who is that guy in the picture?” Well, he is just a guy who wanted to own a gym and passed on his dream and his passion to his son, my father. Come work out in Anand Gupta’s gym!

TODAY, 10 YEARS LATER...

it is now ten years to the day that Focus Fitness Exercise Salon opened and 14 years to the day that my father died. With a heavy heart and a tear in my eye, I am writing to say that I must close my father’s gym. After surviving a recession, Hurricane Sandy, a format change, another recession, COVID-19 has forced the closure of Focus Fitness Exercise Salon. The mandated closure by the state of New Jersey for the last five months has been too much for the gym to overcome. While I am proud that I built and delivered on my father’s dream and even prouder that it was an oasis for the community for 10 years, I feel as if I have failed him. It kills me to close Focus Fitness Exercise Salon. The idea of having to remove the framed picture of him overlooking his gym is something that I will never get over. There is something poetic about the gym opening and closing on the same exact day that my father died, but it is also very sad. I wanted to honor his name forever! I am sorry Dad. I hope I haven’t let you down. 

To our members: It has been my pleasure and delight to serve you. I have always tried to make Focus Fitness the cleanest, most sophisticated workout facility in the area. We HAVE changed people’s lives for the better. Some have lost hundreds of pounds under our direction. Some have reached personal fitness goals and are in the best shape of their life. We did good work and I am sorry that we won’t be able to save anyone else.

To the staff: There are none better! The love and caring that you have provided to our members is unparalleled. You have all honored my father and his dream and I will forever be grateful to you. You are all amazing and I am sorry that this is the end for Focus Fitness, but I know that the friendships will last forever. 

I am sorry.

 – Dr. Raj Gupta

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