I have been a sports fan all my life. With that comes a natural draw towards individual players. I loved watching Dan Marino throw a football like a missile, Larry Bird ambling around and scoring at will, or Roger Clemens throwing baseballs as easily as I did marbles. Stealing second base looked so easy watching Vince Coleman and well, everything looked easy for Michael Jordan.
Each of those names are no longer playing. Age wins in the end and a professional athlete, even those at the elite level, eventually look slow compared to the younger models that keep rolling out. I don’t remember the exact moment any of them decided to stop playing, to be honest. I’m just not that fanatical about it. I enjoy watching elite athletes do things that elite athletes do, but when the game is over, so is my interest until the next one.
Last night, I watched my all-time favorite female athlete play her last game. And, I think I’ll remember it for more reasons than I can count.
She finished with three points. A made three-pointer early in the game. She committed 2 fouls, and grabbed 3 rebounds.
But, my favorite number on her stat line from last night was “32”.
In the past eighteen months, I have experienced things with my daughter that I never dreamed.
I have tried to reassure her before watching two large needles go into her back.
I have held her while she unknowingly convulsed and gasped for air.
I have watched as 64 electrodes were attached to her head to get a reading for the EEG.
I have driven 2.5 hours to downtown Nashville to the ER at midnight (and then waited in the parking garage due to Covid protocol).
I have scooped her 18-year old body out of the bathtub when her legs wouldn’t work.
I have made jello or cut her food into tiny pieces when she couldn’t swallow solid foods.
I have counted steps for her from her bed to the bathroom on the night she couldn’t see.
I have watched her prepare and work for a solution only to be told that it wouldn’t be a solution after all.
I have told her she couldn’t drive her car again for a while, watched her decide to stay at a college closer to home, and listened as she talked about how she felt about her health, her teammates that she felt didn’t understand what she had been through, and her ever-wavering and changing future plans.
And, all the while, praying she didn’t give up. Praying that the stress would never be more than she could bear.
If you’ve ever watched Quantum Leap, the opening line ends with Dr. Sam Beckett longing for the day that his time traveling ends soon. Specifically, the narrator says that he is, “hoping that his next leap will be the leap home.”
I have felt that sentiment with every doctor, specialist, nurse, and medical professional that we would meet. My prayers became specific to that end: “Lord, let this be the doctor she needs to see.”
So, last night when she played a full game of 32 minutes, never coming out of the game. . .
I felt proud for her being able to achieve her goal of playing a full senior season.
I felt proud of her because she’s had my heart for over 18 years now and I am proud of almost everything she does (almost!).
I felt relieved that she made it through the season and can now really focus on herself.
While her health has not allowed her to become a leading scorer or a college prospect, she will remain my favorite female athlete of all time. I can’t wait to see what she conquers next.
I have loved every minute getting to watch her play.