Father and Son Birthday Memories – 42 Years Apart
I’m not one of those people who is big on celebrating birthdays. Normally, I don’t celebrate them with very much enthusiasm. A family dinner is usually it. I have vague memories of what I did on my 18th and 21st birthdays that cannot be shared here! But other than those reflections, there is one particular birthday I’ll never forget.
For my 7th birthday, my father took me to see the New York Knicks play a game at Madison Square Garden. I remember taking the subway from Jamaica, Queens where my aunt Charlene lived. For a young kid, the ride itself was thrilling. When we entered the building, I remember looking down at the crowd of people that walked below me because I was elevated, riding on the shoulders of my strong papa. As we left the darkness of the hallway and entered the brightly lit arena, I was reminded of Dorthy entering the Land of Oz! It was thrilling! So much going on…
Dad gave the tickets to an usher who showed us our seats, midway down our row. After being seated and removing my coat, I started to soak in all the activity going on around me. It was mesmerizing!
“Get you popcorn here! Popcorn!”
“Ice cold beer! Ice cold beer!”
“Peanuts! Get your peanuts!” And someone from the middle of our row passed money to the person to his left, and then to my dad, and then to me, and then to the person on my left. And then the vender tossed the peanut bag right to the guy who ordered it!
The Knicks were warming up. There were my heroes right there before me: Walt Frazier, Willis Reed, Bill Bradley, Dave DeBusschere. And on the other side of the court, I could see the Philadelphia 76ers warm up. The Knicks were my team. I knew all of them. But the only 76er I knew was #32, Billy Cunningham.
The noise level of the crowd was amazing. Every time the Sixers had the ball, especially in the 4th quarter, we would all yell at the top of our lungs, “Defense! Defense! Defense!”
I don’t even remember who won the game, but I will always remember that special birthday.
Forty-two years later, the same two guys attended another sporting event, this time the day before my birthday. The 2013 Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic, Championship PGA Tournament. This time, I drove Dad to Fallen Oaks Golf Course to see the final round of play. Now that I’m grown, the relationship is different, but there is something about father and son that never changes. I was reminded of that Madison Square Garden experience throughout the day.
My dad had golfed in the Pro-Am on Thursday and got to spend the day with Joe Daley. Before Joe teed off, he took some practice putts on the “warm up” green. Dad introduced us and Joe cooly took off his glove and autographed it for me. We followed his group around for the first 9 holes and then took a seat in the Habitat for Humanity grandstand to watch the end of the tournament. At the end, we were allowed access to the grassy area outside the club house and waited for Joe, who chatted with us before taking some pictures. Yesterday was a special day that I’ll never forget.
“The Strength Coach” is 49 years old today. I remember making deals with God to let me live to 50. Now I’m making new deals. In the land of people with muscular dystrophy who also have congestive heart failure, I’m a dinosaur. But in my mind, I’m that same wide-eyed 7 year old, curious and amazed by the sights and sounds around me! Maybe that curiosity and amazement is what keeps me going. Can you relate? If so, do me a favor on my birthday and share this with your friends.