Hockey is life…and sometimes it’s the other way around. Sometimes you’re the Tootoo Train, and sometimes you’re the proverbial bug on the glass. Me? These last several weeks, just call me Ryan Jones (Photo: Reuters).
I promised myself that I’d never do here in this space what, regrettably, I’ve somehow made a habit of in my personal blog — making excuses for my sporadic non-activity.
Perhaps there’s really no reason to even try and communicate why I’ve dropped off the face of the earth for a couple of weeks, but I’ll mention it briefly, only because right now I covet your prayers as much as I do your willingness to waste a little of your personal time each week reading my hockey posts. By all rights, this is something that belongs on my personal blog much more so than here. However, I place it here because, quite frankly, I know that it will reach more eyes, and hopefully, more hearts.
I’ve been somewhat AWOL recently, scurrying to complete a huge project at work in order to clear my schedule for a few days off; not for a much-needed vacation, but rather, an even much more-dreaded pilgrimage, back to California.
While I love returning to the place my heart still calls home, to see my friends and my father — who is my only remaining blood relative still residing on the Left Coast — this trip I’ll be returning to visit my 88 year-old Pop for likely the final time.
Oh, the prognosis for my father’s failing heart has been dire before — he was given six months to live — a year and a half ago — back in the Spring of 2010, during a time I was out of work and possessed the freedom (if not the financial resources) to go out to Hemet, CA and spend some time with him.
Interestingly enough, when I arrived, he instantly began feeling better. The doctors rescinded their 24/7 prescription of oxygen and Pop began moving around much more freely, even scooting about his apartment without the assistance of the walker he’d grown so dependent upon. They decided to cut his heart medication in half and began plans for surgically implanting a defibrillator device in his chest to regulate his heartbeat, which at that point had dwindled to 25% of normal capacity but was now holding steady.
Nevertheless, even an ego as big as mine isn’t huge enough to imagine that my presence had anything to do with my Dad’s rapid reversal of cardiac fortune. This wasn’t the first time his body had baffled doctors with its incredible resilience. Dad has always been a fighter; always a fast healer.
Back in the 1990s he fought off prostate cancer, which is why I dedicated my Movember campaign to he and my Father in-law, who unfortunately wasn’t as lucky.
Given my Dad’s habit of perpetual good health, it was really no surprise to me that he rebounded as he did a little more than a year ago. I was just thrilled that he was feeling better and that his outlook, while not good for the long run, was indeed tenable for the short term. And of course in my ostrich-like way of thinking, that meant the pressure was off; everything would be fine; my Dad would live forever, just like always. I reverted to my typical Alfred E. Newmanesque mode of, “What? Me worry?”
I’ve tried to imagine how I would feel when my Pop’s ticker finally calls it quits — but not very hard. And that’s simply because I’ve refused to allow myself to imagine what it will be like to live without him; to finally be an orphan; to finally be without my own personal superhero in spirit and in life. Unfortunately I’m likely going to have to pull my head out of the sand and face up to that reality, because my father is indeed dying. He could go at any time and I simply have to accept it.
The plans for the defib surgery were scuttled as my Dad’s heart continued to grow weaker; it is now operating at 10-15% of capacity, and reality has reasserted itself at the bully pulpit of my family’s collective life.
Dad has been receiving hospice care for the past two months; he is once again on full-time oxygen, and this seeming eternally-sourced Energizer Bunny-of-a-man is now relegated to getting up and going to the bathroom as his lone source of exercise. The good news is, he’s still in relatively good spirits. However, there’s more than a touch of sadness in his once-always-upbeat voice. He knows his time is short. And despite the fact that he knows he’s beaten the odds as the longest-surviving male in a family line rife with heart-related mortality, as Steve Jobs so succinctly put it, “No one wants to die. Even people who wanna go to heaven don’t wanna die to get there.”
You can be sure that my Pop will be in heaven, but it doesn’t make his staring death squarely in the face any easier — for any of us.
To that end, the other good news is, Dad is in no pain, and likely won’t be when his heart finally beats its last, whenever the time comes.
I wish that time was never, but that’s a wish I know won’t be granted.
All I Want For Christmas…
However, one wish that I do hope will be fulfilled, is that you’ll keep my Pop — and me — in your thoughts and prayers, as my daughter Amy and I travel out west next week. I honestly don’t know whether I’ll be a pillar of strength or an emotional bucket of goo; please pray for the former — the latter is way too messy — for everyone.
In the meantime I’ll still be following and commenting (albeit briefly) on Twitter about the Nashville Predators; you can find me if you’re so-inclined, on my new, hockey-only Twitter account: @PredsAJenda. However, right now I can’t guarantee that I’ll have the time or the inclination to do a lot of blog posting about the team, at least for a little while. I’d invite you to visit any of the other fine members of the Preds blogging community, linked in my Blogroll, for team news and commentary. I’ll be back, hopefully sooner than later.
As I have always said since I truly discovered this sport that we all love, hockey is life, with all of the ups, all of the downs, the highs, the lows; the teamwork and the individual glory — it’s all there, wrapped up in 60 minutes of pure ecstasy and pathos. Hockey is a wonderful metaphor for what makes us human beings; existing together in this communal experience we call ‘society.’ And while it’s a tremendous feeling when we score, the sensation of being checked into the boards of life is sometimes just as applicable; and just as crushing.
Here’s hoping I can gut this one out.
Thanks for reading, and thanks in advance for your support.