"It is not flesh and blood, but the heart that makes us fathers and sons."
- Johann Schiller
Though you would have a difficult time finding one, there is a little known album by Nat King Cole entitled "Goodnight, Little Leaguer."
If you ever catch a glimpse, my Dad's the Little Leaguer on the right with the thin smile and the red cap.
He grew up to be the man who took me on my first fishing trip, the man I had my first catch with, the man who told me how proud he was after my first karate tournament, the man who taught me how to get in front of a groundball during Little League and the man who was one of my two biggest fans when I put on a pair of shoulder pads.
Though he was at one time a standout athlete and I was far from it, the most he ever expected from me was to hustle in everything I did and keep my mouth shut when my coach was talking.
I sat next to him the first and only time I ever watched a ballgame at Yankee Stadium — the day his hero Mickey Mantle died. He took me to my first football game where I got to see my beloved Chicago Bears.
In more ways than I can count, my love for sports came to be because of my relationship with my Dad.
Of course my relationship with my Dad was far more than sports. And on Tuesday, the 23rd of November, sports didn't really mean a whole hell of a lot to me.
It didn't mean much at all as Monday Night Football silently played out in the background as I sat alone with him. His hair gone, his body and soul having long ago begun fading away, I told him everything would be OK. I told him I would take care of my little sister and my Mom, I told him he didn't have to worry any further or hold on any longer. I told him I loved him, I told him good bye, kissed his head and walked away.
Some six hours later — on the 23rd of November — my Dad, Skip Gordon, died. He was 59 and he was gone.
In the middle of a cool autumn night, cancer had finally taken him. It was the pinnacle, but certainly not the conclusion, of the worst days and weeks and months I could ever have imagined.
Admittedly, what you have read and what lies ahead, I have not written for you the reader. Instead, it is a selfish tale and one probably a bit too honest about the most trying period of my life and the man most responsible for me having found myself in one sports section or another for more than a decade.
A Dodger game was on in the background of a silent room the day we found out my Dad had cancer in his spine. And I was telling him about how Baillie Kirker was one of the greatest softball players I had ever seen as the NCAA Softball World Series played along on the screen the very next day — when we found out it began as lung cancer and had spread to his liver, spine and brain.
It was June and they told us he had six to 18 months — a less detailed prognosis I don't know if you can receive. He barely got six, as November came awfully quickly.
Through all the trials and tribulations of cancer — the radiation, the chemotherapy, the blood clots, the mood swings, the hair loss, the weight loss — it seemed that it wasn't all that long ago that he was as good as could be.
It was on a Tuesday that he was still bickering about his fantasy football team. But you could tell he was starting to get confused, he was starting to move a bit slower. And by Saturday, he rarely moved, he barely talked.
By Monday, he was in the hospital and by then, every day showed a different sign of decline.
There was the day he fell asleep standing in my arms. There were the days and long nights when we had to stay with him around the clock because he kept getting up out of bed — almost as if he was afraid to fall asleep one last time — and the nurses couldn't provide ample attention. There were the days when you realized the pain and the foregone conclusion weren't necessarily the worst parts, there was the indignity of it all. These are the aspects of cancer that nobody really ever seems to talk about — how it humbles you and how it humbles those who love you.