My Dad & His Fight

Tuesday night, I got into Cleveland late.  After a 45-minute taxi through the blizzard to Aurora, Ohio, I caught the tail end of the Jimmy V Classic. With my dad.

Those who love the game of basketball know about the Jimmy V Foundation. The national championship. The now-famous Never Give Up ESPY Speech before he lost his battle to cancer. We talked about the speech last night. And those words and cause have now taken on a bit more meaning for my family.

I traveled to Aurora this week because a few days ago I got the kind of news you never want to get. The kind of phone call you hope your Mother never has to make. Turns out my Dad and Jimmy V have a lot in common.

They both grew up in New York. Jimmy in Queens. My Dad in Harlem and the Bronx. They both could play the game. And their respective talent landed both of them at North Carolina State. My Dad as a point guard. Jimmy V as the head coach (a few years later). My Dad also went on to coach college basketball. And now, my dad is fighting cancer.

The good news is those kind of guys, New York guys who compete to win, are tough. My dad is no exception. He beat cancer once. Twenty-seven years ago. I was a scared kid. He didn’t blink. The doc said amputating the leg was one option. My dad leaned in and told him he didn’t ever want to hear the doc mention that word in his presence again. He didn’t. Smart doctor.

This time around might be a little different. A littler harder. But the approach and attitude are the same. Stay positive. Put in the work. Always do your best. Live. And so we are.

We went to lunch at one of our favorite restaurants, Geraci’s, for the spaghetti and meatballs. Tough to beat. Then we went and bought some basketball shoes.  Of course Mom came with. Our kind of family afternoon.  And in the evening, we had dinner and talked, looked at scrapbooks and checked the score of the game.

My parents have been together for almost 50 years now. Both retired teachers. And my life coaching team. It wasn’t always easy. For them. For us. And I wouldn’t change a thing. I love my family. And I know they love me back. And that makes me pretty lucky. I’ve been reminded of that more of late. And it’s always a good thing to remind people you love that you do…and say thanks.

Mom and Dad, thank you for everything. The list is way too long. But I want you both to know that just knowing isn’t good enough for me  Saying it so you know matters. Sharing it here makes it a permanent part of my body of work. Which I wouldn’t have without you. I am proud to be your son.

Dad, I know I don’t have to tell you this. But don’t ever give up. Live strong. And know if there are moments when you can’t it’s ok to lean on me a little. I am here. Every step of the way.

If you have a few minutes, watch the Jim Valvano speech.  It is hands down one of the best I have ever seen for a cause that touches so many lives and families.

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