BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Last week was the scariest of my life, as my amazing father underwent emergency heart surgery to correct major blockage in his arteries.
It amounted to a quadruple bypass and the most agonizing seven or nine hours of waiting anyone could imagine. Because of family privacy and more importantly, it being difficult to talk about, an extensive play-by-play of recent events obviously isn't necessary. But the end result appears very positive and we continue to pray for dad's continued improvement. We are blessed.
LSU sports information director Michael Bonnette graciously texted me throughout the process and asked for updates. LSU head coach Les Miles and "The Voice of The Tigers" Jim Hawthorne wished dad well on Miles' weekly radio show from TJ Ribs.
"Wow, I'm famous," my father quipped, as only he could. "That's super cool," mom said.
My parents have been married well over 40 years, are both LSU graduates and make Tiger Stadium's north end zone their home during football games in the fall. Those season tickets will have to be used by someone else this fall, but I know my folks will sit there comfortably and cheer the Tigers on again soon.
As last week wore on and dad appeared more stable, mom made it clear it was time for me to come home. One of us needed to return to some semblance of normalcy. There's only so long you can stare at vital signs on a monitor - you can't change them and the doctors are there to do a job. I boarded a plane Saturday morning to head back to Baton Rouge. It was time to cover the LSU vs. McNeese State game to begin the 2015 college football season. It seemed the perfect way to get back into the groove.
As we know, the game between the Tigers and Cowboys wasn't played. Typically, I probably would've whined like a brat - the only child that I am - and complained about how awful this was. The LSU season opener cancelled?!! You have to be kidding! But on this occasion, I was totally unmoved. It was no big deal, LSU will play next week. I simply shrugged and thought little of it.
Following Coach Miles' news conference, he called me over. Again, he expressed great interest and concern for dad. We shared thoughts on our respected fathers (his has passed) and the overwhelming concern that can weigh heavily. Miles then reached over the podium and firmly grabbed his wife Kathy's hand - disappointed his team couldn't play, but ultimately realizing what mattered most at the end of the day. At that point, it was clear to me Les and Kathy would certainly care for each other, as my mother and father have during their trying time.
Athletes are amazing people. They possess the rippling muscles and powerful physique we envy. They can run at amazing speeds and know what it's like to have thousands, perhaps millions adore them. They can be great role models and inspirations to those that watch.
But my recent experiences also hammered home the fact that doctors are truly underappreciated. They are amazingly gifted and intelligent people, who literally save lives every day. They are disciplined enough to grind through years upon years of challenging studies, then apply that priceless knowledge to benefit mankind in the ultimate fashion. My mother and I obviously have a newfound respect and admiration - we were definitely in awe.
Sports will always be my passion. Every Saturday morning in the fall is like Christmas morning to me. I'm a caffeinated kid bouncing off the wall and pacing the hall. The excitement of covering major college football on game day is a great joy. It's what I was born to do.
But there were thousands of games before me and they'll be thousands more after. The finite time with loved ones is unquestionably what matters the most. College football is an endless joy and a euphoric rush - but in the end, it's just a game.
Every day with my dad, however, is truly a gift.