To the Finish

"Daddy, did you play football when you were in high school?" Kathleen and I were watching a UNC game with my dad, peppering him with questions like most school-age children do.

"Well, I always wanted to, but I couldn't."

"Why not?"

"I only have one kidney, so it would have been a little risky."

"You have only one kidney?"

Suddenly, the football game seemed less entertaining. We had never heard this story before.

"In 1952, I had a severe infection; they had to do surgery to remove one of my kidneys. It was very painful; I was only three, but I can remember everything very clearly."

We were in awe. Only one kidney?

With Father's Day approaching, I've been thinking about dad and the football days he never had. I recently read an illustration by a college professor that compared parenting to a crucial game of football. There are parents who make it to the pre-teen years and decide to drop their kids off at the 50-yard line. "Well, here we are! Good luck!" Some stick with it longer and fight their way through to age 16: "Here's your car. You've got a job. You'll be just fine." More dedicated parents, however, continue to push through to high school graduation and drop them off just five yards from the goal line. "I guess you've got it from here!"

My dad did no such thing. He stuck with it, fighting alongside me those last five yards, those crucial college years when a mate and a life's work are decided upon, to be sure I made it to the end zone of adulthood. These last five yards are when the hardest blows occur. Every inch is precious as a child nears the goal, and the enemy will fight tooth and nail to keep him out. Dad was right there with me every minute, blocking the blows, making sure I stayed on my feet.

As Robbie and I walked toward our gate at the airport that cold January morning in 2005, I took one last look back. Dad and Mom stood arm in arm, waving and smiling proudly through the tears. We were a little bruised up and our hearts were aching. But we made it.

Dad, you may never have gotten to don a helmet and pads, but you're an all-star lineman in my book. Happy Father's Day.


4 Responses
  1. Gwen Says:

    I just read this to Dad. We had heard your blog was up. We can't call now (sniffles!), but we want to tell you how much you mean to us. We love you very much!

  2. Kathy Says:

    Awww! We're such a squishy family. Just love your tribute to Ricky. Never thought of him as a lineman. Actually I think his cheering you along from the sidelines might be better described as a cheerleader. I'll go right out and buy him some pom-poms!

  3. Ricky Says:


    Read something about a lineman and the only thing I could think about was Glen Campbell's "I am a Lineman for the County!" lol... I remember so vividly that last look as you left Raleigh for Honduras. It was a tough, tough day but such a peaceful and joyful day as well. I remember missing you so badly I had to call one more time, catching you between flights in Miami. Whew! I'm glad we've both moved on to where this parting is not quite as hard as it was five years ago. Hope you know how much I love you.

  4. Croce and Carol Amato Says:

    A lineman is the perfect description! What a tremendous tribute to a tremendous father - to God be the glory!! So glad you are using your wonderful writing talent to honor the Lord and bless others!! Thanks for your willingness!!

    Love and Prayers, Amatos

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