His Hero

In my book His Love Carries Me, I refer to my husband, Chris, as “Shane’s hero.” The following is an excerpt from a blog written by our younger son in October 2016 (shared with his permission) and explains why his dad was his hero:

Years ago, my mom reached out to friends and family for us to write letters of appreciation to my dad for the impact he had in our lives. I had this memory, clear as day, that I decided to write about. It's the kind of memory I imagined myself recalling one day in the far distant future for his eulogy. Incidentally, it was read as part of his eulogy just a few months ago. [June 30, 2016]

Sidebar: In the letter, I vaguely mention foot pain. I didn't explain because it was a letter to my dad, and he would remember well the situation. But for other readers in the dark: As I hit my last growth spurt going into high school, I suffered from a condition where the bones in my feet grew faster than the muscles and tendons. The strain had me in constant pain just walking around. Couple that with the transition to metal spikes for baseball and I was in a bad spot. Most cleats have a 6-8 spike pattern so the pressure is high in a small number of points. I wasn't just complaining about aching feet, I was in serious pain...just to squash any doubt.

Pappy, baseball will forever hold a place in my heart. There is little comparable to playing a game under the lights on a weeknight. Even though school always seemed to come a little earlier the next morning, nothing could take away the game, the competition, the suspension of all responsibilities for even just a couple of hours. There's nothing quite like a game of baseball.
But despite the thrill of the game, when I look back on all the years of baseball I played, the games were just a bonus. What I loved more than anything was practicing with my dad. 
Baseball brought us closer than anything else could. More than anything, I've gained such a respect for you out of your dedication to me and my growth in the sport. While I may not have realized it at the time, you gave me my first lessons in selflessness through baseball and have given me memories I will never forget. 
I remember in middle school, when I decided to take off-campus P.E. to satisfy the gym credit I needed. I didn't realize that my decision had a greater impact on you than me. It's hard to practice baseball by yourself. You need someone to throw the ball with, to hit ground balls to you, or my favorite--throw balls at your feet in the dirt. I still can't grasp how you had the energy to do anything after a long day of work, but you never failed. Every day, shortly after you got home we'd play catch in the side yard-- always between the fence and the shed (That DARN side arm). You always gave of yourself to make sure I was the best I could be. It was that attitude that set in stone your position as the person I admired, appreciated, and respected the most out of anyone, even though I may not have shown it. In all my baseball memories, one always stands head and shoulders above the rest, and I think it embodies that sentiment the best. 
It comes from just about the time we started wearing spikes. I remember the aching pain in my heels, the discomfort with every step, and the shooting pain anytime I ran. Especially when I ran. I remember our combined efforts to relieve the pain and our very limited success. I also remember the motivation to push through the pain and do my part for the team, a value I got from a pretty great man.

It was the last game of a weekend tournament. After multiple games, my feet were killing me, and I felt on the verge of tears with every step. I don't remember the score, the inning, or the number of outs. I do remember walking up to bat and wanting nothing but to strike out so I could sit down and not hurt so badly anymore. Just my luck, a nice meaty fastball came right down the pipe, and I couldn't resist. I let 'er rip and drove the ball right into the gap in left center, and it was headed for the fence. Extra bases--my worst nightmare. So I took off down the first baseline, feeling a wave of pain with every step. I couldn't help but limp as I swung out of the baseline to round first. I kept pushing though and took a peek at the third base coach to find out that second base was the finish line. I dug as deep as I could and made it to second standing, wincing from the pain and holding back tears.

But the moment I'll never forget happened as I stood on the bag, hands over head, gasping for air. I looked toward first base, seeing the same coach as always, looking right back at me. In slow motion his right hand went to his cap and grabbed the bill. As time slowed even further, the hat lifted from his head and lowered to his waist, upside down before returning to his head. The tipping of the hat may well have just been a gesture from a proud coach to a player, but it carried more weight than I could ever really convey. In that moment, my dad, the man I looked up to most in the world, was proud of me. And for once, there was crying in baseball. Few people get the chance to receive the approval of their hero, but on that day, I did.  
Since then, my respect for you has only grown stronger. When my time with baseball drew to an end, you were incredibly supportive despite the time and effort (and money) you had dedicated. And then I got to witness you continue to pour yourself into my passions as you drove me to bike races each weekend and stood for hours on the side of the road just to see me come by for a few seconds and hand me a water bottle, only to turn around and drive the long hours back home. Even on your days off from work, you refused to relax because you wanted to be my support. If there is anything I've learned from all the time we spent together going to those high school races, it's that cycling is a sport that will test how much someone really cares about you.  
And wow, you must really love me. 
I'll never forget the day our lives all changed. I still remember sitting upstairs on the couch when you broke the news that you had tumors in your lung. And I'll never forget standing outside my truck in Austin, talking on the phone with you as you confirmed it was cancer. No one could predict at that time where our lives would be headed in the next few years, but I think we've been through it all now.

I've seen you push through far greater pain than I could ever imagine. I've seen the pain and suffering in your eyes as you struggled to force down the food you so desperately needed. I've seen the frustration with plaguing illnesses, side effects, and I.V. bruises from incompetent attendants. I've seen you grow in your faith, and I've seen you get stronger and tougher as a man. But most of all, I've seen you change, in me. Because of you, my faith has grown. My relationship with God has grown. I now understand hardship, perseverance, and love. Because of you, I am better. And as tough as it has been in these past few years, you have been used to accomplish so much good. I respect you now more than ever, as my father, role model, a cancer survivor, and still my hero. And I tip my hat to you. 
I Love you so much,