I started this blog so that from time to time I could share about the people who have influenced and impacted me whether over many years or just by dropping into my life for a short time. Relationships are really what makes life so much fun, and I enjoy seeing how they all weave together.
Last Wednesday, I got a phone call from my cousin, Robert, that I was not ready for. Grandma Mahaffey had fallen in my uncle's driveway and was being taken to the hospital. Robert wasn't sure what the extent of her injuries were, but he knew that she was in a lot of pain. Immediately, my heart sank because I knew that this could be really bad. But, more on that later.
Grandma will turn 89 in April. She and I have a special relationship because I'm the oldest of her nine grandchildren. However, our relationship goes much deeper than that as she may be one of the single biggest influences on why I'm doing what I'm doing as far as my career goes.
Grandma grew up near Athens, Ohio. She graduated from Ohio University in 1948 and taught school. She later helped Grandpa run a Maytag appliance business while taking care of three children. Grandma and Grandpa also moved to Florida for nearly a decade where he served as a maintenance man in a retirement tower and she worked as a housekeeper. They moved back to Ohio in the late 1980's as Grandpa's health began to deteriorate, and he passed away in the spring of 1990 the week that I graduated from high school.
Grandma's influence on my career path started at an early age as I can always remember her listening to the Cincinnati Reds and the Ohio State Buckeyes on the radio. She used to save me the baseball cards that came on Hostess boxes and bought me my first packs of cards when I was just six or seven years old. My early childhood memories were of her talking about the Big Red Machine (pictured below) or Archie Griffin. She definitely got me hooked on Marty and Joe calling all the Reds' action and I'm a die-hard Buckeye fan as well.
One thing that really helped Grandma right after Grandpa passed away in the spring of 1990 was following the wire-to-wire run in first place that her beloved Reds had as they captured the World Series title with a sweep of the A's. She was so excited, but definitely wished that Grandpa could have been there to see it. Chris Sabo and Jose Rijo were two of her favorite players on that team.
To tell you how close Grandma and I are, how many college freshmen do you know that would offer to drive their grandma and her sister to Florida for spring break to see one of their other sisters. Well, that's exactly what my roommate and I did and we had a great time - even if we did have to strategically cover the speedometer as we drove so they wouldn't see how fast we were going. :)
The following year on spring break, my best friend from high school, Brion, and I basically camped out for a week at Grandma's to watch all the March Madness college basketball games with her. She had a two-liter of pop for each of us and made us all the grilled cheese sandwiches or hamburgers that we wanted as we watched games from noon until after midnight each day. She is a huge college basketball fan and always knows all the story lines. She loved to watch Bobby Knight coach and get fired up and he was special to her because he was a former Buckeye. She also loved to make fun of Gene Keady's crazy comb-over whenever Purdue would come on and she always wondered if he ever had fun coaching since he never smiled. But, most of all, she loved to pace back and forth when her Buckeyes were playing. She cheered them on and got excited when they were doing well, and she got frustrated when they struggled.
As I headed into my senior year of college, I got the opportunity to work in the sports information office at Mount Vernon Nazarene. I never knew that this type of job existed and I really had no formal training for it, but the love of sports that Grandma had instilled in me made this job one that I knew I wanted to pursue. Now, 17 years later, I'm still doing that job and consider myself very fortunate to get to spend pretty much every day watching some kind of sporting event. Lots of times, I envision myself sitting on the couch in Grandma's living room. She's still the first person I want to call after a big Buckeye football or basketball win or when the Reds are playing well. I can still remember how excited she was in the wee hours of the morning in 2003 when I talked to her on the phone minutes after Ohio State beat Miami in double overtime to capture the BCS national title.
Well, back to the infamous phone call from last Wednesday...When they got Grandma to the hospital, they found that she had broken her right femur above her knee. This was a pretty serious injury that ended up requiring surgery later that day to insert a rod from her hip to her knee. She came through the surgery as well as could be expected and finally this afternoon was released to a rehab facility that will now be her home for the foreseeable future as she cannot put any weight on that leg for at least eight weeks.
When I had a chance to talk to Grandma after the surgery, in typical fashion she told me what had happened. Like she does most days, she was headed out to go to Curves with one of her friends. (Yes, for all of you who have struggled with starting some kind of fitness program, take it from my 88-year-old grandma that you CAN do it. She really should be a spokesperson for Curves as she plans her trips out of town based on whether the place she is going has one or not.) She was extra excited because this was going to be her 250th visit. At Curves, you get a shirt every time you reach 100, 200, 300, etc. visits. Well, Grandma was so excited that she hurried down the driveway so her friend wouldn't have to drive up it. Unfortunately, she hit a slippery spot and went down hard.
When I told Grandma that her rehab would be like another form of a Curves' workout, she quickly responded with "I wonder if each day that I do it if Curves would count it as a visit." I just started laughing. I told some of my running buddies about this and they instantly knew where I got the drive that has me setting a goal of trying to run at least one mile every day in 2011.
As I tried to ask her how she was doing, Grandma changed the subject to sports. She excitedly told me all about Joey Votto's new three-year contract and how he's her favorite player because he's such a "nice looking and clean-cut young man". Doesn't hurt that he had an MVP season either. Then, she changed gears and started talking about the Buckeyes' basketball team. She had been a little frustrated that she had to miss their first game as the No. 1-ranked team because that's when her surgery took place on Wednesday, but she was happy that they took care of Iowa in fine fashion without needing her cheering after all.
Well, you can see why I love my grandma and why I love sports. She is just a very special person in my life. And, that's why I am still very concerned about the days, weeks, and months of rehab that are ahead for her. Since I work with college athletes, I see the struggles that injuries can cause for them. They have good days and they have bad days. The nice thing for them is that they are young and they have their teammates and coaches around them for support.
Grandma has a long road of recovery ahead of her. While she is young in spirit, this will not be an easy process for her. I know that she will do her best to work at it, and I know that her goal is to get back to Curves and continue working towards that shirt for visit No. 300. However, it is not going to be easy.
That's where you and I come in. We can all play the role of teammates and cheerleaders for her. If you are reading this blog, you know me or someone who knows me has forwarded this to you. As a personal favor, I wonder if you might possibly consider taking the time in the next month to just pick up a card or write a note of encouragement and send it to Grandma. Yes, she might be a total stranger to you. It doesn't matter. Just tell her to hang in there and keep working hard. Who knows...there may come a time in your own life where you'll need that kind of encouragement from others to help you get back on your feet again.
Anyway, if you are willing to do this, I would be extremely humbled and grateful if you could send a note or card to her at:
8073 Tylersville Road
West Chester, Ohio 45069
In addition to your cards, notes, and prayers, I'm hoping that following the rest of what has already been an exciting season of Ohio State basketball and then getting ready for the tradition that is Opending Day for the Reds will be just the medicine that Grandma needs to make a complete and speedy recovery.