I am a sports fan through and through. I love playing, watching and talking sports. It was my Dad who introduced me to the love of sports. What is odd about this is he was not very athletic at all. He understood the mechanics of what needed to happen without being able to carry out the action himself. Just ask my mother who could dance with the grace of a swan, what happened when they tried ballroom dancing. You might hurt yourself laughing. Yet, that never stopped him from trying or coaching me.
I preface this for you to understand what I have recently gone through. Somewhere in my infinite wisdom these losses feel connected.
I lost my Dad two months after the CAVS won the NBA championship and the end of a 52 year drought for Cleveland, the city my Dad loved with every ounce of his being.
The last real conversation I had with him was his excitement for the Indians– “Bethy, they don’t just have the stuff to go to the World Series they have the stuff to win it!! ” In 2016 the Indians would come close. Sadly he didn’t live to see it–But it got me through the loss of his death.
He taught me to love and embrace all that is Cleveland even when I have moved as an adult 1200 miles away. He helped me to continue my love for the city and area. Cleveland and Northeast, Ohio to me is still home.
So much so that when my best friend wanted a Schnauzer puppy her husband asked me to bring one back when my daughters and I drove to Cleveland. It was the year I decided to surprise Dad with a trip to the Canton Football Hall of fame.
The vet was only 10 minutes from there; where the adorable little puppy was waiting for my friend to be her 40th birthday surprise. But the surprise would be on me!
After our visit to the Hall of Fame we would go and pick up that adorable little puppy, As I was preparing to give them the check, the wife of the vet handed Dad another puppy. Just as adorable but very still. The vet said he tends to be very serious. Dad look at the vet and said “Would you like to make a bet?” See the little salt and pepper male was the largest of the litter and perhaps the Alpha and his eyes were fixed on me while Dad held him. He walked over knowing that my 40th birthday was just a few days after my best friend’s. “Elizabeth, everybody needs a little black and white on their 40th and that is just what he is.”
I retrieved the puppy from him and held him. Suddenly the serious nature diminished and the pup’s true personality came through. Lively, energetically licking, pawing and sniffing my face. Chewing my hair and looking at me as if to say “you are mine.” And just like that I was. I knew immediately what I would name him.
“So do you have a name?” Dad asked laughing. After it had been five minutes since he placed the puppy in my arms.
“Yep, Spike!” I announced as the pup was now chewing my necklace.
“Spike?” Dad questioned.
“Yeah, I have three cats at home and he needs to come in with attitude. Spike it is.” I smiled as newly named Spike was now chewing my purse strap and pulled my wallet out and dumped half my purse on the counter.
Dad looked at me nodded and laughed ” Well that makes sense.”
Over the years Beth’s Little Dude Spike ( his AKA name) would rule the house of Cats, play ball in house, break a few things with his antics, catch cat tails thinking he had won the Super Bowl and never understood why I scolded him when he did.
He would speak in dog, while I spoke in English and he would get frustrated with me because he understood me, but my barkish was subpar.
He would watch sports with me and if my Cleveland team would lose (not really shocking is it) he would bring me his ball so we could win a victory together. Well, until a cat crossed his path then he’d forget the ball and chase the cat on top of my kitchen table which would cause me to have to replace another center piece.
“Spike!” I would yell with exasperation.
His reaction was always the same, child like eyes and a whining bark that said ” Hey the cat did it, not me!” And like clockwork I’d clean up the centerpiece toss in the trash only to have one of my children comment on the debacle.
“Lost another one– Hey here’s an idea. STOP putting a centerpiece on the table.” Spike who was hiding behind the author of the statement was clearly in agreement.
Spike was a wanderer. If the gate had a crack or was improperly shut –he could push it open and he would go through. Which earned him the nickname Houdini.
When I found him he would jump up and act like nothing happened. I would lecture as we walked home and Spike– he ignored me and wanted a treat.
Twice I had to turn to Facebook to find him. Each time he was found he managed to get a free meal –oddly he worked his magic after only being gone an hour.
Spike the once serious puppy was a favorite with high school kids my girls brought home. He never like anyone my girls and I dated, after all he was the Alpha.
Spike was happy for a granddaughter to come into the fray. After all who doesn’t love a good game of grab the diaper and steal the cookie? I once told Spike as if he was human- just ask she’ll give it to you. So he barked softly and she did.
He would curl up with her when she slept and more than once I caught him pulling the covers up on her.
As time passed it would be Savannah on her visits that started to cover him up and tuck him in.
Age does what it does and even if Spike could escape a fence he could not escape Father Time. Blind and ailing. My little dude listen with me like old times the Browns on Thursday Night Football finally end their losing streak.
Two days later just as I held him as a puppy and he claimed me, he left me for his enteral rest in my arms. In my grief I did what I did when my Dad passed, rewatch a happy moment we shared.
As if it was bookends in the moment of time I watch the CAVS win with my Dad on the phone and I watch the Browns win with Spike by my side. Dad placed Spike in my arms after a trip to the hall of fame and I handed Spike back to him in heaven.
Sports in this moment of my life are the bookends, one on each side Alpha and Omega. The immense love that is placed in between is what fills the heart and lingers with me, as I place this book in between the bookends built in my heart and now take pause before I open a new book in my life.
I miss them both but I am my best because of them. Their story for me is one I am proud to place in between the bookends of my heart.