I wrote a Thanksgiving column, one that talked about my thankfulness for being a Trojan, for USC Coach Pete Carroll, Athletic Director Mike Garrett and President Steve Sample. It expressed my gratitude for all of the football teams and players that have brought joy in my life for years on end.
Then I got the phone call, several phone calls, actually, my father had been set-back, he is in the hospital, an ocean away, on the island of Hawaii. Two weeks ago, he was admitted to the hospital for a mild heart attack. The doctors rehabilitated him and sent him home after a weekend. Two days ago, he was readmitted with complications and possibly another mild heart attack. With this in mind, I had no sleep last night, and when sleep finally came, I had turned off my phones so that I could sleep without disturbance.
When I awoke, I turned on my telephone and there were five messages. There was a lump in my throat the size of a grapefruit. It turns out my father had a major heart attack in the morning. My sister had called twice, sobbing as she tried to explain things.
Later in the day, his condition had stabilized and emotions seemed settled. Until I called my mother at home, late in the evening. She said she stayed home because dad had a lot of visitors and the doctors want him to get some rest. She was shaken up, understandably so, and broke down as we hung up the phone.
Some of my family lives in California and the majority still lives in Hawaii. Today, Thanksgiving Day, two of my sisters leave for Hawaii. In the morning tomorrow, another sister and myself head out of Los Angeles International Airport for the islands. I'll spend Thanksgiving Day with my nephew and our extended families. We'll watch the USC Football game on TV and follow it up with the Basketball game from the Anaheim Pond. In the meantime, processing the trauma of my father's critical state.
Thanksgiving Takes on a New Meaning
As I think back on my life, my mother, my father and my five older sisters, the memories come flooding back like a movie in super high speed.
Like it was a million years ago, I think about what it was like to be raised in a large family in a sleepy town of Hilo, Hawaii, which probably numbered 25,000 people during my formative years.
Back then, life was so simple. My father taught me to appreciate sports. He took me to basketball games, baseball games, boxing and fishing. I grew up a sports fanatic. In a small town, we just had "Senior League Baseball," no pro or semi-pro teams in Hilo. But dad brought me to those games. He brought me to the high school basketball games and baseball – little league, pony league, high school.
We watched the local college basketball team. On television, we watched the University of Hawaii (a couple of islands away, on the island of O'ahu). We watched the Lakers and Dodgers and USC whenever it came on TV. Dad taught me to love sports. And from my youth to early adulthood, I was a sports fanatic.
Then a funny thing happened to me. I fell in love with a woman. She got tired of the sports thing-24/7. We were together for eight years, and she broke me of my sports fanaticism. Which is actually a good thing. These days, I am a USC Football and sometime Basketball fanatic. I don't follow all the other sports as I once did. But that is a good thing. Now I enjoy USC athletics and get to enjoy other things in life during the off-season.
As my father laid the foundation for my appreciation of sports, I would have never guessed that I would be where I am today. After graduating from USC, I had moved back home for four years. I learned to appreciate Hawaii and family in a new way during those four years.
In 1995, I moved back to Los Angeles and worked for the University for about 10 years. As I worked for USC, I thought of ways that I could become part of the USC Football Program. I was, after all, still a USC Football fanatic. I worked for several departments on campus during this time, but never found a way to work for the program.
Then, at the beginning of this football season, an opportunity arose to become part of SCPlaybook and the Scout network. It took me about 21 seconds to decide this is what I would want to do. When I describe my current work at SCPlaybook, friends and family are shocked to know that I am doing exactly what I should be doing – writing about USC Football and USC Athletics.
So What Am I Thankful for this Day?
I am most thankful for a father who shaped me, who taught me to enjoy sports. He exposed me to everything in the sporting world that brings me joy to this day.
Throughout his life, dad struggled to keep his family afloat financially. He had six children and a wife and a very modest income. He sent each one of us to Catholic school, because that is where we would get a good education.
As a youngster, I enjoyed the exposure to sports, but I rebelled against the rigidity of the Catholic school upbringing. I dropped out of school as a sophomore in high school. I worked for a year, then thought there must be something better out there.
At seventeen years of age, I joined the Air Force. This made me grow up in a hurry. At the end of my enlistment, I was awarded an ROTC Scholarship to the college of my choice. I applied to UCLA, Berkeley, San Diego State, USC and San Jose State and got accepted to each one. When deciding on a college, USC Football came to mind, so I chose USC.
The amazing thing about all of this, was that I was able to attend USC or any college after only completing two years of high school. Dad's theory was correct. The Catholic education would pay dividends. Although my parents could not afford to send all six of us to the school, they sent all six of us to the school.
And the education I received enabled me to attain a GED, test into college, and attend what is now in my eyes, the Greatest University in the History of the Universe – USC. My dad taught me about sports, his sending me to a great grammar and high school got me to USC, and the rest is just simply history.
So, I am thankful that my mother and father had the foresight and the fortitude to send me and my sisters to Catholic school, which gave me the tools to succeed in college.
On this day, I am thankful for my father, I am thankful for my mother. I am thankful to USC and to Scout.com. On Friday, I'll fly out to Hawaii and take on the challenges of this awful trauma.