Guardian Angels on the Court

Although I haven’t played much over the past twenty years, I previously documented my love for backyard basketball in “Back” Home. I have often hoped for a hoop if and when we move into a different house with a larger yard or driveway. But other things need to fall into place before that can happen and there are more important considerations when buying a house than whether it has a good spot for a basketball hoop! (One of those important considerations is whether it has a basement with a room large enough to accommodate a pool table! 😉)

Our younger daughter took a shot at playing basketball for a few years in grades four through six. She wasn’t the best, but she certainly tried hard – which is all you can really ask for. But by seventh grade when she had to make a choice, she picked cheerleading over basketball. The seventh – and more recently – eighth grade boys team that she cheered for were quite entertaining to watch, so I suppose it was an acceptable trade off.

Like her dad, Kassidy is a big Steeler fan, but she knows very little about the game of football. I don’t believe she knows much about baseball either. I always pause and rewind the TV when I watch Pittsburgh Penguins hockey and they score a home ice goal – just so that I can call her into the room, crank the TV volume up as loud as it goes, and replay the action leading up to the goal so that she can see the feat and hear the loud home air horn blasts that follow! (It is unfortunate that she cannot also hear Mike Lange offer up one of his gravelly voiced tag lines that always accompany the home radio broadcast of Penguin goals), but that is really her only knowledge of or exposure to ice hockey. But having played basketball, she actually knows the rules and some of the teamwork strategy involved in that sport.

A few weeks ago, she wanted to play one of the basketball games while we spent the afternoon at Cedar Point. A good friend of hers (a classmate who played on those 7th and 8th grade boys teams) regularly plays the basketball games at Cedar Point and usually comes away with at least one prize basketball for his efforts. So Kassidy paid the game entry fee for three shots with her own hard earned money from her summer job. She, her mom, and I each took one shot. All three misses. During another visit to the park not long after that, Kassidy wanted to try again at a different game booth. She again paid the entry fee for three shots (one in wins a basketball). I told her to take all three shots herself this time since the rims were much smaller than regulation and it just makes more sense for the same person to shoot all three balls to get a better feel for the shot. Her first shot clanked awkwardly off the rim. Shots two and three netted her not one, but two prize basketballs. The folks waiting in line to go next were quite impressed! (As were her mom and I). As a girl after her own dad’s heart, she chose the Boston Celtics and OSU Buckeyes basketballs as her takeaway prizes.

Celtics & Buckeyes

Two out of three ain’t bad!

July 6th was her big sister’s 30th birthday. We weren’t able to celebrate with her in person since big sister now calls sunny Florida home, but we celebrated in spirit the best way that we knew how. It was a warm day – a great evening for Toft’s Ice Cream. Before we left home, I asked my ladies if they would like to get our ice cream to go and enjoy a walk at Lions Park – a nice waterfront park nearby the ice cream parlor. They both liked that idea. On a whim, I asked Kassidy if she wanted to bring one of her new basketballs – knowing that the park had a few half court concrete hoop pads. I challenged her to a ‘friendly’ game of one on one. As I said, it has been years, but Kassidy was up for it and the trash talk started before we even left the house!

We got our ice cream (and let me say that if you are ever feeling dangerous, the Toft’s ice cream flavor sharing that same name is absolutely delicious!) and drove to Lions Park. Being the driver, I had to wait until we got to the park to eat the rest of my ice cream and Kassidy is just a slow eater by nature. So Linda was the first to finish her ice cream and she promptly strolled over to the basketball hoops. I thought she was just going to watch. But whether she was inspired by her husband and daughter trash talking each other, or just feeling energetic, she decided to shoot a few baskets of her own while we finished eating. Soon afterward all three of us were shooting around – much like that first paid game at Cedar Point – all three of us missing horribly. One of the adjustable hoops there was set at eleven or twelve feet high rather than the regulation ten. That was the hoop we were shooting at because another young guy was hooping solo at the adjacent regulation height rim. Let me tell you that extra foot or two makes a big difference!

A few other folks showed up a few minutes later and one of them asked if we wanted to play a game of 3 on 3. Already winded by my out of shape 50 year old body, I was inclined to decline. Not very confident in her rusty game playing abilities, Kassidy said that she didn’t want to play. It was my wife – the one in the family who is typically the least interested in basketball – who piped up: “Sure! I’ll play!” She then proceeded to talk the two trash talkers in her family to suck it up, man up, and play ball!

After taking some 3 point shots to determine who the team captains would be (more miserably failed shots from the Lucas family) we eventually ended up with me on a team with the two newcomers and my two girls sharing the ball with the young man who had been shooting solo. While not fast and furious, the pace of the game was pretty quick once we got started. We played using the “make it, take it” rules and their team got off to a quick 2 or 3 point lead in a game to 15, with the young guy stroking several mid range jumpers.

Then, during one exchange, I displayed my awesome vertical leaping abilities under the rim (I was playing in loafer walking shoes, not sneakers) going for a rebound. The ball caromed off the rim just out of reach of my skyward fingertips and I came back down empty handed. My downward momentum back to earth after such a high leap 🤣 and my over-extended reach for the ball above and behind my head brought me down on my backside after my feet first hitting the ground. No harm, no foul – I was able to quickly rise back to my feet and turn toward the action behind me. There I saw my wife crumpled to the ground and the first splatters of blood dripping from her left temple. I missed the entire exchange from my poor point of view on my butt, but it seems she was also attempting to corral my missed rebound and lost her balance in the process. She landed on her knee, shoulder and face and her now bent out of shape metal eyeglass frames had just given quite the laceration to her left eyebrow.

One of my teammates rushed to get her some paper napkins from his car. Within a few seconds, her eye had swelled up pretty significantly and the blood flow eventually slowed. She didn’t initially think she needed any medical attention, but she also couldn’t see what we saw. Still, her first reaction (and last reaction just before we walked over to our car to head to the local ER) was to apologize for the rest of us having to end the game early. She was more disappointed in that than with her injuries.

We spent a few hours in the ER, getting her checked out, cleaned out, stitched up, and a tetanus shot. While we were first waiting to be seen, I thought of the ironic coincidence that it was exactly thirty years ago to the day (actually to just about the same exact hour) that my wife was in that same hospital, giving birth to her first child. I was not yet in their lives at that point on that year’s 6th of July to share that special day, but I remarked to her that at least 30 years ago she managed to go home with a new baby out of the hospital trip. Her reply was that at this age she would be much happier just going home with stitches than with a newborn!

(I took several photos of her injuries and swelling, but chose to not post those pics in the blog! She will thank me for that decision.)

We managed to get her home all patched up. We had some gauze pads, but I had to do a late night run to Meijer (the only place open between 11:00 and midnight) to get some medical tape to attach the gauze over her shoulder and knee abrasions. We wanted to keep the bed sheet and covers from rubbing up against them as she slept that night. Luckily (or unluckily depending on how you look at it) she was already off this week on vacation, so she would not need to suffer through these aches and pains at work or need to miss any work as a result. We were also thankful that there were no broken bones or severe head injuries. An eyebrow gash closed with stitches is far preferable to a concussion or worse when a head and concrete are involved. Whether we acknowledged it or not at the time, Linda’s guardian angel was looking out for her on that rebound effort – despite the bloody result.

Wednesday morning, everything felt a little bit sore, but she was coping well. Her eye looked like she had gone a few rounds with Mike Tyson. She was hoping to get lunch from Great Lakes Grinders – an outdoor sandwich shop that has excellent subs right on Sandusky Bay. It is about a mile away from our house and is a fabulous walk through the heart of downtown Sandusky when the weather is nice. I had a 1:00 work assignment that was going to require a full suit and tie and preferred to not get sweaty beforehand, but despite her injuries, Linda was hoping to walk. So as a compromise, I drove us down to Great Lakes Grinders and we ordered our food. Linda and Kassidy stayed to eat at the picnic tables and I drove back home to eat my sandwich and get dressed for court – which was located about 20 minutes away.

I planned to leave at about 12:30, but decided instead to bump my departure a few minutes earlier – not for any particular reason as it would get me there earlier than I would need to be. I had no idea at the time why I decided to go earlier than I needed to, but something made me do it. I did a quick check of an app on my phone and saw that Linda and Kassidy were already about two-thirds of the way back on their walk home. As I drove down the street, I knew I was leaving early, so I decided to call Linda to see how her knee was holding up with the walk and to see if she wanted me to pick them up for the final several blocks in case it was bothering her. She thanked me and said that she was doing fine and that they would be okay to walk the rest of the way home. She then told me goodbye and said – as she almost always does any time I call her from the car on a work or solo drive – “drive safe!”

We hung up and not 20 seconds later, my phone rang and it was Linda. At first I wasn’t even going to answer it because I thought it had to be an accidental redial that sometimes happens after completing a call and hitting the wrong button. But I picked up just in case. A very shaken voice on the other side of the line simply told me, “Thank you for saving my life.” She then reported to me that my telephone call asking if they needed picked up caused her to stop walking long enough to reach into her pocket to pull out her phone. They then continued walking as she talked to me for those few seconds. Just after hanging up with me, a car came flying out of a blind business driveway and straight out into the street without slowing or stopping as it emerged from the blind spot. The driver wasn’t watching for pedestrians and would not have been able to stop in time had there been pedestrians on the sidewalk. Nor could my wife or daughter see or hear the car coming as they approached the driveway. Due to the brick building there virtually right up to the corner of the sidewalk and driveway intersection – it truly is a blind spot from both angles.

Had I not called her and slowed their pace by a few steps, my wife and daughter would have both been back in the ER again and possibly in the morgue. As it occurred they were still very nearly hit by the blind and speeding driver. Had I chosen to leave for my work assignment a few minutes later as I originally planned, even if I still made that phone call, it likely would have been too late to affect their walking pace. Had I looked at my tracking app and seen that they were a good ways home and hadn’t called me to ask for a ride, I might have not even bothered to call to check in and see. I would have been haunted by that decision.

We all have guardian angels watching over us. Sometimes… many times… they keep us safe by planting tiny thoughts into our own heads or into the heads of our loved ones. They ‘whisper’ suggestions to us to do or not do a certain thing or to take a specific action in a very exact time frame. We do not and cannot recognize those whispers in the normal course of living our lives, but they are so crystal clear with the perspective of hindsight. Just as there are no coincidences with God, there are also no coincidences with His army of guardian angels or their intricate and complex methods of keeping their human wards safe.

My prayer today is one of thanksgiving for the whisper to me to leave a few minutes early and the whisper to me to make a simple telephone call. Whether that call actually saved the life of my wife and daughter – I am thankful that I don’t ever need to know with certainty. I am simply thankful that they are both alive and safe. I am thankful that only one of them is suffering today from relatively minor injuries (all things considered) received on a concrete basketball court rather than from a careless driver in an olive green car. A driver who actually had the nerve to give my ladies a dirty look after being suddenly cognizant of his own reckless driving. I am thankful that driver is not facing any legal charges today. (In Ohio under those circumstance, pedestrians on the sidewalk do have the right of way). I am thankful that we only had to visit the eye doctor on Wednesday to get new eyeglass frames rather than visit the funeral director to pick out a casket. I am thankful for my wife’s admission that she would gladly play basketball again – even after her bloody injury experience – simply because she had fun doing it. I am thankful that she will be able to play basketball again.

I am thankful for guardian angels.

Praise God!

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