When my dog passed away exactly one year ago Sunday, July 10th, 2015, it took me a while to sack back up. That night, my Tigers led 6-0 going into the 8th inning – allowed one run, then seven more in the bottom of the ninth, culminated by a walk-off home run in Minnesota. That season finished a train-wreck: but a glimmer of hope arrived from our hometown single A team, the West Michigan Whitecaps, who win their minor league championship.
I hadn’t even looked back at that box score until now. Apparently, at one point in the 9th, our closer drilled a Twin with the bases loaded! Unfortunately, I missed all of it in mourning at my brother’s house. We visited Detroit together to witness Peyton Manning & the Denver Broncos play our beloved Lions, and it seemed to restore some of our luster. Losing Kirby, who we both grew up with, was the hardest thing the two of us have ever gone through – and our parents got divorced when Ethan was one.
Ever since that trip, I felt like I’d seen something, you know? Crutched safely through downtown to Ford Field AND Joe Louis Arena the night before; “feeling” myself… and then, Manning rides in to save Denver’s season and secure the #1 seed, navigating them to Super Bowl 50. Knowing it may be his finale, my brother came over to watch with me and my dad, where we saw the Broncos dismantle anything Cam Newton and Carolina tried to put together. I told Ethan after winning 24-10, “That was for Kirby.”
The permanence of death makes it so scary, but only the physical form dissolves, while, I think, our spirit lives on forever. On Mother’s Day, I went to see the Tigers with my mom and stepdad, where, despite blowing Justin Verlander’s gem, we sprinkled some of Kirby’s ashes into right-center field, to rest with the outfield grass.
I would be sad not to share how amazing I felt upon dropping his ashes to the outfield. Despite being very tired after the game, something (his spirit…? 🙂 ) came over me and seemed to have me walking on sunshine! An usher gave me the nod as I strutted on, knowing all was OK.
After our Pistons got swept by Cleveland and the Clippers got hurt, all the 3’s had me sitting out of any Finals activities. But down 3-1, I was unable to sit idly by and at least not encourage LeBron James, one of the main reasons I started this not-ran by Mickey Mouse website. It sounds strange, but we all play our part, don’t we? Who knows, but I think James also switched his consciousness to the awareness that he couldn’t be stopped.
Game 7. 89-89. Snarf’s snoring… ‘Til a loud knock on his window wakes him up. It’s Ethan, stunned that on Father’s Day, we aren’t in the living room watching! (We were fried after an extra-inning loss by our Tigers.) We all sat down, watched Kyrie Irving drain the go-ahead three, and stop Golden State from corrupting America’s youth with more shit basketball!
And if that wasn’t enough to feel like we’d honored our dog, the day before it marked a year since his passing, Andy Murray was set to compete on the anniversary for a Wimbledon crown.
Maybe it’s trivial to you, but sports are all I have. With a disabled foot, not only do I live through the athletes, they motivate me, give me extra oomph when I feel like giving up.
Kirby showed Ethan and me how to be men. I was afraid of dogs even when we brought him home – I still recall standing on my bed as he terrorized his new surroundings! But shortly I was dressing up in all my snow-gear, playfully wrestling with him in the snow and essentially letting him attack me, all with glee. I cherish every single second I spent in his loving presence, whether it was petting his soft but coarse non-shedding standard poodle hair, kissing him on his adorable poof-ball head, or all of the walks – all of the walks, with my dad, exploring everything around us, running as fast as I could. You made me the man that I am today, and words cannot express the love and gratitude I will always hold for you.
So yeah, I wanted to win you and Peyton Super Bowl 50. You better believe LeBron & I weren’t going down without a fight. And, since you sure were a tennis ball-thief! Why not win Wimbledon on your day?
We did it Kirby. I’m a man now. My dad and I finally have our own place. So, please, may your spirit always be with us, and know, we couldn’t have done it without you.