On May 11, 1998, I was preparing for that evening's Saint Paul Saints game as the ball club's Director of Corporate Sales, Advertising&Marketing. Like any afternoon prior to a home ball game, the phone lines were off the hook, there was a stressful list of tasks to complete before the stadium gates were ready to open, and chaotic energy filled the air. My world stopped that day when a phone call brought me back to my desk and my mom's voice broke through sobs, "Bobby you have to come home right away." It was the phone call we all fear.
Without warning, my dad had suffered a brain bleed caused by an aneurysm which was followed by a series of strokes. The doctors had to figure out how to keep blood circulating in his brain and how to stop the strokes without blowing out the aneurysm which would kill him. At that moment, there was a priest at his hospital bed ready to give last rites. My mom told me he was not expected to make it through the night and I needed to find my way home to Michigan as soon as possible. In tears, we hung up the phone so she could make the same dreaded call to my younger brother Matt who was finishing his Ph.D. at Iowa and preparing for his wedding in two weeks.
My brother and I made it to my dad's hospital bed to see him on life support that night as we sank together with my mom into a hug of tears. For 10 days, the three of us prayed my dad back to health. Miraculously, dad achieved a complete recovery from the aneurysm, the stroke, and even a morphine-induced "get away" from the nurses/drug dealers that were out to "assassinate" him. To this day, he has absolutely ZERO side effects from this experience except the regret of being too sick to attend my brother's wedding.
So, what does all this have to do with grouse hunting?
As I sat in that hospital room for 10 days, I reminisced about my dad - winning Escanaba's Senior Little League championship with dad as coach, mom as scorekeeper, Matt on the mound, and me at shortstop; my netting of the family record musky on dad's last cast of the evening during our annual summer camping trip; and most importantly, I reminisced of walking the multi-colored grouse woods together each autumn.
Like most kids, I went through my own rebellious periods. But, it was ruffed grouse hunting with my dad as a high schooler where we really connected and I began to see things through his eyes. Sitting next to that hospital bed, I thought about all the things that I'd miss out on with my dad if he were to die - my wedding, having kids, and grouse hunting.
So this Wednesday night after work, Meredith, Trammell (our pup), and I will make the 8 hour trip home to Escanaba. It's grouse season again and I'm going hunting with dad. I haven't missed a Michigan grouse opener weekend in a while . . . and don't plan on missing one any time soon.