Gav on Sports
By Terry Gavan – Haliburton, ON, CDA
In my daily trek – up at 4:30 am updating my website and blogs – I find funny; I find drama; I find disappointment; I find satire; and I find… life.
Because every day I trip over a beautiful story. And every day I am elevated to a place – a spot where all the detritus of cruelty, injustice, and a harsh world melt in the warm afterglow of humanity.
And this Christmas I found that story – written by Boston.com columnist Yvonne Abraham – a story about Sammy and Rudy, dissimilar in all outward details save one: they are young boys; ergo they feel, they crave human contact… and they love.
“On Tuesday night, Patty and Rick Parker were in their cramped kitchen with their 8-year-old son Ben. Dinner was over,” writes Abraham. “Bedtime was near. Ben’s twin brother, Sammy, lay on a cot in the narrow hallway just outside the kitchen. Unable to see or speak or control his limbs, he coughed or let out a little moan every now and then. Rick and Patty took turns feeding Sammy, who has cerebral palsy, through a stomach tube. He cooed when they kissed his face or stroked his cheek, and when they cooed back, he opened his mouth into a wide, joyful O.
“A few feet away was the narrow, winding stairway that is the family’s biggest burden lately.
“Which is where 17-year-old Rudy’s simple, life-changing act of kindness comes in.
“Until recently, Rick carried Sammy up those 14 stairs to his bedroom each night. But a few months ago, Rick had major surgery for a life-threatening heart condition, and now he can’t lift much at all, let alone a 75-pound child.”
“We thought Rick was going to die, and we were terrified,’’ Patty recalled. “We knew right away he had to stop carrying Sam.’’
“Patty couldn’t carry him, either. Desperate, she called her pediatrician, who put her in touch with Elizabeth Paquette, the nurse at Malden Catholic High School. Paquette said she’d take care of it. The boys at Malden Catholic are taught to embrace service: She’d find plenty of students to help.”
And that’s when Sammy welcomed Rudy Favard – the son of Haitian immigrants, an honor roll student, linebacker and co-captain of the Malden football team – into his life. Rudy is being courted by several colleges and will be off at the end of the June semester. By that time the Parkers hope to be relocated into new digs without those daunting stairs.
But for now, two days before Christmas, the Parkers are very happy that Rudy fell into their lives. A picture accompanies the Boston.com piece. It shows a strapping black football player carrying Sammy up those narrow stairs. Sammy’s mouth in that wide O. A human justapposition. Two boys at Christmas. And those goddam mushy neurons.
It’s a powerful photo, and perhaps one that should be distributed to all those stupid, stupid politicians in Washington. You know the ones. The ones who like big fences and a lily-whiter America. Those bitter shrews who say immigrants are taking American jobs. Immigrants like Rudy and his family.
Rick Parker cried on that first night. The night Rudy came into their lives. “Just to see this outpouring of people,’’ Rick Parker said, his eyes welling at the memory. “To see that these people were willing to put their hands and feet to what they believed.’’
On game nights Rudy is spelled by another Malden Catholic student and they have a third student on standby. Many willing hands, reaching out to Sammy; who can’t reach back.
Brother Ben is the family watchdog.The doorbell rings. “Rudy is here! Rudy is here!’’ yells Ben.
Rudy sits with the Parker family. Patty asks him about girls. Rick and Rudy talk football. Ben sits right beside Rudy and stares.
“It’s like family,’’ says Rudy. “It goes both ways,” writes Abraham. “The Parkers were on the field with Rudy’s mother the night Malden Catholic honored its senior football players.
Every night Rudy sits with the Parkers, and small talk done he walks over to Sammy. He gently lifts the Sam’s left arm and slides his hands under his back. Rick is a professional caregiver and showed Rudy the ropes on the day they met.
“When Sam sees Rudy and then feels those strong arms. He trembles with excitement,” writes Abraham.
Then comes the smile and that big wide O.
Rudy told Abraham when asked to help with the story:
“Can I ask you something? Is it OK if this article is more about Sam than me?” said Rudy. “He’s done more for me than I’ve done for him, There are times when I don’t want to go to practice, and then I look at Sam. By God’s grace, I can do what I’m doing, so I should keep it up. I’ve never been one to complain a lot, but just seeing Sam reaffirms everything, you know?’’
Yes we know Rudy.
And here’s the thing.
I see young athletes at work almost every day here in Haliburton.
And like the nurse Liz Paquette at Malvern High, I don’t think I’d have to dig too deep in the well to find students just like Rudy. Willing to give.
I teach kids at Sir Sam’s ski area. I watch Hal High athletes at the rink, on the field, the court and the oval.
You’ll hear a lot about kids these days.
Don’t believe it.
Curmudgeons were spanking kid-related pejoratives way back when Socrates was still traipsing the Greek Agora.
If you need proof show up at the rink. Watch ‘em play.
Need further proof?
Remember two kids named Rudy and Sam.
Turn that ironic smile into an O.
Not too hard is it?
O! And Happy New Year peeps.
Twitter.com/terrance gavan and firstname.lastname@example.org.