Attaining “CR” and the Death of a Childhood Hero

** A Special Saturday Edition of Joe’s Journey **

I am finally approaching the weekend. It’s beautiful outside while it has been turmoil inside. This has not been a good week for me, save and except for one thing.

I have now attained the status of being in full “CR”, complete remission from CLL, Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia. I just need to stay that way. I learned the news on Monday.

Yet, I was pretty much numb from the evening before through all day Monday. You see, I learned late Sunday night that I had lost a special friend, a childhood hero, a person I looked up to and respected, just like my Dad.

When the past collides with the present, it can be gut-wrenching.

My life these past few months has been up and down, very uncertain and nervous about the future. My health seems to be returning and, apparently, I appear to be defeating that bastard known as cancer.

Still, I’m worried about the prospects of my wife, Pamela, walking again. She’s continuing to undergo rehab but progress seems to be minimal, and it’s been almost two years since her stroke. This is another sore spot with me as it pertains to the inconsistent care she has received.

I’ll not bore those who read my blog posts (THANK YOU) with details, but suffice it to say, I have had a few thousand things on my mind and it feels like very few of them are being solved. One main reason I try and contribute something in these blogs is to keep my creative juices flowing and to comment and offer constructive observations on life’s goings-on.

This week has had many twists and turns, thanks to Mr. Murphy (infamously of Murphy’s Law) who must have taken up residence on our front lawn. Seems every time I settle in to do something constructive in order to generate some income, I always get interrupted by something not always minor. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve started to write this blog post before something would distract me. That’s what those blasted emotions do.

Adding insult to injury, our air conditioning unit (relatively new) decided it didn’t want to work yesterday, and as I write this, is “in the process of being fixed.” Thank God for ceiling fans and cooler (slightly) weather.

It’s Friday, the last day of September, the first day of the 2016 Ryder Cup, golf’s international showdown between the USA and Europe every four years. I’m a fan, a golfer who as a young lad practically grew up on the golf course. I haven’t played in years, though.

The whole event, however, is bittersweet for me, and for millions the world over who follow golf and who are fans of one man in particular.

umbrella-logoYou see, my special friend and childhood hero I lost this past Sunday was Arnold Palmer, known the world over simply as Arnie. An icon, a legend, a multimillionaire, a friend to millions everywhere, an everyman.

Sitting on my couch this past Sunday night trying to relax, I was not looking forward to Monday’s visit to Houston’s Methodist Hospital. I’ve been fighting with insurance and billing for months, and to little avail.

Then suddenly, I get notice that “golfing icon Arnold Palmer has died at the age of 87.” I sat there, stunned, thinking I had misread my phone. Then the notice reappeared, and from additional sources.

I just blurted out “No, No, No, No, No . . .” I couldn’t think of anything else to do but run into the bedroom and tell Pam, “Arnie’s gone. He died.”

Then, I just broke down. Like a little child, I sobbed and could not stop.

Another one of my heroes had fallen.

“He sat with kings and queens and presidents, and he was just as happy as sitting with a bunch of guys from the mills or coal mines. He wasn’t pretentious. He’s what everybody calls a good egg,” said Gabe Monzo, executive director of the Westmoreland County Airport Authority, which is responsible for the operation of Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Latrobe, PA.

Arnold PalmerAs I’ve made it through to this weekend, I fondly remember watching Arnie on television. I’m a child of the 50’s and 60’s, so I got to see Mr. Palmer during his glory years. I even got to, briefly, meet him when he was playing in the Administaff Small Business Classic in Houston in 2005. That’s when the Golfing Gods must’ve been shining on me because I was lucky enough to capture his autograph on my special Administaff hat.

Arnold Palmer signing cap at Houston golf tourneyI remember following Arnie (along with Tom Kite and Larry Nelson) around the course that Friday. Several times during the day, in walking from one green to the next tee box, I came within arm’s reach of Palmer. Like some little embarrassed kid, I couldn’t muster up the courage to blurt out “Hello, Arnie. Welcome back to Houston.” I also couldn’t find a nearby 5-year old to blurt it out for me!

I was in awe of this man. As was everyone else on the course.

Larry Nelson, a superb gentleman whom I met later in getting his autograph, was the defending champion of this tournament. He and Tom Kite, also a class act, were no match for Palmer’s celebrity and megawatt charm.

As a kid playing golf with Dad, one major thing I learned from both Mr. Palmer and Daddy was the not-so-simple trait of the handshake, and its significance. A handshake is how Palmer sealed the deal with Mark McCormack on becoming his business manager/agent. A handshake and giving one’s word seemed to work wonders for both Arnie and Dad over the years. They both put more emphasis on it than a signed piece of paper.

I think we’ve lost that aspect of society, and, clearly, it’s not nearly seen as the big deal that it was in Palmer and Dad’s day. That’s sad.

A memorial service is planned for Tuesday, October 4, at 10AM CST. It most likely will be televised by Golf Channel, which Mr. Palmer co-founded.

I suggest to those who are fans of the man or the sport or both that a donation be made by joining Arnie’s Army and the Arnie’s Army Charitable Foundation. I have.

I’d also like to ask your support of me by donating to my fundraising for the Lymphoma and Leukemia Society’s Light the Night Walk. The Houston Walk is just one week away – next Saturday, October 8 at the University of Houston.

LLS Logo-blk002

Forgive me for this long post. It’s been a long week.

I can’t help but wonder, though, how long it will take Arnie and Dad to arrange to play a round “up there.” I’d love to be the caddy, provided, of course, I have a return ticket.

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