I went to my first University of Kentucky basketball game in the mid 1980’s. I can’t tell you the exact game or all of the players but there are a few vivid memories. I was in awe of Rupp Arena and the sheer number of people gathered in one place united in their love for a team of college kids dressed in blue and white. It was very loud and as soon as everyone stood for the fight song, I was hooked. The drums, the clapping, and sheer joy reeled me into a world of “having a team”.
Years of watching games on television, live at Rupp, and listening to Cawood Ledford on the radio followed. All of those memories are attached to my late father. We would make the two and half hour trek to Lexington : from Highway 80 to where it exists onto Highway 15. As the curves of 15 began to straighten out, we’d hit the Mountain Parkway. Soon the mountains were behind us and the promise of an adventure was at the end of I75.
I haven’t watched the UK men play a game live in over two years. I just couldn’t. A dear friend even gave me tickets to Big Blue Madness a few months after my dad died and I gave them back. The thought of ever enjoying a basketball game, especially one that involved my beloved Wildcats, seemed impossible. Who would I call after it was over to analyze the missed calls? What if I walked in and just fell apart and one of those sweet ushers in the blue blazers thought I was nuts?
I kept watching games but it was rough. I didn’t get as excited, not even two years ago when UK won the championship. I was thrilled but I cried myself to sleep that night.
Throughout the last two seasons I kept trying to care. I kept hoping that part of my healing process would involve basketball, specifically UK basketball. My husband Stephen has had to watch and endure this process with me. He also loves basketball. He tried to get tickets on my birthday this year but it didn’t work out. I wasn’t upset.
I kept watching and waiting and little glimpses of hope would appear. I was downright livid when UK lost to Florida in the SEC Championship. Stephen was smiling at me and when I asked why he said, “I like this.” Tonight after UK earned a trip to the Sweet 16 in Indianapolis he told me to buy a ticket and go. I thought perhaps he was having some sort of episode. Who would watch the kids? Do you know how much tickets cost??? Seriously…are you BEING serious?
A broken heart cannot be pieced together overnight. Sometimes there are even sections that disappear and cannot be replaced. Tonight I learned that a small piece of paper with a row and seat number can place a band aid over that empty spot but the love behind that band aid can do so much more.