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I have not been playing any kind of golf, either ball or disc for several weeks now. I was feeling really good about both when I screwed up my back and shoulders, resulting in major gridlock to my upper body. A trip to the urgent care left me with two cortisone shots in either shoulder and an allergic reaction to the betadyne . I am not sure which made me feel worse, the steroids running amok in my bloodstream, or the allergic reaction. Either way, it took me out of contention for the ball golf club championship two weeks ago.
Then a week ago today, I am talking on the phone with my sister. Due to the time differences between the midwest and the west coast, we rarely meet up for a sister-to-sister chat. During the course of that conversation, she gets the call that Dad was being taken to the hospital after collapsing following his cardiac rehab workout. He was at the park district health club. He was actually one of the original visionaries and supporters of the park district where I lived, dating back to the mid-1960s. He was a big supporter of community based sports, and was interested in how the disc golf community was growing. He never did get to play, but I guarantee he would have been a great proponent of the game.
My sister and I both pretty much instantly felt that the news was going to be the worst possible. Dad had been a cardiac patient since December 26, 1985. Amazing that he survived as long and as healthily as he did.
All I could think about was how very lucky and proud I was to be his daughter. I am glad he didn't suffer, and would not have to once again fight to heal as he has had to do so many times over the last years. What I wasn't prepared for was the reaction of the community and brotherhood he shared his life with when he was not being a husband and father.
My dad was a firefighter. Not only was he one of the first professional firefighters in the community I grew up in, he also was in the first graduating class of paramedics in Illinois back in the early 70s. He later went on to pioneer fire safety via home programs and consulted with the National Fire Protection Agency and was the FEMA director for our area in the 70s and 80s. When I was a kid, I dont' think I realized his impact on the community. I remember being miffed (ok, downright mortified) that I had to don the "Sparky the firedog" costume at parades and represent. What he was teaching me was that it is so important to invest in your community, and that if a job (even parading as a dog) needed to be done, don't look to someone else to do it. I teach my children the same today.
Dad retired from the force due to medical disability in 1989. That was a long time ago, and many on this message board were not even born. Yet, at his wake and funeral, hundreds of firefighters of all ages arrived to pay respect to my father and my family. We were overwhelmed at the outpouring of support and love from the firefighting community. I did "ok" until they had the final salutes during the last moments of the wake on Sunday. At that time, over 100 uniformed officers from many municipalities paraded by dad's casket and individually saluted him. Holy cow. This was in addition to the honor guard posted at his casket during the long day. The changing of the guard was like the one at Buckingham Palace. Very powerful stuff.
Monday brought another day of being proud to be a child of Paul Watkins. The fire department went all out to honor my dad. Not only did over 60 uniformed brothers and sisters attend the funeral, there was a huge honor guard saluting every time we walked through anywhere. At the end of the service, we left the church and walked outside to a parade of over 10 fire trucks and ambulances, while police cars from several cities and the Illinois State Troopers were stopping traffic at every single corner on the way to his final resting place. It was all my brothers, sisters, mom and nieces and nephews could do to stop sobbing at the pride we felt. I always knew that the brotherhood of the firefighters was a special thing, and cannot thank the men and women of the Mt. Prospect Fire Department enough for honoring my dad in that way. They have no idea what comfort their support and love has provided to my shell-shocked family. We forgot the strength and bond of the firefighting family. We were heartened to know that our father's contributions were not unnoticed by the community that benefited from them.
Of course, the impromptu travel to Chicago with four teens/young adults also came with lots of down time. Danny managed to eke out a quick trip to a local disc course. The ground is absolutely saturated, and he found it awfully muddy.
I also had occasion to speak with several firefighters who play disc in the area, and they expressed that the weather has made things a little messy. Hopefully, Mother Nature will be benevolent and allow some drying time for the waterlogged land.

Now, we are back home and trying to find normal. I have not thrown a disc since my cortisone shots, and I am eager to see if they really do help. Maybe I will head out today for a few hours. I think I might need to throw things in the next few days and weeks.....

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Comment by heather on April 12, 2008 at 11:20am
monica, what a beautiful post. your father is a role model and inspiration.

i wish you the best and hope you find strength for your own quick recovery, both physical and spiritual.
Comment by Rizbee on April 9, 2008 at 7:09pm
Well...that prompted a bunch of tears on this end. While I am sorry for your loss, I'm glad that you had a chance to see how much your father meant to those around him (which I think *you* already knew). I sure was hoping to have a chance to show him how to play...maybe one day...

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