Rain Man: A Fictional Story

A father always taught me to do what you love and everything else will fall into place. Nothing else matters as long as you’re happy. But what if that happiness transpires into hate? A single moment can change a person’s life for the better or worse. And most of the time that moment stays with you for the rest of your life. That moment becomes part of you- a part of your character, a part of your personality, and most importantly a part of your life. That moment defines who you are whether you like it or not.

 

A couple years back I swore that I would never pick up a ball again. I guess I didn’t realize how much I would miss it. I missed hearing the ball make a swooshing noise as it traveled through the net. I missed preforming all the tricks my dad taught me as I dribbled the ball. I missed the screaming fans and the buzzer noise. Most importantly, I missed the adrenaline rush it gave me as I ran around the court. I felt like nothing could touch me – no one could bring me down.

 

I always looked up to my father. He taught me more information than I could ever learn in a classroom. And right after his diagnosis with Alzheimer’s disease, was when I learned the most. Three years later, my dad couldn’t remember who I was. And nine times out of ten, the police were called on a daily basis trying to get the stranger out of his house. The other one percent of the time was on his good days. He didn’t have a lot of the, but when he did it was like he saw me as his son, not as the stranger.

 

The love of the game was part of the most important thing for my father. The other was numbers. He loved them. He counted the seconds until the buzzer rang. He made sure I was number one – the best I could be even if it was only in his mind. If you asked me my real number, it wouldn’t be number one. It would be fourteen. Fourteen is the number I lived by for the duration of my short high school basketball career. Three seconds until I accepted the fact that the number fourteen actually meant number one in his eyes. The number fourteen was the same number he was given in high school. I then realized that to him, number fourteen was the best number I could have because it was his.

 

My father was a great man. He could tell you how many fouls there were at each game. He could tell you the score. He ran numbers with the team every day – plays that is. He would say, “Give me number seven.” And we would because as much as these numbers influenced his life, he made sure they influenced ours as well. We know those numbers just like we knew each other; we were family. Those numbers protected us. Those numbers helped us win the championship game of my freshman year. My father could tell you stories of when he was little and how six generations played basketball. He could tell worthless numbers like the fact that there are nine million three hundred forty-two thousand fifty-nine bumps, or pebbling on a basketball.

 

These numbers are the ones he lived by. These numbers kept the game interesting. These numbers define who he was; a man of statistics; man who had love for the game and love for the team. A man who at times threw these numbers out the window because in the end the numbers are what killed him. Now ask me my number and I will tell you 14. Ask me his? I would tell you 12.26.08. Why? Because that was the last number he ever learned.

Marisa Schussler

Originally Appeared in 2010-2011 Edition of Outside In.