Tonight, I watched the first Indiana Hoosiers basketball game of the year, and as is typical for me at the beginning of every men’s college basketball season, I was missing my dad. He loved college basketball and was obsessed with the Hoosiers. Since his death in March 2001, I feel the loss of him more keenly at this time of the year. But once the season gets going, I always enjoy the games and feel my dad’s spirit with me. He is in my heart as I happily cheer for our team.
But tonight my heart is much heavier than ever before, and the beginning of this basketball season is far more emotionally painful for me.
Basketball was an important part of Mack’s life. She played the sport for thirteen of her twenty years, and watching her play was one of my greatest joys of being her momma bear. When she was little, she slept with her favorite basketball, dribbled for hours in her room, became an expert at spinning the ball on her fingers, and truly loved the sport. And even though I raised the poor child in Illini country, she became a Hoosier fan, too. As we often said to our numerous Illinois-fan friends, “It’s a Pratt thing, you wouldn’t understand.”
My dad died when Mack was only seven. It was a trivial thing, perhaps, but raising Mack on Hoosier basketball was one way for me to connect her to the grandfather she never had the chance to know. Mack and I always talked about dad’s love for the Hoosiers. In March 2013, Mack made a special trip home from college just so we could watch Indiana in the first weekend of the NCAA tournament together. We talked then about how tickled grandpa would have been at their success and how much we wished he could have shared the fun with us.
Indiana basketball has been one of the simple pleasures of my life. It was a family connection that I cherished. And now I face this college basketball season without my dad and without my precious Macko. Right now in my sorrow, it does not seem possible, but I hope that later in the season I will be able to enjoy some Hoosier hoops. That’s what both of them would wish for me. And if…no, when…that happens, my dad and Mack will be with me in spirit as I cheer for our favorite team.