Our Bags Are Packed: The Road to the Final Four with my Dad.

It’s been a while since my last post, but those who know me and my family know that March is a month-long religious holiday of madness.

Thus, the hiatus. Plus, I’m highly superstitious. Once my Shockers went on a tear through the NCAA tournament, I knew I could not post one thing about the team. Not one. So, this is not a post about the team (although I never doubted the talents or tenacity of this remarkable team throughout the season), it is about a relationship between a girl and her father and a promise she made to him a long time ago.

We’re a sports loving family. In 2008, I crossed “Walk the grounds of Augusta National with my dad” off my Sports Bucket List. You see, we don’t even have regular bucket lists, we have sports-related bucket lists. It’s a sickness, I know. But there we were, in Augusta during the practice rounds of the Masters. Check.

Dad and John and me

When we’d finished following Woods, Singh, and Player, we decided to sit at a picnic table in one of the beer gardens. Over a few cold beers served in plastic cups, we talked about many things, one being the major sporting events we’d like to see in our lifetime. I recall Super Bowl being mentioned, the NBA Playoffs, even the Olympics, summer or winter, but what remains most vivid is my dad saying he really wanted to go to the Final Four, no matter who was playing, he just wanted to see the championship game. At that moment, I promised him if the Shockers ever made it, I’d take him. No matter what.

Now, I would be lying if I said I was absolutely certain I would keep this promise. I honestly thought I might have to edit my promise in taking my dad to see the Shox in the Final Four to any Final Four. But, I remained hopeful. Every year, I thought this might be the one, the one where I could call my dad and tell him to pack his bags.

It’s funny or ironic that just before this years tournament I  watched 30 for 30s: Survive and Advance, the story about the North Carolina State team who beat all the odds to win the National Championship. Their coach was Jim Valvano,  a man I absolutely loved, and my father did, too. In the documentary there was a segment of a speech I’d forgotten with Jimmy V talking about his father and explaining the one gift his father gave him, his father believed in him. No matter what. He explained this by sharing that when he would tell his father he was going to get his NC State team to the Final Four, his father would answer “My bags are packed.” Even when Jim went to visit his father, again reiterating how he would get his team to the National Championship but that it would be a hard road, his father would show him his suitcase, at the ready. “My bags are packed.”

Whether this story is true or somewhat embellished does not matter, what stands out is the act of belief, that small act of hope in a packed suitcase. I’m ready. Let’s go. I believe.

So, when the Shox beat Gonzaga I told my father “Get your suitcase ready, dad. My bags are packed.” He laughed, but then answered, “Okay.”

When the Shox beat La Salle in the Sweet Sixteen, I asked him, “Mine is ready, got your suitcase ready?” Again, he laughed, “Almost.”

When I climbed down from the ceiling after the Shockers beat Ohio State, I called my father who after the first ring yelled into the receiver,”My bags are packed!”

Belief.  That’s all it takes. So now, a daughter gets to take her father on a long ago promised trip to the NCAA Final Four. But it’s better than that, as the two season ticket holders and die-hard Shocker fans take the trip to Atlanta to follow their beloved Wichita State Shockers.

It’s going to be a remarkable journey for the two of us, something I will remember the rest of my days on this planet. If you’re interested, follow it here as I plan to post daily on our road to Atlanta, a road paved in promise, a journey of belief.

Our bags are packed.

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7 thoughts on “Our Bags Are Packed: The Road to the Final Four with my Dad.

  1. This is an exciting time and I’m thrilled you are taking our Dad to the Final Four. I can’t wait to read your post through out the journey. I know through your words it will be like I’m there with you. Love you guys.

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  2. Oh, Natalie – I am so excited for you and your dad!! I’m sitting here fighting back tears after reading your post. I saw your dad early last week and asked him if he was going to LA. His reply was, “Waiting for the Final Four!” Have a wonderful time and can’t wait to read/hear about your trip!

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