There was a very familiar sight this past week at Monty Tech and Sky View Middle School. A sight that has been missed for the last two and a half months. A sight that brought unexpected smiles to many and a sense of happiness to me.
Ken Blanchette took in some summer league basketball action, his first venture to any games since his multiple strokes on May 11.
On Monday evening, we took the ride up Route 2 to take in the St. Bernard's versus Groton-Dunstable boys' basketball game and it was a great introduction back into high-school sports for my father.
The night started with the entire Crusaders roster coming over and shaking my father's hand, a classy move surely set up by Pat Romich and Keith Woods. We then enjoyed a tense back-and-forth game, with my father asking questions of Coach Woods, trying to get insight on what his team will look like come this winter.
Mr. Romich came over and gave my father a hug and told him how great it was to see him out. My father looked in his element, watching kids he has so much respect for play a game he loves. I could tell on the ride home that my father, while tired from a night in a sweltering gym, had thoroughly enjoyed his time out of the house.
I spoke with him on Wednesday morning and told him that I would be covering a doubleheader that night of girls' action at Sky View. He told me he wanted to go, knowing he would be able to see Groton-Dunstable Coach Mark Hennelly and North Middlesex Coach Pat
That night, my father watched an easy Groton-Dunstable win, taking in the kind words of many well-wishers who came by to check on his progress. Everyone who checked in with him talked about how great he looked and how much progress he had made.
You could see my father was enjoying his time back in the gym. He did not make it through the second game, heading home early thanks to a ride from Coach Hennelly, but the first steps had been taken.
My father is not close to returning. He will be the first to admit it. There are still many things that need to improve before he can consider coming back to his job as sports editor, but the wheels are turning. It was just two games, but it was giant step for him.
He continues to work on both the physical and mental aspects of a return to his normal self. There are many bridges to cross on the journey and every day is a bit of a struggle, but he is getting there.
The support of the community and the show of respect on these two nights will work wonders as he works his way back to covering the games he so sorely misses. It may not come as quickly as he hopes, but his return is coming, one small step at a time.