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Florida Caregiver, Neenah Basketball Team

posted Dec 10, 2013, 9:03 AM by Manny Wilke
We got to go on our first non-surgery trip in 3 years to Florida this past month - a real vacation. We went to the beach and actually got to go in the water, something we haven't been able to do with all of our beach experiences in California. It was a great mini-vacation despite getting a terrible migraine. I haven't had one in years, probably since preparing for a surgery trip. I guess going on vacation with a family of 5 these days is equally as stressful as bringing Manny to surgery alone! I was bedridden for a full day of our short 4 day trip. While the other boys headed down to the pool or to the mall (yes, that Nate - he is "All-Mall") Manny insisted on staying by me and taking care of me. Florida: Pool, Beach Shopping. Nope, Manny insisted on being inside, sitting on a bed next to be in a dark room, watching a movie on his Kindle. To be honest, I just wanted to be left alone. But, I couldn't push him away as I can remember is him saying over and over again... "I will never leave you, Mom. I'm here for you. It's just you and me." As I thought about it after I started feeling better, those were my words to him during all of the surgery trips. I always wanted to make sure he knew I would be there for each and every 96 California days and that I would never leave him no matter what.
A few weekends ago Eli had a basketball tournament in Fond Du Lac. Despite Manny's sometimes lackadaisical attitude about sports, he (with big brother's help) decided to put on Eli's Positively Hoops basketball uniform from last year OVER his pants and over his long sleeve shirt. Manny then asked Nate (aka Coach Nate) if he could be "batboy" and Nate said, "sure, you can be batboy but you'll have to wait until baseball season. But, if you'd like to be ballboy today, yes you can." Typically, Manny goes to tournaments and just plays with friends, plays with an electronic, colors, visits the concession stand and constantly asks if it's time to go home yet. But, for all 3 games Manny sat on the bench with the team and carried the team basketball bag from gym to gym. Eli's team was losing badly during 3rd game versus Neenah. Coach Nate was getting frustrated and told Manny that if Eli's team didn't get their act together that he was going in to play. Well, of course Manny was all over that and kept asking him throughout the game when he was going in. Of course, Coach Nate didn't mean it but the referee overheard Manny. Before I know it, I hear Eli's teammate screaming my name and I look over - Manny is checking himself into the game with 15 seconds left. WHAT? NOOOOO! He will get hurt. He won't do well. He can't. He's in 1st grade. These are 6th graders. He's not on the team. The other team will be furious. Our team will be mad. What will the parents think? OH NO! Please no. And just like that, Manny goes into the game. Eli inbounds to Manny. He catches it (wow), and dribbles up the entire court (wow), goes all the way to the hoop around the defenders (wow) and shoots (wow) and it bounces on the rim (wow) just before the buzzer goes off (wow) but the ball bounces around and doesn't go in (who cares). From what I can remember, the place explodes with cheers, jumping around and smiles galore - from all kids, from all parents. Manny follows the team in the handshake line and the other players were giving him high fives. I fought back tears, I mean, how silly, right? And then my friend, Amy, comes up to me, SOBBING, saying that it was the best part of the tournament.
Apparently, the ref asked Nate if he wanted to go in and Nate said, yes, but he's not going in - it's ok - and the ref went and talked to the Neenah coach anyways, and their coach agreed. Without realizing it, Neenah took a timeout and clued in their 11 year old team to play defense but not too hard. Unbelievable. This is what you see on ESPN SportsCenter. Thank you, Mr. Ref and the Neenah coach/team for making such a special memory for our family, not even realizing the background or story of MannyMan. I just hope it's not the only time Manny plays club basketball!