The golfer Phil Mickelson has decided to skip the upcoming U.S. Open in Wisconsin, so he can attend his daughter Amanda’s high school graduation in California. The two coincide.
For those not familiar with golf, the Open is one of four “major” championships. It’s also the only major Mickelson has not won. If he did win it, he’d become just the 7th man ever to win all four. He has finished 2nd six times.
It’s a very big deal.
Especially for a guy like Phil, who is 47. The oldest Open winner in history is Hale Irwin, who was 45 when he won in 1990. Elite athletes are self-centered by nature. It’s a reason they’re so good at what they do. Mickelson’s choice might seem like a no-brainer to the rest of us. For a person in his position, it was exemplary.
“I never really contemplated not being there,” Mickelson said last Saturday, when he announced his decision. “The birth of your child, any child, but especially your first child, is the most emotional event you can ever experience and share with your wife.’’
Jillian was born when I was on an airplane, somewhere over the West Coast. It’s among my deepest regrets.
It was 1989. I was covering the World Series in San Francisco. Jillian wasn’t expected for at least another week when Kerry called my hotel room in SF to say she was heading to the hospital. I booked a red-eye as soon as we hung up. Kerry got to Good Samaritan a little before 1 AM. Jillian was born within minutes.
I could have forsaken the Series, with the birth so close. I didn’t. I chose work over family, believing I could do both.
There is irony in Phil Mickelson’s story. His wife Amy was pregnant with Amanda in 1999. She was due at precisely the same spot on the calendar as Amy’s upcoming graduation: In the middle of the US Open. Phil played that week. He also said he would leave the instant Amy went into labor. His caddie was equipped with a beeper just for the purpose.
As it turned out, Phil didn’t get beeped and finished 2nd. The Open ended Sunday. Amanda was born the next day.
After Mickelson lost that day in ’99 to Payne Stewart, Stewart held Mickelson’s face in the palms of his hands.
“Good luck with the baby,” Stewart said. “There’s nothing greater than being a father.”
Four months later, Payne Stewart died in a plane crash.
Nothing matters so much as being there. There are events that are life itself: Births and deaths and proms and weddings. And graduations. To miss them, especially for something as ultimately meaningless as writing about baseball, is a huge mistake. There will always be another World Series.
In raising Jillian, Kerry and I were always There. Being There is mandatory. It helps that it’s also the reward of a lifetime. Jillian’s first prom, her high school graduation, her first day of college, her wedding. Also, the endless frustrations of the IEP meetings, the ongoing reach for inclusion, the fight for “typical” acceptance. Being There matters.
I’d like to think I learned from missing Jillian’s birth. I wished I’d been more like Phil Mickelson. What’s the saying?
“No one ever sat on his death bed and said I wish I’d spent more time at the office.”
As always, Expect Don’t Accept.
Paul Daugherty’s memoir of raising Jillian, An Uncomplicated Life, can be purchased via Amazon.com or on his website, pdaugherty.com. He and Jillian speak frequently around the country and are available to speak at your event, convention etc. Contact Paul via his website or by phone at 513-313-9981.