"My wish, for you…"
Dateline: A World, Of Perfect
I wish, I lived in a bottle.
And that during times of trouble, you would find my bottle on your doorstep.
I wish, that my bottle had a label that said, rub here.
And that you did.
And that when you did, rub here, I could make all things right for you.
I wish, I was a pincushion.
A pincushion, for the universe.
And that when bad had to happen, it would only happen to me.
That I could take the suffering, for you.
I wish, that there was no Make A Wish.
You, me, we don't need wishes anymore.
Because my greatest wish is that we lived in, A World, Of Perfect.
"… is that this life becomes all that you want it to…"
I wish, that when I shook Max's hand, that through our handshake I could suck up all the cancer that may still be lurking inside the 18-year-old child.
Universe, when you come looking, take the old, leave the young.
Take me, not them.
It's thems turn for the gifts of the blue and green rock in space. I've had my spin, I'll step off, for them.
I'll step off for Max, if you promise to not have the cancer come back. If you promise that you turn his current remission...into permanently cured.
I'll step off the planet.
For all the children like Max out there.
Max Feldman…an 18-year-old kid from Morristown, N.J., studying to be a Farrier at Hocking College in Ohio…last March Max's life changed forever…when Max was just 17 years old….17 years old…he was diagnosed with testicular cancer.
Barbara Feldman…Mom, "He went through hell, literally hell, he was so sick…he missed a lot of school with the treatments…missed his high school prom…missed a lot."
Max, "At school they called me 'Cueball' because I lost all my hair."
I really have no idea what to say to Max, what to ask him, I look in his eyes and see my daughter; I shake his hand and feel the grip of my son; in his smile, I see every child on this planet.
So I hug the kid, may have surprised him, may not have, for the most part over the past 30 years of being a reporter, I have refrained from hugging the people I'm interviewing...best that way especially with the ones mad at you, but the ones who are hurt, who are hurting, who are sick, them I hug, and silently I try to broker a deal with the universe…to the stars above I say…
"…your dreams stay big, and your worries stay small…"
Max told me that while he was sick, "fishing was the only thing I could do, I pretty much learned everything I know about fishing by watching it on ESPN…that's when I began to see how awesome Kevin is."
Kevin, as in…KVD.
"I always thought, boy if I could just meet him…"
Enter Make-A-Wish Foundation who gave Max the opportunity to make a wish, make a wish for anything on the planet…and he did….to meet Kevin VanDam.
As soon as KVD got done weighing his fish, he came off the stage to meet Max.
Away from all the hoopla I was talking with Kevin and I told him, "Dude when this is all over I need to interview you about it…OK."
"Sure db…but I'll tell you, when it comes to kids…kids…I don't know if I will be able to answer you…kids…bad stuff that happens to kids is tough on me."
And for a moment as we stood in the hot Lake Okeechobee sun, the famous KVD smile was gone, and all he did was look toward the lake.
And neither of us said another word, we just bumped knuckles and went back to what we were doing…KVD to having his fish weighed, me back to Max.
"…you never need to carry more than you can hold."
"Mr. Barone, sir, it was just unbelievable to meet KVD…but he's really nice, so down to earth for somebody who is the caliber of athlete that he is."
With the tailgate of my 4Runner up for shade, Max and I just sat on the back bumper and talked a bit about his meeting with KVD.
"Max, dude, what did you think when he told you to drive his boat over to the launch ramp?"
"I was scared, really nervous, I couldn't believe he told me to do that."
And then one of the most amazing things I've seen in sports...KVD gives Max the keys to his boat...
"Dude…you just drove Richard Petty's race car, man, you know Babe Ruth just handed you his bat…how cool is that. How long have you been driving boats?"
"Ah…truthfully…ah once, just one other time."
Behind Max, his father, Chuck, is just shaking his head…younger brother, 16-year-old Adam, who KVD also invited into the boat and to go on the boat ride, is just standing there smiling.
"Max, dude…you should probably give up driving boats right now because it will never get any better than that," and all Max could do was smile back at me, and shake his head yes.
A few minutes later a stretch limo arrived to take Max and his family back to their hotel…Adam pretty much dived in, Chuck shook my hand and climbed in, right before Max got in he turned back to me and gave me a hug.
Thank goodness for the dark Costas covering my eyes.
And then I turned and standing behind me was mom.
And this was the last thing she said to me before she climbed in, "Have you seen the smile on his face…I haven't seen a smile like that on his face since he was diagnosed last March…almost to the day of this…for B.A.S.S. and KVD to put that kind of smile on his face and to make him feel this good…it is just unbelievable…just unbelievable."
Want to know how happy Max's family was about this? This is Max's family: his mom, Barbara; his father, Chuck; and his younger brother, Adam.
All I could do was just shake my head and give her a hug before she got in the car, and the family, with Max, drove away.
If I just lived in a bottle.
If I was just a pincushion.
Bad wouldn't happen.
To the children.
But as the limo drove away, and I sat on the back bumper with the sound of the service yard behind me, the song of the seagulls above me, the waves of heat coming up off the blacktop, I finally did realize that even if I can't live in a bottle, can't be a pincushion, that once in awhile…
…maybe more than once in awhile…
…we can beat the bad…
…we can put a smile on a child's face…
…and that sometimes, we do live in…
…A World, Of Perfect.
"…but more than anything, yeah, and more than anything,
my wish, for you, is that this life becomes all that you want it to."
See you next from the Elite Series Bull Shoals Quest in Mountain Home, Ark.