Saturday, January 26, 2013

My 22nd birthday year can beat up your 22nd birthday year.

Dec. 2005 with Mom
In Feb. 2005, Casey Turns 22.

My 22nd year of life was when I really began to make the turn into becoming the person I am today.

In the Spring of 2005, I was realizing the end of college life was near. About half of friends were graduating in May (while I had obtained more hours of credit overall, I needed another semester to graduate with the switch of my major). I began going to graduation parties with my friends (seen at the parents' house of my friend Lacy Davis below) and saying our goodbyes to those heading back home, overseas, or into the job world.

Those fun times of graduations would be short-lived for me. Soon after those graduations ended, I had one of the worst nights of my life.

It was May 26, 2005 and I woke up at my house and everyone in the family was out enjoying the day. I was home alone watching TV when I began to smell what seemed like a gas leak in the neighborhood, and while I no longer was wishing to breathe in the odor, I called my grandparents (Dear and Pops) and asked if I could come over and bring the dogs because we didn't want to get "woozy" smelling the gas. They were home and so I took our dogs Coco and puppy Cadi over and spent the whole afternoon hanging out with them enjoying the day. The past few years I had grown more and more intrigued spending time with the two of them, listening to their stories of decades past.

As the evening came upon us, I decided it was time to head back home, as I got word the gas leak had been resolved. I loaded up the dogs and was asked by Pops if I wanted to go with them to Steak and Ale for dinner, I said I had to get going because I had to drop the dogs off and drive down to Bricktown to watch my Dad throw out the "First Pitch" at some Redhawks game. Little did I know, that was going to be the last conversation I would ever have with my grandad - who I had become very close with and would end up wearing his wedding ring as my own years later.

I dropped the dogs off at the house and headed to Bricktown. As I exited and began to look for a parking spot, I got a call from my Dad, asking if I had parked, I told him I hadn't and he told me that was a good thing as Pops had just had a heart attack at dinner and was headed to Mercy Hospital. I turned the car back around and headed back out to northwest Oklahoma City.

After getting to Mercy and finding out the details that he had gone unconscious more than once and brought back each time, it was then talked about that if he "goes" again, he would not be revived. After hours at the hospital and all of us spending some time at his bedside, we were all told that he might/might not make it through the night, but that if anything happens, we will be notified. So, I headed to a friends house to "cool off" and would receive a phone call from my older brother that Pops had died and I should come back to the hospital. I broke down like I hadn't in years. My friends drove me to the hospital and dazed out for hours. Later at his funeral, I would break down again, and it would be 7.5 more years until I would cry again, my wedding.

Old photo with my little brother, Tristan, Pops and me on the right

After a few weeks, I was able to get back to my summer...trying to have normalcy again. I was practically feeling it to be my last "summer vacation" and was hanging out with my college friends now on a daily basis (whenever I wasn't at PCO being an umpire). A few of my friends bought plane tickets and headed to Barcelona and then on to Madrid to teach English and experience living abroad, that made me begin thinking of the plans I would need to make for the following January, after graduation in December. Then, August came...

This was by no means an ordinary August for myself or the City of Oklahoma City. Hurricane Katrina hit the City of New Orleans with a fury, and talks of the Hornets relocating to Oklahoma City became reality.

From 1999 to this point (2005) I had been a statistician for my dad as he called sporting events on Cox Communications, high school football, high school basketball, soccer, softball, name, we were there. As the Hornets made it official, and then made it official that Cox Communications would be the broadcasting partner for the team, I applied to be a "Stats guy" and with years of Cox Comm. sports stats, I got a nibble that I could be a "back-up runner" for the team...meaning that 3 or 4 games a year, I could have the job that brought stat sheets to the media during timeouts, end of quarters and (more importantly) transcribe player interview from inside the locker rooms post game. Holy cow, that sounded cool.

I was invited (along with every stats guy, fulltime and back ups) to the first preseason game to get everyone familiar with the job. I was hooked from the first time I walked in the building. I was there early, asked lots of questions and became as involved as much as they would let me...I didn't do that to try to impress anyone, I did it because I had grown up hoping for something like this to become available. I loved it, and at the end of the night, right before I was about to leave, I got asked a question that will go down as one of my all-time favorite moments, (from the PR Director in charge of the game operations) "So, will you be here next game?" "Well, I thought I was just a you need me for the next game?" "Yeah, we could use you for every game if you're willing." (I about fainted but calmly agreed to appear at all 35 home games (not 41, as 6 games would be played back in Louisiana that season). I would do this all season, asked to come back the next season and when the Thunder came to town in 2008, the Game Operations crew called the old Hornets stats guys back and we all came back again.

This was a much bigger moment for me than it sounds. It was much more than just a side stats job. I became enthralled with the behind-the-scenes look into this world-wide franchise. I became enthralled with the PR Director's role with the team (and the rest of his team of PR practitioners). This made me once again question what I wanted to do when I graduated. There I stood, 6 weeks from graduation (and in the middle of student-teaching) and had lost all desire to go fulltime into teaching and desperately wanted to learn much more about this "PR" gig I was seeing first-hand operated at its highest level. I was stuck.

Even before the Hornets came, I was not sold on taking on a teaching job in Jan. '06, right after graduation. I didn't want my very first class to be sought out halfway through a school year...I wanted to start out fresh, with a fresh class the following August...this meant I needed to plan out my spring/summer to take on something different. Adding to that thought...I no longer felt the desire to teach (due to wanting PR)...I was stuck. Stuck in a good way though.

Due to going an extra semester and taking on extra expenses associated with more school with it, I had decided to move home with the parents for the last 1.5 years of college to help with finances. So, without a mortgage/rent to pay, and already had paid off my 12 year old Honda Accord, bills were at a minimum...and that's a good thing for a new graduate with conflicted options on a future. In Jan. I would have a discussion with one of my best friends (future usher at my wedding), Dave Ford Johnson. We talked about how "crazy" it would be to go travel for the summer. Not just any normal traveling...a two-month + road trip around the country...was that possible? Just pack up and go? I had never been away from home for more than 10 days for a summer camp.

Regardless, we were set on doing it. That would happen when I was officially I won't write more on that today...tune in to tomorrow's blog, where the adventures get really adventurous.

(SIDENOTE: I would also be the QB of the championship flag football intra-murals team at SNU, photo below...this story didn't really fit into anything, but it was a lot of fun and since I had photos from it, I thought I'd share them.)

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