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“Dad gave me the intuition and smarts and the strength to challenge why.”

SportsCenter reporter Shelley Smith writes this Father's Day tribute to a man who, like his daughter, remains remarkably resilient

This is about my dad and family:

My dad, like many of yours, has been through a lot.

He’ll be 86 in July.

His younger daughter, my younger sister, died in 2016 from organ failure.

I went through three types of cancer and a stroke and two major joint replacements (but who’s counting?).

And then, saddest of all, his wife of 62 years died last August.

Their 63rd anniversary would have been June 10.

“Dad gave me the intuition and smarts and the strength to challenge why,” Shelley Smith writes. (Shelley Smith/ESPN)

And then, on Mother’s Day night (a sacred holiday in our house, according to Mom), this happened.

He was trying to adjust the thermostat, tucked for some inexplicable reason, behind the TV in the living room – with his cane.

He doesn’t use the cane (well, now he does) and thought it smart to reach over and move the dial … so to speak.


He lost his balance and fell right on that hip.

He cracked the ball in the socket – but not the socket, so I guess that’s a good thing.

Remarkably, it was two years to the day of my stroke in the Warriors locker room, which freaked Steph Curry out, who saw me laying on the trainers’ table meant for him, and made life-saving heroes out of the Warriors trainers. (I went back to work the next week with gifts in hand and gratitude I’ve never known in my heart).

So as I was getting ready to continue my coverage of the Warriors (I had already done the first two rounds) and was assigned to see them through the Finals, I got a call from dad’s senior living quarters saying he had fallen and was taken away in an ambulance – but they didn’t know to where.

They lost him.


“What should I do?” the panicked front desk attendant asked me as she was hyperventilating.

“What do you mean ‘What should you do?’” I asked.

“He didn’t have a preferred hospital on his record.”

“So, you lost him?” I said, incredulous. “How could you lose someone from assisted living?

“Maybe,” I suggested, “you might try to call the ambulance company and ask them where they took him?”

We finally found him, the hip was cracked, surgery was scheduled.

I called my bosses and said I’d be gone for a bit to take care of him.

And they so graciously said, “take what time you need.”

They then called in my fellow ESPN reporters Mark Schwarz and Michele Steele to take my place.

God love them all.

I got to the hospital the next morning just as he was getting out of surgery and he was making zero sense.

He thought he was dying, he thought he was in Nebraska, he thought he was in prison and then a hotel.

He kept wanting to get up and walk around. Anesthesia does weird things.

I slept in the chair in his room that night and went to his apartment the next only to be called by him.

“They’ve moved my bed and I don’t know where I am,” so I rushed back and he was right where they had him.

Again, anesthesia.

Another night in the chair.

He talks in his sleep. That’s what I learned. At first, I was alarmed, then I figured out to stop trying to figure out what he was saying.

And don’t answer.

It was a rough three weeks. One in the hospital, one in the rehab center which was also sad, and then one on an air mattress at his place.

I ran errands.

I bought him a walker and a toilet seat and Frosted Flakes, made him homemade spaghetti sauce, found a new recliner and chairs for the table that don’t threaten to kill whoever sat in them.

I guess since my mom’s death in August I hadn’t paid much attention to his physical situation.

We were all grieving.

I bought him a soup pan and a skillet. New towels, new sheets, new shoes…slip-ons of course.

And, of course, sent them all to my address at first and not his.

He has done for me more than I could ever do for him.

I am successful today because of him and my Mom, who gave me the chops to perform.

Dad gave me the intuition and smarts and the strength to challenge why.

He truly is the smartest, most reasonable man I’ve ever known.

He checks his financial accounts daily (ever fearful of hacks).

He has advised me so wisely about so many important decisions, that this mini-essay is the very, very least I do for the most important man in my life.

Happy Father’s Day, Dr. Ronald Lee Smith, aka DAD.

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