50Plus-Today is more like a curated resource for adults age 50+ than a blog, and we are supported partially by our readers. When you buy via the links on our site, including amazon.com, we may earn an affiliate commission. We do not accept incentives for our reviews; all opinions are our own.
By Jaime Aron,
Life wasn’t easy
I’d like to introduce you to a friend of mine, a guy who’s faced many of life’s fiercest curveballs.
Raised in poverty, he was savagely abused by his father. The beatings were so bad that my pal once grabbed a machete to kill his dad, stopped only when his mom intervened. A friend helped him and his mom escape. They started over. While the physical scars healed, the mental wounds remained open.
The abuse turned my buddy into a jerk. That’s his word, not mine. He let few people into his world. He protected himself by cocooning inside an emotional hard shell. He got married, had kids, became a success at work. None of that was easy, either, because of the color of his skin. He’s black. And Latin. The woman he married was white. And Jewish. So, yeah, that hard shell fought off a lot of haters.
Releasing the demons
The night his family celebrated his 50th birthday, his youngest daughter didn’t feel well. Turned out, she had leukemia. Over the ensuing months, my friend looked on with awe as she tolerated her death sentence with grace … and with a burning desire to help other kids. See, even though her genetic cocktail made it nearly impossible to find a match for a bone marrow transplant, it didn’t have to be that way for others. So she asked her dad to help get more people to sign up to be donors, especially minorities. He did. It made a big difference. Between the public’s response and his daughter’s grace, my pal realized something: It was time to release his demons. Pretty much just like that, he became a tender man, the kind of person any friend would want to have.
His daughter was 18 when she died. Anyone who’s buried a child knows that pain. His marriage became collateral damage. And the divorce left him estranged from his other two daughters; it’s true today, decades later, and it still hurts. Yet he got on with his life. Found a new wife and adopted her two kids. Took up golf, too.
He was playing golf alone one day when he didn’t feel right. Turned out it was a heart attack. Then came heart failure. He was kept alive by a machine called an LVAD (Left Ventricular Assist Device). Eventually, he got a new heart and kidney. But the story doesn’t end there.
Mutual friends realized the source of his organs: A guy who went to middle school with his kids. They’d met years before.
Even more amazing? The donor was NFL player, Konrad Reuland, who died from a brain aneurysm at age 29. And my friend is Baseball Hall of Famer Rod Carew.
An extraordinary life
Yes, Rod Carew – a name, face and batting stance instantly recognizable to any baseball fan in the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s – lived this extraordinary life. As you probably noticed, this account of his life story doesn’t even get into the details of his career. But the book we just wrote together includes all sorts of colorful anecdotes from his days chasing .400, his 18 straight years of being an All-Star, his seven batting titles, his milestone 3,000th hit, his Hall of Fame induction and much more.
Here’s one of my favorite anectdotes: Rod didn’t make his high school team. Yet his play in a sandlot league earned him a tryout with the Twins … during batting practice before a game at Yankee Stadium. It was his first time inside, despite living a few blocks away. Cloaked in the uniform of Tony Oliva – who would become one of his closest friends – Rod hit so many home runs that the manager screamed for him to stop out of fear the Yankees might discover him. Yes, one of the greatest contact hitters of all time wowed them by hitting homers.
The book is called One Tough Out: Fighting Off Life’s Curveballs. Here’s hoping you find the time to get to know my pal.
About the Author
Jaime Aron is a Senior Writer for the American Heart Association. A former Texas Sports Editor for The Associated Press, Jaime wrote six books; more details at JaimeAron.com. He’s also especially proud of his family’s story on JakeandJosh.net. A native Texan, Jaime began his sports writing career in 1991 and covered practically every major sporting event. He lives in Dallas with his wife, Lori, and sons Zac, Jake, and Josh.
If you purchase a book from Amazon using the links in this post, I will receive an “affiliate commission”. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”