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Valuing good values
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Forsyth County News
Thank you, Phil Mickelson.

Your wonderful win at The Masters showed us that nice guys do finish first. Not always, of course, but often enough to restore our faith.

On even rarer occasions, we catch a glimpse into a superstar’s soul and get to see what makes him tick. When we see a person who is grounded in solid values, who knows what’s really important in this short time we have here, it leaves us with a warm feeling that we can still count on a modicum of order in a world seemingly ruled by warped values.

When Mickelson walked off the 18th green as the Masters champion and shared that interminable hug with his wife, Amy, and then another with his three daughters, you felt like you were watching the last chapter of a wonderful fairy tale.

I’ve always been struck by Mickelson’s use of the pronoun “we” when discussing his golf career and, over the past 11 months, Amy’s battle with cancer. They’re a team in the finest sense, each there for the other, turning each joy into two joys, making each grief half a grief.

That Amy’s appearance marked her first trip to the Augusta National grounds during the week that marked her first trip to a tournament this year, made the moment almost unbearable.

“I didn’t really want to look up, because I knew I’d get choked up if I saw her,” Jim “Bones” Mackay, Mickelson’s long-time friend and caddie, told the Associated Press. “It was great to see her there, for sure. Twenty years from now, nothing will compare to this.”

Though nothing could compare to that hug Phil shared with Amy, the hug he shared with Bones on the 18th green came close.

“Bones has been through this thing with us the past year,” Mickelson said at his official post-tournament press conference. “Bones has been as good a friend as you can possibly imagine through this. He’s been there … in Houston, in our surgeries, and he’s been there as a support.

“And you know, this has been an emotional year for us, and to go through the highs and lows and to be able to share this joy and share this moment, that means a lot to us.”

Then he talked about Amy. “We are fortunate long-term, but the meds that she’s been taking has been very difficult, and she didn’t feel well and she doesn’t have energy, and she’s not up for a lot this tournament can provide.

“To have her here and share this moment and the joy of winning on 18, and to share this week with my kids, is something that we’ll look back on the rest of our lives. This means so much to be able to share this type of jubilation. I don’t know what word to describe how excited we are.”

Unlike Phil Mickelson, Ken Unger isn’t a superstar-except to those who know him. Like Amy Mickelson, Ken has been battling cancer. In his case, multiple myeloma. Sadly, his long-term prognosis isn’t good. He has precious little time left.

Besides being a favorite brother-in-law over the past 25 years, Ken has also been a great friend. Years ago, when he worked in the clothing business, he was kind enough to furnish me in excellent attire that he had outgrown. All those clothes would fit him now. And they still look great, style be damned.

He once brought me a case of Rheingold beer, carried across upstate New York to the annual Christmas gathering of our wives’ enormous family (23 strong.) And he would have no rest until he treated all five brothers-in-law to a bratwurst sandwich during our required excursion to Cleveland’s West Side Market.

More important, he was always someone you could sit in a corner with when the family frenzy became overwhelming, sharing humorous insights and a joy of rock music. And his Christmas morning mimosas were always a most welcome diversion.

He and Marcie got to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary on April 5. They were able to sneak mimosas into the palliative care unit to celebrate. Throughout the day, Ken kept saying, “I’m happy.”

And when he receives cards and letters wishing him well, he comments that “I’m very, very lucky.”

As he was discussing old friends 10 days ago with his son Max, he observed, “You know, there are really some wonderful people in this world.
You forget that sometimes.”

With good people like Ken Unger and Phil Mickelson to remind us, maybe we won’t.