“It’s been a real fun thing,” Dale said.
“We were at Ted’s one day,” Lois said of the popular Mexican restaurants, “and this couple kept looking at us. When we got up to go out, they were standing outside waiting on us.”
That’s not the only instance Dale and Lois have been recognized. There was that time at Dairy Queen in Ardmore when a group of gals realized who they were. There was another time at Applebee’s when a woman came over to their table, chatted for several minutes, then after she’d gone, Dale and Lois found out she paid their bill. And then, they were eating before a game at one of the restaurants at the arena when a young man approached their table and asked to have a picture taken with them.
“It’s ridiculous,” Lois said of the attention. “It’s just ridiculous.”
All of this Kiss Cam hubbub makes the Higginses laugh and smile and shake their heads.
But it also helps them remember.
One Friday evening last winter, Dale and Lois invited Tim to the house to celebrate his 57th birthday. Lois made meatloaf and German chocolate cake.
She always made German chocolate cake on his birthday.
It was a day of celebration for several reasons. Tim had been battling health problem for months, including a bout with a potential deadly strain of staph infection that required a serious dose of antibiotics. The drugs were so powerful that they messed with his innards. He ate sparingly for several weeks. But he’d been feeling good, and that night at his folks’ house, he ate well.
The next day, he went with a few friends to a casino near Durant. They gambled. They ate. They celebrated. Well after midnight, Tim said good night and headed to his hotel room.
The next morning, his friends got up and headed home. They called Tim before they left, but when he didn’t answer, they figured he’d had a late night, turned off his phone and slept in.
Throughout the day Sunday, they kept calling and trying to reach Tim.
He never answered.
Finally on Monday morning, they returned to Durant and demanded that hotel personnel let them into his room. They were worried. After some haggling, they were allowed in.
Tim’s body was on the bed, his hands above his head, his legs crossed. It looked like he had laid down and gone to sleep, but medical examiners determined that at some point, he died in his sleep.
It was ruled an accidental death, and Dale and Lois were left to guess as to what happened. Was it the drugs that he took for that staph infection? Was it the infection itself? Was it something else entirely?
“We don’t know,” Lois said sitting on the couch only a few steps from the dining room table where everyone had gathered for Tim’s birthday dinner. “He was feeling so good Friday night, it was just a shock.”
Dale and Lois spent the next few months settling his estate, and for a long time, the last thing they wanted to do was attend a Thunder game. How could they go to the arena and enjoy themselves? How could they use those tickets and sit in those seats?
But eventually, Dale started to think about how Tim loved giving them the tickets.
“Tim would want us to go to the ballgame,” Dale thought. “When he couldn’t go, he wanted us to go.”
So, they started going again, not to every game but to one here and there. And what they found were people who were ready with hugs and shoulder pats and hand squeezes. Fans who sat around them wanted to make sure they were doing OK. Same for the Thunder and arena staffers who they’d gotten to know. The elevator operator. The bartender. The security guard.
Dale and Lois still don’t know many of their last names. There’s Don. Joy. Will. Teresa. Megan. Jessica. Bobby. Harry. Sherry. Eddie. But those folks and so many others have become a blue-clad support system.
“It’s just one big happy family,” Lois said.
Dale and Lois aren’t sure what they’re going to do with Tim’s Thunder tickets. They renewed for next season, but since Dale is 87 and Lois is 83, they just aren’t sure how many games they’ll attend or whether they’ll keep the tickets beyond next season.
But they know if they stop going to games, they’ll miss all the people they’ve gotten to know. Oh, as much fun as the Kiss Cam has been, they could live without that. But not being in the arena and part of the fabric would be difficult.
Their lives wouldn’t be the same.
Neither would Thunder games.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.