IOWA CITY, Ia. — Bob Wisecup got out of bed in Des Moines at 6:15 a.m. Saturday after a fitful night of sleep.
The 63-year-old was heading off on an adventure to the distant land of Iowa City, a place he had never seen despite spending his entire life in central Iowa.
Wisecup is a football fan. His favorite team is the Iowa Hawkeyes. He watched them only on TV while living in Eagle Grove, Clarion, Goldfield, Indianola and Des Moines.
“I tried to get to a game,” Wisecup said. “I guess I didn’t want to come alone, driving all that way.”
On Saturday, he had a driver.
Cayden Brinton arrived at 7 a.m. to pick up Wisecup. He got him situated in his wheelchair, with a Hawkeye cap and shirt and blanket, and a tank of oxygen tucked into the back. He helped load him into a van. A driver from Ambassadors Medical Transport was behind the wheel, heading east to Kinnick Stadium, where three seats in the renovated north end zone were waiting.
Last wishes don’t always come true. Wisecup’s was about to.
Wisecup is a patient at St. Croix Hospice in Des Moines. He has been for about three months. His lungs are going out on him, hence the need for the oxygen and the wheelchair.
Wisecup had told the staff at St. Croix about the two things he wants to do before he dies — finally see his Hawkeyes in person and go back to Graceland, the Memphis, Tennessee, home of his musical idol, Elvis Presley.
The caregivers were touched.
Word got out to a Hawkeye season ticket-holder who could make one of those wishes happen. Three tickets appeared.
Three weeks ago, Wisecup was told he’d be attending this season’s home finale, against Illinois, at 11 a.m. Wisecup’s crew arrived at 9:30.
Wisecup got his first look at the stadium. He did a double-take.
“You see this on TV, and it’s so much different. Like that Hawk in the middle,” he said, pointing to the Tigerhawk logo at the 50-yard line. “It’s weird. But it’s an amazing stadium.”
Senior Nate Stanley threw for 308 yards and rushed for 22 in the Hawkeyes' 19-10 win against Illinois. Chad Leistikow, Hawk Central
As he was being wheeled through the Kinnick Edge suites, Wisecup asked how much a beer cost. He wanted a Budweiser. He got one. His benefactor, who asked that his name not be used, picked up the tab.
A few yards further on, Wisecup stopped and stared again. There was a man dressed up as a Hawkeye version of Elvis Presley heading his way.
Greg Suckow, aka Hawkeye Elvis, came over to shake his hand and pose for pictures. They chatted about their mutual love of The King. Suckow was jealous when Wisecup told him that he had seen Presley perform in June 1977 at Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Des Moines. Wisecup sat in the balcony. Two months later, Presley was dead.
In 1978, Wisecup took a pilgrimage to Presley’s mansion, which was not yet a museum open to the public. He took plenty of pictures of the house and grave. But he lost those in the late 1990s, when his Indianola apartment burned after a gasoline stove caught on fire.
Wisecup longs to go back, one more time.
“I want to see that pink Cadillac he bought for his mom,” he said of Presley. “Hopefully, I get that done.”
The visit from Hawkeye Elvis was the surprise part of Wisecup’s day. The staff at St. Croix Hospice thought it would be a nice way to blend together his two wishes.
“Our patients don’t always have a last wish,” said Kyle Valois, manager of clinical service at St. Croix. “But we do everything we can to provide the best possible assistance in helping them through their journey. We take them to see their families, or have a meal with them.
“This fell into place. It was almost like it was meant to be.”
Wisecup and his small entourage moved outside of the Kinnick suites and into the bright sunshine on a 40-degree day. The Hawkeye marching band was performing. He was entranced.
The band played the national anthem. Wisecup stood on his own, removing his cap. He stayed standing for a few minutes after the song concluded. He looked around in wonderment.
“I’m just flabbergasted. I can’t believe I’m here,” he said, his voice so quiet you had to lean in close to hear.
Iowa received the kickoff and promptly marched to the Illinois 2-yard line. The man with the season tickets whispered to Wisecup: “Your first touchdown’s coming up here.”
At that moment, Tyler Goodson took a handoff from quarterback Nate Stanley — Wisecup’s favorite player — and ran into the south end zone. Wisecup watched it play out on the giant scoreboard.
“Bingo!” he cheered.
There were no more touchdowns for Wisecup or the Hawkeyes. But they won 19-10.
Wisecup’s group headed back west.
“I think we’ve got a pretty good team this year,” Wisecup said of the Hawkeyes, who are ranked 20th in the nation and now have an 8-3 record.
They looked even better in person.
Mark Emmert covers the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Register. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 319-339-7367. Follow him on Twitter at @MarkEmmert.
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