WDAY: The News Leader

Published March 29, 2014, 09:01 AM

When hit with tragedy, sports was a savior

Pelican Rapids, MN - Steven Honrud’s goal for rehab after undergoing radiation for swelling in his brain was to see his son, Tyler, play his first varsity basketball game last November.

By: Chris Murphy, Forum News Service, INFORUM, WDAY

Pelican Rapids, MN - Steven Honrud’s goal for rehab after undergoing radiation for swelling in his brain was to see his son, Tyler, play his first varsity basketball game last November.

Tyler, 17, had the best game of his career that night, scoring 17 points in an 89-46 win for Pelican Rapids. He did it hours after his father’s funeral.

Steven passed away on Nov. 19 at 47 years old, three days before his goal, but Tyler knows his dad reached it.

“I kind of felt like he was there,” said Tyler, a junior. “He’s still there with me.”

Memories of heart-wrenching phone calls, for which life gives no preparation, have become all too common for Tyler in recent months.

It was 2 a.m. on July 31 when Tyler got a phone call from his younger brother’s friend saying Tyler’s 15-year-old brother, Jayme, was in a car accident and not breathing.

He remembers the sheriff coming to his house to say his brother was dead and the crying that followed.

He remembers his dad saying he could swear he heard the front door shut at midnight, thinking Jayme was home safe.

“After the sheriff came in, it was the worst feeling I’ve ever felt,” Tyler said.

Less than four months later, it was a phone call from his stepmom, Tonya Honrud, telling him to come home to watch his 4-year-old and 1-year-old half-brothers because his dad was having trouble breathing.

“It was like déjà vu,” Tyler said.

Two hours later, Tonya was coming home from the hospital to tell Tyler his father had died.

“I don’t know how to put into words how we’ve been feeling,” Tonya said. “A lot of ups and downs for sure. It’s been a rocky road.”

These are the present memories, fighting with the fond ones for supremacy in Tyler’s mind.

When Honrud looks to the stands, his father is no longer there watching him compete.

When he plays basketball outside his house in Erhard, his brother is no longer there to play against.

Even though most of their one-on-one games ended with fights, it’s what Tyler misses most.

“We’d always get in fights because we both hate to lose,” Tyler said. “I always remember those, me and him playing.”

The go-karting in Westport or Alexandria, fishing at Lake Olaf, the four-wheelers and even the fights have all become memories rather than plans.

“It’s terrible,” Tyler said. “Things are just never the same. It’s so different.”

When Tyler was 2 years old, Steven was diagnosed with cancer. Removing the entire tumor would have left him paralyzed. Steven opted against it for his kids and had doctors remove what they could.

“He said, ‘I’d rather have 10 good years of being a regular dad,’” Tonya said. “Steve was always for his kids. He loved his kids.”

The cancer seemed to be gone until he fell and hit his head on ice in January of 2010.

“The tumor moved inside the brain and it started growing again,” Tonya said.

“They actually had it under control in recent months. He did radiation for the second time and it looked like he was going to be OK.”

After going through the fight with cancer and seemingly winning, it turned out it was a blood clot in his lung that took Steven’s life on that November night.

Tyler did not know whether he’d play in the Nov. 22 game until he watched the junior varsity team play a few hours before his game. He realized his dad and his brother would want him to play.

“They’d want to see me play that night,” Tyler said. “That was my dad’s goal.”

Around his neck was a necklace he made from the Daredevil fishing lure his brother used to catch a 29-inch walleye at Lake Olaf weeks before he died.

It was Tyler’s last memory with him.

Engraved on the fishing lure is his brother’s full name and “Our path has changed as life goes along, but the bond between us remains ever strong. I miss you lil bro.”

Around his wrist was a rubber band with Jayme’s name on it. Both his father and his brother were around his heart.

“From the first minute he went in, he played at such a high level it was just unbelievable,” Pelican Rapids basketball coach Doug Bruggeman said. “It was special. I don’t know where that kind of strength comes from to be able to do that.”

Three days before playing the best basketball game of his career, Tyler watched his father struggle to breathe, saying he felt like he was going to throw up.

He watched as he struggled to get on the stretcher and was taken away in an ambulance to never see him alive again.

Weeks after attending the funeral of his 15-year-old brother, Tyler was running cross country.

And about five months after his father’s death, he will be playing baseball, a sport he first began with games of catch with Jayme – this spring.

“Sports really help,” Tyler said. “It takes my mind off everything. Nothing else matters except for the right now with sports.”

When Tyler checked in to the game on Nov. 22, he got a standing ovation. When he scored his first points, he got a standing ovation. When he checked out of the game, he got a standing ovation.

The ovations have gone away. The memories, good and bad, will be with Tyler forever, along with a life lesson.

“Don’t take anything for granted,” Tyler said. “Things can change.”