It is Friday. It is a doubly bittersweet day for me. Every football season for the last five years has been a reminder of what was and what isn’t….and also, what is. Friday, at one time, was a day filled with excitement and school spirit. We anticipated each game with the pride that parents always feel about their children. All three of our children were involved; football, band, and rifle/flag corp. Fridays were for gloating moms and dads to sit in bleachers and yell for the team…for their children, trying to figure out who was who on the field, a sea of red and white motion. It was a good time. I knew then it was a time of building memories, a time that would be gone all too soon. The voice of the announcer is still as audible now as it was when Brandon’s name and number was called out for making a block or a tackle. I remember the elation after a winning game (there were more of those than not) the red faced, sweaty young men who swarmed like ants to the center of the field, their tribal cry of victory echoing throughout the stadium. Parents would scatter among them to find their boy…to congratulate and pat the soaked numbers representing each celebrated son. The smell of testosterone and perspiration hung low like a cloud. My laundry was good for any Tide commercial. I relished every moment.
It was a Friday night that my son left this world. It is a memory that I wish had never been made. This sorrow equals the love that I have for #60, my Brandon…my son. The five years of sad Fridays seemed to have trumped the many happy Fridays of those long ago school days…any Friday..any season. It would seem that grief has an edge over joy. Football season for me now, heralds in grief and joy like the beat of the Big Red Marching Machine band. Red and white no long symbolizes school spirit but rather the color of anguish in my eyes.
I have not been to the high school stadium since Brandon graduated. He was the last of our children who went to school there. Now, his own daughter, Natalie, is attending for the first time. She will bear the red and white. I wonder if she will relate any of it to her dad. I wonder if she will peer into the trophy cabinets to see her daddy’s face staring out from behind the gold plated footballs and wooden plaques. Her childhood is so unlike Brandon’s. Her mother is disengaged and does not encourage her daughter to be involved in extracurricular activities. Somehow I don’t see any trophies in her future…just the ones belonging to her dad’s legacy.
Our youngest granddaughter will be going to that same high school next year. She is in band and will be marching on the same field of green grass and white lines as her mother did, her Aunt Andrea, and her Uncle Brandon. I have wondered how I will manage my emotions when that time comes. To be in those same bleachers once again…to hear the echoes of a yesterday long past. I don’t know how to prepare for that time to come. But, I will do it just as I have gone to football games of my grandson these past five years.
And so tonight….Friday night, we head out to our youngest grandson’s last season of high school football. He plays for another local school. We will cheer and rally for the team, and gloat and strut onto the field to pat the sweaty numbers of those celebrated sons and now, grandson. Friday evolves from the heavy heartache of loss, to the jubilant beat of pride once again. I will smile and genuinely be happy…and genuinely be sad. There is a new joy on Friday night. Go team. Go my “Jack-a-roo”….Go, and remember these Friday nights because they will be no more but in the scrapbooks and videos of your loving family.