November 20, 2013

Glory Day: Memories of Football and Family

Growing up in the south, especially in Tennessee, it's sacrilege if you don't like football. I'm just not much for sports of any kind...even though I've always sort of tried to be excited. Tailgating I like...the eating and socializing part. It's just the game watching I don't feel as strongly about.

If this means we can't be friends anymore, I understand.

But what small connection I do have to football has less to do with any particular team and more to do with my grandpa. That's him up there in the photo, second row from the bottom, fourth from the right. This was his high school team in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

I'm sure my grandpa always wanted a grandson he could play football with and teach the rules of the game. Since I came along instead, we made do. I'd humor him by listening to stories of his glory days and help him cheer on his favorite teams (University of Tennessee, Auburn, and whoever happened to be playing Georgia). Then he'd play Barbies with me (sometimes).

Football was a big part of my grandpa's identity. It shaped his youth and then his college experience. And while he went on to become a father and a grandfather and have a successful career, I believe it all goes back to football for him.

When he talks about those days, his eyes light up in a way that is hard to explain. He can still remember so many details about his experiences. I used to sit and listen to those stories as a child to humor I ask him to tell me and I hang on every word.

Today, he turned 78. I count him as one of the biggest blessings of my life. All my grandparents have been. I know we shouldn't spend too much time looking back, but I really like to know about the people I come from...their stories, their hopes and dreams, their silly antics and their cherished memories. One day, when he is no longer around to tell me these things, I hope I've heard his stories enough times that they are always with me.