Normally preseason for the NFL is to be endured until the season starts. Normally the first preseason game isn’t two days after the six month anniversary of my dad’s death. Normally I go with my dad and brother-in-law, Del.
I think you can guess last week wasn’t normal.
The Broncos have been big in our family’s story because they were big in my dad’s life before there even was a family and he invited each of us into the story line. But the story has grown in importance because this was taken at the AFC championship before we knew how close the end was.
And then each of the girls made “High five for Denver” signs for the Super Bowl, decorating his hospital room.
During the Super Bown was the last meal he ate — cooked meat my sister brought in and popcorn. The next day he was moved to hospice and two days later he died.
The stories have blended together.
Del wasn’t able to go to the game last Thursday so I asked one of my nieces.
Being a pre-griever, it was a teary week. How was it I last entered the stadium with my dad and now I would go with “the next generation?” How is it that stories continue, though they morph and change? How is it that time both stops and moves on?
I used to be the little hand being held in the big hand and now I’m the big hand holding the little hand.
Do you want to know when I felt the baton was handed to me? As is often the case, it was a small, unassuming moment that would have been missed to the naked eye. But I felt the weight of it. The baton was handed to me when I tore the tickets off and got the bag ready for the game. Even when I hadn’t gone to games with Dad, he tore the tickets and made sure I knew were they were.
I cried driving over to Niece #2′s house. Del and Elizabeth were outside waiting because this isn’t a story about football, football is our context, this is a story about life and family and traditions and batons being handed off. More tears. And I told #2 I was so glad she was coming with me, but I might cry because I miss Grandpa.
To get to the light rail to go to the game, we passed the hospital and the ER where we took Dad. Again, feeling the weight as the stories have become entwined.
But at we rode the light rail and were around other fans and I told #2 stories of what we’d see, and do, and where Grandpa, and Dad, and Grandma, and Mom and Aunts had done this or that, I also felt the joy of a story continuing. Of it not dying out, but living on. Taking new forms and involving new members. This is no longer just Grandpa’s story, it’s now hers too.
And though there was a severe weather delay and FAR FAR FAR too many penalty flags, it was a night we will all remember. A night that will later join in the retelling of stories.
And at the end of it, I asked her if I could take a picture of our shadow because I had taken one with Grandpa. He was good about humoring me experimenting with photos and for some reason I just love this one. It captures my dad’s patience and love for his family.
And what I love is she leaned in and with the roar of the game in the background, we made a stone of remembrance.
This is bigger than football, it’s a story about history and connection and family and legacy.
I used to joke that August was the birthday gauntlet for our family, starting with Mom’s (which was Friday), then Laura’s, a nieces, and ending with Dad’s. This year, it will be a memory gauntlet too. We have felt the love and support and are grateful for you.
Football is part of our family story. What’s part of yours? When has a baton been passed to you?