I’ve often written about Aaron and football……..how he asks who we are voting for or talks about the refs in their jail outfits and so many other hilarious comments. However, this post is not about Aaron at all. I’m thinking of my mother today, because of an email from my sister………let me explain.
My mom and dad loved – I mean, LOVED – sports. They liked football, adored basketball, and for Dad……….well, he was passionate about baseball. They had multiple loyalties, I guess you’d say, but were avid North Carolina and West Virginia fans when it came to college games, and especially loved the Atlanta Braves when it came to baseball. I won’t even discuss how much they loved watching all their nieces play high school and college basketball.
Their very first date, which I’m pretty certain was in 1948, was to travel from their homes in West Virginia down to North Carolina in order to attend a Tarheel football game. Mom used to love to tell that story, with a twinkle in her eye, for she would tell how on their first date she and Jack went on an overnight trip to North Carolina. Dad would look at her and say, “Beth!” And she would laugh, and then go on to explain that they stayed with her brother and Dad’s sister, who were married………..which is how Mom and Dad met. Another story for another day, perhaps.
I don’t remember much television watching of games when we were young, but as time went on and games were televised more, then Mom and Dad totally enjoyed watching as many games as they could. Mom didn’t really enjoy baseball a lot, but became a very knowledgeable fan as she joined Dad in watching the games, especially after they both retired. She shared his enthusiasm and also his love of statistics, rattling off wins and losses with the best of them.
She and Dad wore their favorite team’s tee shirts and sweatshirts, and Dad had a huge collection of baseball hats. He and Mom made sure that they were hung just right, and Mom kept them clean. All of this was just another example of their love and support of one another, and of how they shared so much of their lives together.
I traveled home to West Virginia in November of 2008 to stay for a month. Dad was dying of liver cancer and I had told him that when he called me to come and help, I would be there. That call came on November 2, and a few days later I was with them. We settled into a routine of sorts. Mom and Dad loved organization and routine………….and one routine was to continue to watch their favorite teams play on television. Mom and I would get Dad in his wheelchair, move him to their family room and position him in his favorite lounge chair, and then Mom would settle in her chair and I in the other chair.
Dad still wanted control of the remote, which I found to be so sweet and funny. He wasn’t possessive at all, but this had always been his job and he didn’t relinquish it easily. However, he was so slow in his movements that when he finally got the television on and the correct channel found, some time had gone by. Then came finding the volume button, and slowly pushing his index finger down on it. The volume would quickly zoom up, and frustration would start setting in. He would oh-so-slowly find the down button and again would slowly push down until the volume was mute. More frustration and very slow maneuverings would finally result in the right volume. I had to smile at the two of them, and wonder if I was getting a glimpse of Gary and I in our future!
The ballgames were a time of coziness and normalcy to them, and to me while I was there with them. Though both Mom and Dad slept through a good part of the games, they still enjoyed that time together and the feeling it gave them of keeping their life the way it always was, doing what they loved. Dad knew that he was failing physically, but he kept hanging on……….largely because he knew that Mom was failing mentally and he worried about her.
In an email today, my sister Jan told us that this past Saturday she called Mom, now living in an assisted living center. She always calls Mom when there’s a ballgame that she’ll want to watch in order to talk her through the process of turning on the TV and finding the right channel. Yes, my sweet little mother even has a hard time getting the television turned on and so one of the family there makes sure that she has the game on and can enjoy it. Jan got Mom all set up to watch the NC game and they hung up. About 10 minutes later, Mom called Jan and asked her which team she should be rooting for.
If anything ever showed Mom’s mental decline, this incident certainly did. I don’t know………..she can forget the names of her grandchildren and great-grands, which she does all the time now, or not be exactly sure who she’s talking to on the phone or get mixed up about what day or time it is……….but something about not knowing to root for NC just solidified to me how much things have changed. I kept myself in check emotionally while I dropped Aaron off to his group and then stopped for a few groceries, but on the way home the tears flowed as I thought of the pieces of Mom’s mind that are forever slipping away. She was the most competent and industrious woman I have ever known, and now she can’t remember what team to pull for.
Life is full of changes, I know that, but it’s still hard sometimes to see it in the ones that we love so much. Heaven seems sweeter all the time, where we’ll be together with our loved ones………to worship and sing and talk and laugh.
There won’t be Mountaineers or Tarheels or Braves, I don’t imagine, or televisions or stubborn remotes. But we will have each other forever, whole and strong and always happy…………and all on the same winning team!