Camera battery, check. Stadium seats, check.
I voiced aloud the checklist that ran in my head of items we needed to do before we headed downtown.
Gas and ATM, to do.
I communicated this to the hubs and the two things that absolutely had to get accomplished: a family picture in front of TommyTrojan and a trip into the bookstore to get a new lanyard.
Silence was my response.
I began to backtrack from our destination leave time and rattled off possible places to eat on our itinerary. What else do you want me to pack? Are you listening to me?
Normally this is the hubs’ m.o. (modus operandi aka mode of operation). The goal was to complete these items before our 4:30 PM destination. As we sat in the triple digit heat, windows open, in our son’s high school parking lot I finally heard him roar. The itinerary for the NASA space shuttle launch was stressing him out. What I thought was being considerate and informative was taking all the fun and spontaneity out of our family outing.
But how could this be? I was clearly communicating my needs and wants in his mode of operation? Isn’t this what he preferred?
But the memo I missed was that m.o. is only in situations where we are REQUIRED to be somewhere; the set schedule was not welcome in times of leisure. As we awaited the eldest to emerge, from practice at 1 PM, we debated in the car. One son agreed that my itinerary was too involved. The other son felt I was being courteous. The father in the adjoining car, smirked as he listened to our heated exchange. It was only when the hubs pretended he was commanding mission control for our impossible rocket launch that the tension eased. I decided to remain quiet.
And of course, none of it went according to plan. As we sat in traffic I quietly thought of green pastures and sheep; pretending to count. I tried, unsuccessfully not to brood. When the hubs asked if he should off-road from our planned course it was all I could do to turn on my mobile device app; annoyed. Why would there be so much traffic? Our Dodgers were in division play-offs at home (thankfully the Angels were in Kansas City), our cross-town rivals were playing at the Rose Bowl and cars were everywhere. Eventually we detoured and found ourselves in the garment district awaiting large groups of people to cross. It was over 100 degrees. I didn’t dare look at the time. My jaw was aching from chewing my frustration. The poor Mentos gum didn’t have a chance.
How is it that in all of our years of marriage, we haven’t figured this stuff out?
The irony was that we were returning to the place where our paths crossed; the extroverted girl and the introverted guy. It is a testament that we’ve remained married; ’til death do us part. I continued to macerate the tasteless, rubber-like substance in my mouth; valiantly trying to keep my mouth shut. The hubs dutifully drove. After several attempts to cajole he knew to let me be. Upon arrival all parking lots were full. It is only because of the reserved parking, obtained by our dear friend, that allowed my husband to deliver us in a timely manner. Thank you.
In a sea of cardinal and gold I hung back, watching my sons take the sights in. They are continually growing and was shocked to note my eldest is reaching the height of my hubs. When our schedules had not been so busy we would make the trek to our alma mater once a year during Homecoming. It is a tradition started by my dear late cousin; the gracious and over-the-top host. It was he who gathered friends and family from all walks of life onto his beloved campus; the Hibachi grill fired up with all things wonderful to eat. It was an incredible amount of work but it is one of the fondest memories I have of fall; the leaves turning as we tailgated.
After his passing; the tradition went with him. Amongst the people who have highly influenced my life (my high school counselor, my songleading coach, and dear college advisor) this cousin is at the top of the list; my father figure. When I withdrew my acceptance form to matriculate to UC Berkeley as a declared chemistry major; my high school physics teacher had been beside himself. Why would you give up admission to a stellar science program?
The answer. Football. Did I mention I love football?
This fall I am in hog pigskin heaven? Friday nights I can now attend our local high school games such as the Homecoming game above. I’d like to say I am there to support my son’s band endeavors…but I also love to watch high school and college football. The kids, they play their hearts out.
This is what fall means to me.
In the end, I never became the academic chemist working for the National Cancer Institute finding cures for the “emperor of all maladies;” the big “C,” that I wrote about in my admission essays. I have a minor in this field. But as the hubs will tell you…the retention for all things chemical, if not thermodynamics, was lost. In my current career and extracurricular endeavors the majors I should’ve chosen: business and accounting. Just as my father had advised my cousin before me, he chose this place for his advanced degrees. My cousin promised my father, when he passed in 1989, he’d return the favor. And so he did.
I have been in these seats many times before. But this time, it was different. Initially my youngest son cried with all the hollering. But after explaining the rules of the game it was this son that yelled the loudest. He is now old enough to understand the game and actively participated in it. The older boys, after griping and complaining that they would be away from their precious computer screens, held their phones. I had thought they were playing online games but discovered they were snapping photos. They were equally vested in this game as we were.
It was later that the hubs relayed the story of our middle son nudging the older one as he watched the Trojan Marching Band perform their pregame show.
One day you’ll be there bro.
The brother nodded; acknowledging. The hubs, brought to tears, turned to the middle one.
Hey chuckle-head! You’ll be out there on that field too.
The middle son had impishly smirked back. As the game intensified I noted an older couple to my left. When the third down bell rang throughout the Coliseum, it was this couple that stood before the rest; urging the crowd to get up and cheer our team on. Amidst the roar I yelled across our five seats to the hubs and pointed. This is what I want you and I to be, someday.
Across the row the hubs beamed; meaning clear. Most times our non-verbal communication is more effective than the words. Although our fall schedule is hectic we take it all in stride; soaking it in. We both know our time with our three sons is limited; making Herculean efforts to always show support and to be present. Our annual visit to our alma mater is a a reminder of where we came from and how, in the twenty four years since that first meeting; we’ve evolved.
It’s like coming home.
In all of the years we’ve returned here, this time our sons got it. As the hubs and I reminisced we were surprised at their questions as we walked the paths of twenty plus years before. My boys may never attend here but they will remember the memories of family and friends gathering. Cheering. And standing in shocked, silent disbelief as our sure team victory became a last second loss; the Hail Mary pass sailing above the defenders into the hands of our opponent.
During our military travels away from home, all I needed to do was walk into a Catholic church and the feelings of community overwhelmed me. It is the same when I walk this turf; the tree-lined campus in the middle of south central Los Angeles. It may not be pretty. It may not be the best. It is where my life collided. It is home; BAE (before anyone/anywhere else).
It was fitting that this reading from Philippians 4:6-9 was presented the very next day as the kids and non-Catholic hubs served.
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
The hubs and I continue to march to the beats of different drummers. I am still the extrovert; the hubs remains the introvert. It is our life’s work; to continue to work on our marriage; to be transparent to our sons. We both continually learn to be spontaneous and organized; to give and take. To love and to hold, til death do us part. I am glad I kept my words to myself; to fight for what I’ve learned and to attempt to put it into practice. Most days I do a poor job of it. I am grateful in this instance that I succeeded. You win some, you lose some. I’ll take the small victories as they come.
Eventually we arrive in the same place. I continue to Fight On.