On Football Games and Moving On

On Dreams and Football Games
In 1989, at some point, it was my last high school football game as a senior. I remember some of it, all those years ago, but certain details will always be a part of me.
The rich sound of the band, the feel of the clarinet in my white-gloved hands.
The heat of the stadium lights warming the cool fall night.
Riding the yellow dog with Joy, Mackie, and some more of y’all I’ve kept touch with all these years. Question: when did we get so old? I digress.
The smell of the autumn wind, with a hint of a distant fireplace burning.
The red, white, and black uniform, wool, against my skin.
The bill of my black hat over my eyes.
The grass underfoot as we marched as one.
The roar of the crowd.
The feeling that something indelible was coming to an end.
The tears, warm on my cheek.
Meeting the eyes of my friends as we silently said goodbye to this part of our childhood.
Even though I thought there would be more ball games–I was majoring in music, after all–I knew there wouldn’t be one like this.
Isn’t life funny?

Of course it wasn’t “the last,” in that I went to dozens more over the course of my kids’ growing up years. I watched them from the lens of a proud mom, and felt a little nostalgia at what could have been. When I attended Nate’s final ball game, it hurt like a mother. The knowledge that everything that felt so permanent for so long–the busy days, never enough hours, it seemed, report cards and conferences, concerts and ball games–was coming to an end, well, I’ve never been so great at change. The image of time as an hourglass remained in my mind for months afterward. Pride and sorrow bled together when I knew my kids were flying away from the nest. How, though, could I come to terms?

You all know the last few years have been tough, because of what I’ve shared on here, but you only know the tiniest splinter of the tree. When Lee lost his job in Amarillo, and our whole world was pulled out from under us, right when the world was shutting down in quarantine, and I was going to multiple doctor’s visits as they just kept shaking their heads and saying, “Well, something’s really wrong, but we don’t know what. Something in your blood isn’t right. More tests…” I nearly lost any sense of mental wellness I had.

I was teaching hybrid, like all my friends, and I felt like I was doing a really lousy job. I’m type A, and I HATE feeling like I’m not doing well. I HATE feeling like what I’m offering is second best, or not up to some standard I can’t even articulate. I could not find the mental clarity to continue my dissertation. I wasted a whole year. I’m so lost now I don’t know if I can finish. That’s a tough pill for me to swallow, but it’s there.

We went back to school, in person AND online, with the cases at an all time high, and I was terrified, but not able to really talk about it at school because there was a “We’re in this TOGETHER for the KIDS” mentality–a toxic positivity that did not allow for it. At one point, almost every kid in one of my classes had Covid. It was enough to break my spirit. Every night, I would drive home, exhausted, only to have the energy to crawl into bed.

After a year of searching, applying, interviewing, and having the company say, “Well, we’ve actually decided to just eliminate this position,” Jody and Calen said, “Mom and Dad. Just move here to San Antonio. Stay with us. We’ll figure this out. It will be fine.” We had talked about moving there eventually, maybe in a few years, when retirement was closer, but…

So that’s the story of how Lee and I moved in with our kids instead of the usual scenario.

My mom was pretty skeptical about it. Lot’s of “Well, are you just going to sponge off of them forever?” comments.
I must have told her ten times that we weren’t “sponging.” That we were helping with bills and things. It didn’t help us to feel better. Sometimes I avoided her calls because I just wasn’t in the right place to once again defend myself.

But I tell you all that to tell you this part.

In October, we will have been in San Antonio for 10 months.
We both found jobs, good jobs. Lee’s a supervising project engineer for the San Antonio Water Department. I’m teaching high school juniors, helping build a Dual Credit program at my school, and still teaching online at Amarillo College. I’m trying to get back into writing my dissertation, and not doing great, but trying.

They still don’t know what’s up with my bloodwork. I have to see a hematologist/oncologist every 3-6 months to keep an eye on the counts. It’s one of those “we’re closely monitoring, but there’s nothing to be done until it hits a certain threshold” type things. It’s also a “Could be nothing…might be a precursor to leukemia” things. It’s a whole lot of question marks.

Life just goes on.

Last night, I went with Jody to her ball game. I rode the yellow dog with a packed bus of sweaty high school kids who had detailed conversations about who had a crush on who.

I went onto the field and watched the band.

Sitting on a bench near the 50, I heard he rich sound of the band, and listened to the nervous clarinet soloist just feet away. I smiled at her to encourage her.
The heat of the stadium lights warming the slightly cool fall night (usually SA is lots warmer than Arkansas or Amarillo). Only this time, I was sitting next to Jody…and was called “The OG Mrs. B.” Once, a kid called us “The Ms. Bees.”

I love that so much.

II mean, I know it’s not my band anymore, it’s hers, but the green, white, black, and gray uniforms aren’t too much different from the ones we wore. I can tell you, when she reads this, she will say, “Mom, it’s not MY band…I’m just an assistant,” but … the band needs all parts to function. And those kids…they love her.

They didn’t march on grass; the AstroTurf is cleaner and less volatile in response to the elements, but it’s the same effect.

The roar of the crowd could have been the same as in 1989.

I met the eyes of my girl, conducting her band. Hers.

Even though I thought there would be more ball games–I was majoring in music, after all–I knew there wouldn’t be one like this.
The tears felt differently somehow.
I could definitely get used to this. I think I will.

7 Year Old Me Watching Little House on the Prairie a Grandma’s


Who I Am

You asked me, “Who do you think you are?”

I am David’s daughter, a stubborn, often difficult, hard-working blue-collar man.

He loved laughing, movies, the perfect cheeseburger, and his family, but still died too young of a cruel disease that stole his identity and left him thin and sick, but still as strong-willed as always.

When he stopped breathing, the clock ticked loudly. I stood next to him, holding his hand as he took his last breath on earth and his first breath in eternity.

I am Kathy’s daughter.

She is an enigma, one of which I will never be able to solve, because I will never possess all the pieces of the puzzle to put them together in the first place.

The fragments, like jagged pieces of ice, float on the surface, pushing and grinding against each other, but never fitting.

Her ability to do the hard things never failed, working in a freezer in the winter for ten years, and working with insulation in the summer, until her fingers bled.

The insulation, splintering under the tender skin of her hands and inside her lungs and clinging to her towel even after she showered, often cut her delicate skin.

Yet, she worked.

She worked in shopping center cafeterias, washing dishes and waiting tables for tips.

She worked in a fish market, walking to and from work smelling irresistible to cats.

When her father was ill, she moved in with him to take care of him.

He, my grandfather, often catankerous and mean, having more whiskey than blood in his veins, was often unkind.

But, still she stayed,

chained by his illiteracy and her unreasonable love.

She took care of his tasks, not needing or expecting appreciation.

I am Betty’s granddaughter—

a woman who married young, had ten children (one after another after another)

who worked hard every day of her life to support those who were hers.

Her high cheekbones and dark hair made her beautiful as a girl, but the outer beauty was soon lost by the hard life of following the crops.

The sun burned her skin and darkened her face.

Diabetes darkened her once lovely limbs, her legs, staining her skin.

Married at 15 to a man much older who loved another,

her body worn out early, from childbirth and poverty and abuse and the burning of it all on her heart.

Sometimes becoming pregnant with the next baby while her breasts still full of milk, she endured much.

She, too, worked in the fields and followed the crops, picking berries, shucking corn, and planting food for the next season.

She, like me, loved letters,

both writing them and reading them in books.

Her words were her escape.

When she died her children mourned, and still mourn.

I am Ginger’s granddaughter—

a wild child, who lived hard and died hard and broke all the rules that young ladies in during WWII were supposed to uphold.

Her secrets, like blackened words on an old letter,

are still coming to light, even twenty-two years after her death.

Her humor and wit blended with just enough manipulation to keep me on my guard, but I never doubted she loved me.

I am David’s great-granddaughter, first generation American, who fought in WWI as a very young man and WWII as an old one.He drank hard, and lived hard, and lung cancer ensured he died hard.

I am the great-granddaughter of Joseph and Mary–Irish immigrant sharecroppers whose very existence tied them to the Missouri earth.

Joseph: stocky, hands dirty from the fields, shading his eyes, begging God for rain, married young Mary, a biblical-like coincidence.

I am the great-granddaughter of the Grahames: Scottish men and women who offended the king and were exiled from their native land.

They could not hold their tongues when they witnessed injustice. I cannot hold my tongue either.

I am the wife of Lee who works hard and thinks much, who desires to get closer to God and reflect him more fully. He is not a perfect man. I am not a perfect woman.

Our imperfections, our weaknesses–they weld together. His strengths—his engineer-like mind that is always thinking things through–weighing the consequences of each action as well as possible reactions

his even-keeled temperament seals

to my weaknesses of impulsivity, irrationality and the ability to hold a grudge.

My strengths—my passionate, often blinding love and loyalty, my ability to say what I mean, my love of research and fun,

blend well with his weakness of passivity and sometimes easy-goingness to a fault.

I am the yin to his yang.

We have known each other since we were children, and, though it has been no easy ride, we love each other and cannot ignore it.

I am Jordanne Melina’s mother.

When I was 19, they said

“Here she is, your daughter…Look at that hair! ”

Although I made many mistakes, she is lovely and funny and easy-going.

She is talented and fun and thinks deeply.

She is loyal, sometimes to a fault.

When she plays her clarinet, the angels stop to listen.

I am Sarah Nicole’s mother.

When I was 21, they said,

“My, she’s a long baby!”

She’s unpredictable, hot-tempered, unafraid to back it up with action, if necessary–always with a penetrating honesty and she requires nothing less from others…a natural leader,

a beautiful fire.

I am Nathan Lee’s mother.

When I was 28, they said,

“The baby is in trouble…”

There was no crying.

I ripped the oxygen off my face and screamed “GIVE HIM TO ME!”

His skin, blue tinted, terrified me.

He is funny and generous with his love,

his money and his time.

He loves helping little kids tie their shoes or find their moms when they are lost.

He smiles like my father used to.

He, like his sisters, has music in his veins.

I am a student, a teacher, a writer, a reader, a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, and a friend.

I descend from Irish-Scottish-German-British roots, but I am all-American.

Most of all, I am a child of God.

That’s who I think I am.