Sunday, November 14, 2010

Football Was Fun

Y's Junior football season ended on a chilly fall evening. The JV team suffered it's first loss of the season. The Varsity team earned a spot at the state tournament. It was a good season, yet at times - a hard season.
Y entered the ball game on what would be the last offensive series. He did his part, although no passes were attempted his direction. The game ended. His season ended.
Reflective, he said "Football was fun."
"You playing next year?" I hopefully asked.
A peaceful grin emerged.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Some Moments Of Glory

For a mom, it doesn’t get any better than this! I can say with absolute surety that was the best night of 2010 so far. It will be hard to beat. The Varsity head coach made arrangements for a game in a small nearby town. All of the kids who rarely played were invited to go - Y included. He was excited for an opportunity to play; we were excited to see him.
As parents, we weren’t the only ones. Sitting with us in the stands, were Grandma (Grandpa was herding cattle), uncles and some cousins chatting about where did #20 go, during the fast moving plays. It was a thrill.
Y played almost every down of the entire game. He looked good. There were definitely some moments of glory and some key coverage at a defensive position he rarely even plays in practice. He looked good, strong, coordinated, and steady throughout an atypically long 3 and a half hour game.
He took the bus home. W and I chatted incessantly all the way home about how good he looked, how much potential he has, and the fact that it’s too bad he was 5’1” and 80 pounds as a freshman, delaying his debut on the football field.
Y came home a little while later. W was retrieving the 4Runner which broke down at the high school a couple of days earlier. Y and I chatted about the game. He didn’t seem so happy. I couldn’t understand why. It’s true; there were no catches for him at wide receiver. He had a couple of opportunities to intercept on defense, and he batted it down instead, but all in all, he played great.
The Grandma sitting next to me, there to see #28, turned to me at one point, and said: “He (Y) has saved the scoring touchdown five times!” One time he was being blocked by the opposing wide receiver. The QB for the other team had scrambled through our entire defense. We had blitzed, leaving Y with solo coverage and what turned out to be the last line of defense. I held my breath as he was still tangled up with the opposing wide receiver. Then, as if in slow motion, he freed himself and made the saving tackle. Not only did this tackle save the score, but it secured the win as we were only up by 4. A couple of downs later, the game ended. Our team huddled and chanted on the sideline and I took great delight in it all!
And yet- Y seemed a little down. This took me back to my thoughts after the last game, wondering what he sees in himself and his future potential. We interrupted game chat to read scriptures and get a very sleepy little sister off to bed. Y still seemed “off”. Then he mentioned he hadn’t had time to eat the snack I packed him because the bus had a no food rule. “You must be starving!” I said in amazement as I jumped up and headed for the kitchen. “Tacos or orange chicken and rice?”
As he munched on his piled high plate of nachos and drank a Gatorade, his demeanor lightened. His dad finally returned from the 4Runner errand and joined in the game chat as well. Y surveyed his scratches, scrapes, bruises, bumps and aches and pains. He walked like he was eighty. It was awesome! We moved our chat to a soothing hot tub, and minutes later, all seemed well. His tummy was full; he had the support and attention of both parents reminding him of all the great plays where he had done his part.
I reflected on the scripture we had discussed. It reminded us to seek not earthly treasures, but rather heavenly ones. And yet- how easy it was to take such delight in this earthly treasure- of football. Y and I chatted about how you just need to serve always, keep your covenants, and if the Lord decides to bless you with earthly treasures- pay it forward.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

"When You Gain Self-Respect, No One Can Take That"

An excerpt from Y’s family prayer last night:
“...We are thankful we could all watch the football game tonight...”
Yes- we all watched. Even Y – although he did get 5 quick downs at the end, once again our team with a commanding lead.
So he seems to be handling this “trial” with humor.
He is taking a psychology class this semester. The teacher asked for a volunteer with strong self esteem. No one volunteered. A classmate volunteered Y and he concurred that he would cooperate. The teacher called him a “feeble minded meathead”.
Y responded “Right back at ya!!!” The teacher was taken off guard and had a difficult time proving his point. He was trying to communicate that if we hear enough negativity about ourselves we begin to believe it.
This forced a discussion. I asked Y. Do you let negative things people say about you “in”?
He said “No!”
“Why not?” I followed
“Just don’t.” he quipped.
I wasn’t that strong as a teenager- not even close. I look at how valuable a tool that is when you are in a tough situation as he is now.
We reflected back to a talk he gave in church when he was thirteen. I remember he struggled to write it. The subject was “I am a Son of God.” I thought it should be easy for him. It wasn’t. After lots of praying for help, I think he gained a greater understanding and belief that he is a son of God. I’ve enclosed an excerpt from his talk:
“At 6 foot 6, from North Carolina, Michael Jordan is in my opinion; actually I call it a fact, the best basketball player on the face of the earth. I can learn a lot about basketball from him, but, I also learned a few things from reading his book, For the Love of the Game. He says, “I think my father saw some things in me that I couldn’t see in myself.” When I read that, I thought of my Father in Heaven and I realized that I need to learn more about who I am as a son of God, and what my purpose in life is. Michael Jordan also said “I had self- respect, and nothing any one ever could do to me, or say about me, could change that.” That is also true in this earth life. Sometimes people don’t treat me with respect. But I need to learn as Michael Jordan did that when you gain self -respect no one can take that.”
I can see Y’s progress over the past several years. I still think both his earthly and Heavenly parents see more in him than he has yet seen in himself. Its okay- still room for growth. But perhaps what allows him to go forth in good humor and faith is his sound self-respect.
We talked last night about his new love for the game of football. He expressed a desire to play in college.
“What about basketball?” I asked.
“Uh- I wanna play both!”
I hope and pray he does see his potential – that these are not just empty desires. And, that he remembers and relies on what he has faith in, because, with the Lord on your side- Anything is possible. . .

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

"We Are Just Going To Pretend Those Two Penalties Were Not On Me"

I came home from the game last night still partially frozen from the ridiculous cold that fell upon the stadium combined with wind. I weakly presented dinner, assisted with homework, chatted briefly with Y between homework attempts, and then exhaustedly fell into bed.
This was my painful direct prayer:
“Dear God-
Please reprogram me while I sleep.
Hours earlier, we had pulled into the parking lot up by the gym. I felt a groan come over me. This place is where hard things happen. I’m not sure that there have been but a few days of anything other than hard times there. I’m pretty sure our course has been atypical. I don’t know of anyone else whose kids have had to battle so hard to receive so little.
I know there are parents essentially uninvolved. We sat on the visitor’s side trying to guard against some of the wind. I counted the groups of parents on the other side- the home side. There were 26. Roughly half of the kids didn’t even have someone there to watch them. In talking with Y after the game he said many don’t even want to go in because they don’t know what they are doing. Then it becomes cyclic. The more they don’t play, the less confident they are when presented an opportunity.
Y’s team won 50-0. Towards the end of the 4th quarter, Y gets put in on a series at wide receiver. His first play, he lines up off sides. Penalty flag is thrown. He has an extended chat with the ref, his team calls time out, and they line up again. This time he is on the opposite side of the field. They line up, he is interchanging with the ref when the ball is snapped, flag is thrown- he is off sides again. There was some chatter in the stands- of the negative variety. I was insanely angry. He gets another token play and is taken out because of his mistakes. Keep in mind; we are up 50-0. This must be why some of these other kids with no experience don’t want in the game. He was put in for two other plays late in the final minutes. 50-0. Y played 5 downs of football.
As I ambled up the hill toward the parking lot, I reflected the same reflection I had days before. Did we limit our boys’ opportunities by supporting their decisions to play high school sports? Should we have steered them in a different path? If we never came to watch, would they lose interest and confidence in themselves, and quit? Is that even what I think is best for them?
No- not even remotely.
The old 4-Runner made its way down the driveway. Y comes in- announces “We are just going to pretend those two penalties were not on me.” We all smile and gently laugh, not knowing how he really feels and wondering if the joke is to cover up some of the pain. He sits at the bar and inhales some scrambled eggs. When his dad gets up to retrieve a drink, Y steals his waffle, although completely unable to contain his dimpled grin. I watch him closely trying to read how he is really feeling. I asked him about the conversation he had with the ref. Y explained that as an outside receiver, he is taught to check with the ref as to whether he is off sides or not.
After the first play, the ref said, “Hey, number 20, come here a minute.”
Y said the ref asked him what he was supposed to do when he was asked by a player if they were off sides. Y gave a quick tutorial to the ref of the proper hand signals of when he was on the line, and when he was off. He then ran to catch up to the team in the time-out huddle. The same thing happened on the other side. When he was pulled out one play later, his coached asked what the problem was. Y explained he was holding a clinic for the referees and doing the best he could under the circumstances. We (Y nor I) don’t particularly care for this assistant coach. He thinks an awful lot of himself, despite the obvious fact that he shouldn’t. Perhaps then, I delighted – a little too much- when Y told me a bird pooped on this coach during the game. (Aw- Is this a tender mercy?)
The more I thought about Y’s response when he walked in the door, the more I began to wonder. . . Maybe this isn’t nearly as hard on Y as it is on me. Maybe there really isn’t too much pain in the process. Maybe he is able to claim joy through the journey and fall into the safety net of his faith and support groups when things are hard for a moment. Maybe- I just need to be reprogrammed. . .

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Anywhere - Anything

Two weeks ago, post game left me bitter and angry. That whole week, I found myself mentally composing an email to the head football coach. It included sharp directness regarding the inefficiencies of the coaching staff. I restrained. (much effort required) Instead, I sent a note indicating that I had been reflecting on where we were a year ago with B and his injury. I expressed gratitude for how he was treated and respected despite his inability to physically help his team on the field. The coach replied with an insightful message given Y's struggles this season.
He said,"Tough days for sure…proof that if you hang in…have faith…and a great support network…anything is possible!"
Y has hung in there. His coaches responded with a little playing time this week. I watched him closely. He does his part; does it well- just has limited opportunities. What does he have faith in? I asked Y. He said "You know - all the everyday things: power of prayer, scripture power, Christ, TSM (Thomas S. Monson), parental advice.". I asked him where faith in those things would get him. His response- "Anywhere!"
The support network- that's me, and his dad, brother, sister, friends, extended family, and beyond. It's deep- a dedicated group.
Y has great faith and wisdom, as he continues to exercise it, truly anything IS possible.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Best Is Yet To Come

Does it make him more likable? Most people you come in contact with were not football stars in high school.
I was interviewed yesterday by Y. He had to interview someone regarding his own talents and possibilities for his future. He chose me because he said, "You know me best!"
It's true and what a blessing not only to know him, but to be able to claim him. The first question was to list some of his talents. That was easy- "You're smart, socially aware, hard working, optimistic, and athletic". His brother added humorous-so true!
Then he asked what would make him a good employee. I replied, "Everything about you!"
He smiles. "Is that what I should write?"
He is an amazing person. He will be respected and well liked his entire life because of who he is and how he treats people. I do see him succeeding in athletics, perhaps at the next level when his height and girth match up a little better with his shoe size.
Until then, there will be some hard days- like today.
I am on my way home from his game tonight. It's a beautiful community 2 1/2 hours away. He thought he would play. He didn't. I met him on the sidelines after the team's final huddle. I handed him a sack dinner for the long ride home. He was shivering and his lips were blue as he quivered out a "thank you".
I think these experiences are preparing him for future opportunities. I think people will always be able to relate to him; thus expanding his ability to connect to, work with, and even serve people throughout his life. For now, I think it will keep him humble, and I hope it inspires him turn to the Lord. Today-for peace and reassurance of His love, and always- for direction in all areas of his life.
"Hang in there Y. The best is yet to come. "

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

It Sucked Not Getting An Opportunity

Years ago- before the car accident- when I would feel this way, I’d go for a run and silently thank the bonehead coach for a good workout. Since I have yet to regain strength in my joints enough to run, I have to channel my angst another direction. Let’s just say they were nearly perfect: crispy on the outside, soft and chewy inside and oh! the melted chocolate!
Last night we were home against a team we thought would be a tough opponent. With the score of 27-0 after the first quarter, we realized all the talent was at the Varsity level. That was great news for us as we assumed it would mean some time for our #20. We waited and waited…and waited. Finally with 8:36 left in the fourth quarter, we get to see Y warm up his quarterback on the sidelines. This is the quarterback Y says he makes look good in practice with his amazing one-handed leaping catches that get replayed in the kitchen after practice. #12 (qb) was sent into the game. Y held the football, waiting to be sent in as his receiver. Unfortunately the first string receivers were still getting all the reps. That’s it. That’s how the game ended. #20 never left the sidelines.
I became frustrated with the coaching staff, or rather those who termed themselves such. Was it really that hard to rotate some kids in and give them an opportunity, essentially thank them for working hard in practice every day? Especially with a score like 27-0? I tried to distract myself with household business as I waited for Y to come home. As I saw the lights of his car slowly coming down the driveway, I seemed to become increasingly angry at the entire football program. How dare they ask me to make them brownies when they can’t even rotate my kid into the ball game! It was raw Mama Bear anger!
Y comes into the kitchen. I try to play it cool. I fail. It went something like this:
I asked Y if he wanted to go hit something.
He said no.
“Throw something? “
He said “No.”
“Slit someone’s tires?”
He said “No.”
“Go for a run?”
He said “No. I have homework.”
“Make someone poisonous brownies?”
He said “No.”
I said “You’re not angry?”
He said “No.” Then he added, “It sucked not getting an opportunity. But I’m not angry, Mom. But if it would make you feel better, you can make cookies.”
And so I did. . .

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

He Co-Led the Attack

Last night’s game took us to a town about an hour away. Mid-way through the second quarter, I realized the familiarity of where I was. Last time we were here was two years ago at a Varsity game. I remember the slight breeze, and the popcorn, or rather kettle corn they sold me during the 4th quarter. There were no concessions open, but I enjoyed the warmth of an atypical September evening. The team we played deserved the respect it was getting this season. Just into the 4th quarter, the score was still tied 3-3. I found myself hap-hazardly watching the game. Then, the gait of the far side receiver caught my eye. #20 had entered the ball game. He did his part (brilliant blocks and decoy running routes) to help his team march down the field and score their first touchdown of the game. Then- that was it, #20 returned to the sidelines for the rest of the game.
At one point, my husband leaned over and asked me who Y was talking to. I looked across the field and recognized the player. He was one of Y’s best childhood friends. The two were off a bit from the rest of the team, reconnecting before our eyes. I settled into my seat in the setting sun filled stadium at peace with this season’s course so far.
Y checked in with me as the team made the quick bus trip from the stadium to the renowned hamburger joint with “burgers as big as your face”. I congratulated him on his brilliant efforts in assisting his team to the end zone. He said he had co-led the attack.
Seeking further clarification, I asked what it meant to co-lead an attack.
“I was responsible for the wide receivers on my side of the field,” he explained.
“Excellent!” I replied with a broad grin across my face, recalling he was the only wide receiver on his side of the field!

Monday, September 20, 2010

His Amazing One-Handed Catch In the Kitchen

I missed last Monday’s game as I was in Hawaii “taking B to school”. I think every child should go to college in Hawaii so there parents have a grand excuse to go and get them settled. Now, if only I can convince the school to host a “Mother’s Week”.
Nevertheless- in regards to football- not being at a game was weird- as if there never should have been a coin toss without me. Gratefully, I had local family members in attendance to support Y, and with the fabulous technology of texting, I essentially never missed a play. Much to Y’s surprise, Y played corner on defense. No offense at all- completely opposite of game one. The report I received is that the team is short handed in the coaching department. B explained this is difficult come game time in trying to get kids rotated in. Y wasn’t too discouraged despite the team winning a blowout competition and he only seeing limited time. He is thoroughly enjoying his experience. Every day after practice he replays his amazing one-handed catch in the kitchen as I make dinner. Football is good. Life is good. He is reconnecting with a friend, still wearing his dimpled smile, and anxiously stepping up to the growth chart on the doorway of the pantry to chart the next sixteenth of an inch in progress. With much celebration, he crossed the 5’10” threshold this morning.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

I Am Happy To Be Number 20's Mom

Last night was the first JV game. It had been a long day as I helped B get packed and ready to leave. I was grateful for the sit in the stands to take a little rest. I scanned the sidelines. Y is skinny, but not short. I was glad in that moment that he had decided to play. I was happy to be there to support him. We first saw Y, number 20, play a series at wide receiver in the second quarter. To be honest, despite three quick plays, and then a punt, it was a thrill to see him out there. I videotaped him with lots of zoom. Frankly, I had no idea what was going on with the rest of the team, I was watching my kid  -as is a mom’s privilege.
As our team took a commanding lead in the second half, he saw more time. He ran crisp routes, but struggled making clean contact while blocking. He came home to a distracted emotional household, as B was stealing center stage with emotional good-byes. I encouraged Y over to the taco bar in the kitchen where I was able to ask him his thoughts on the game.
“It would have been nice to get a pass”, he said with a grin.
“What about blocking?” I pried.
“I talked to a teammate a little about what I was doing wrong, but am going to ask the coach tomorrow.”
Y doesn’t want to be viewed as being lazy. He has identified that there are some skill sets unique to this sport, and he is enjoying the challenge of learning every day.
I am proud of his courage and determination. I am happy to be number 20’s mom—and his biggest fan!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Complacency--With A Smile Of Delight

Friday night was the first Varsity football game of the season. Y plays JV as it is his first year to the sport, but B was assisting as a Varsity coach. Essentially, I was just a passive spectator. I came to support this year’s team- a little, but mostly I wanted to see B in action as a coach. He looked sharp, even a little tough. During the National Anthem, he stood at the back of the team, with other coaches. My eyes glanced to the row and position where he had stood last season, next to his quarterback. Those spots were occupied by this year’s players. It was a moment difficult to describe. A year ago, there was much anticipation and excitement, with the prospect of a football scholarship. This year – complacency—with a smile of delight. Although last season’s story was told differently than initially hoped for, it was filled with respect, growth, and peace. At 17, B learned the Lord will determine his course; it is simply his job to decide whether to follow.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

On the Bottom of the Two- Man Pile


B leaves for college in a few weeks. He is enjoying his final weeks of summer assisting with the high school football program.
This season’s story will be Y’s journey. He is essentially new to the sport. Although he was B’s main competition at age 2, he took little from his experience other than bruises, and bumps. He spent most of his time on the bottom of the two- man pile.
A profile of Y includes a never ending smile. The braces are off, and his cute ‘little brother’ look has been replaced by ‘smooth guy’ good looks. He has been growing a lot. He has grown over four inches in the past year, gained a few pounds, and chiseled a well defined 8pack set of abs.
Is he without trials? No. The most recent major disappointment was getting cut from the summer basketball program. He was weakly told he needed to grow more. It has also been a little tough for him in the friend department. Most of his friends from middle school have replaced guy friends with girl friends, leaving time for little else. And, despite his growth spurt, he is still under size, weight, and coordination for a Varsity sports program at a 4A school.
Nevertheless, he has other resources. This year’s challenge will be to see how much of an advantage you can make with being smarter than most. His body will continue to grow. By the size of the skis he calls his feet, he will surely see at least a few more inches. I can assure you he will not physically peak in high school- which is a good thing for a kid who has dreams of playing beyond. He has a never quit attitude. This enables him to believe in practicing basketball every day despite getting axed by the program.
Several weeks ago, he was running on the track. I was timing him for his conditioning test. As he rounded the corner toward his second 100 yards, he looked strong. I can truly say, I saw his physical potential. I think it far exceeds what Y can comprehend. He has always been the little brother- in all the ways.
In many ways, I am beginning to see the emergence of the man he is to become; I hope he can soon see it too.
As far as expectations for this season: Hmmm. I think I can say I have learned that no matter how studly he may or may not be defined as an athlete- that part will be second to everything else.
I am buckled up and ready to enjoy the ride. So, football fans across the states, we embark on the 2010 football season with great anticipation.
To be continued. . .

Monday, July 5, 2010

He Isn't the Butt Smacking Helmet Tapping Type

He isn’t the butt smacking helmet tapping kind of coach. He is different. He makes eye contact, thoroughly instructs, and nods with fists bumps in approval. Several weeks ago, spring football began. My middle child, an incoming junior, 5’8.5”, and 115 pounds decided to give the sport a try despite his obvious physical mis-match.

The eldest, B, was asked by the Varsity head coach to assist with the Freshman program. He talked to his dad and I about giving up time at his paid job to “work” this unpaid gig. He knew that his need for financial help in college would only increase if he took this coaching position. B has commented that he would like to follow in Bronco Mendenhall’s footsteps. We all agreed that this was a neat, yet limited opportunity, and taking it would help B decide if coaching was a good fit for him.

A week and a half into the short 4 week season of spring ball left me with no more self restraint. I needed to see how Y was fairing, and what B looked like coaching. I parked across the street from the field in the bowling alleys parking lot, took out my binoculars, and settled in to watch my boys. Y did a great job with all the catching drills. It seems as though the cell makeup for B’s notorious great hands may be present in Y too. I watched in delight, and quietly pulled away as the team took final huddle. When the boys got home, they informed me I was not even close to being in stealth mode. They had both seen me, and shook their heads in disbelief that I would even desire to go watch.

The final week, it was socially acceptable for me to watch the daily scrimmages. B had only spent one day with the freshmen program, and was quickly reassigned to JV and Varsity receivers. He was entrusted with the fun position of offensive coordinator for the JV scrimmages. Each evening I would gently chastise him for not calling a play where Y could score a touchdown!! He coyly blamed the quarterback for choosing another option. It was great fun to watch Y run routes and shake defense as his older brother had, and way cool to see his big brother, B, being held in such high esteem among the players and other coaches. The final scrimmage was held at a posh stadium across town. At the conclusion, the head Varsity coach joined me in the bleachers. He told me B was a natural at coaching. As a staff they were impressed how well the team responded to instruction from him. Many of these kids are his same age within a month or two. He told me he had already extended the invitation to B to rejoin the coaching staff when football began in the fall.

So as the next several weeks of summer pass, its good B is back at his paid job, saving all he can for school. A year ago, he anticipated leaving for college with a scholarship to play ball. His story carved out a different plan for the fall of 2010. Thus, when the green helmets dot the field in the blazing August sun, B will be there, on the sidelines, in the huddles, doing what he can, for now…

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

…So why isn’t Bronco calling?

On New Year’s Eve, B had a final check on his shoulder following his eventual season ending injury in week 4. He had been wondering whether trying to walk on as a wide receiver somewhere next year was even going to be a possibility. He received great news that the nerves carrying vital messages from his brain to his arm and shoulder seemed to all be firing. He was told that he still needed to continue to rebuild strength, but through diligence, he would return to full use and ability. Thus he is cleared to play football next fall. B’s hip had been bugging him whenever he played basketball hard for 45 or more minutes- constant running. Since he decided not to play high school basketball this year, the pain was not daily- more like weekly, or so. His orthopedic x-rayed his hip. At the bottom of the screen was a questionable mass near the center of his femur. They x-rayed the femur and saw a large tumor.
We were referred to an orthopedic oncologist in a larger city nearby who ordered MRIs and CT scans to be completed prior to our office visit. I was a little sneaky and thus able to secure a copy of all of the radiologist reports. Obviously, there was a chance this was cancer. I wanted to google all of the terms and possibilities so I felt somewhat educated when we met with the doctor. Basically, it was one of two possibilities: osteosarcoma (cancer of the bone), or a healing fracture. I wondered what the possibility was of his leg having been injured to 'that' degree and warrant no complaining. I had recalled him saying, at some point, he got hit in the thigh and expected a banner bruise big enough to brag about. He hadn’t even remembered that. He reminded me that playing football meant something hurt everyday.
I spent hours day after day during the first week of January watching every down of every game to see if any of the hits could seemingly produce the impact that would have been required to fracture his femur. He would come home from school and look at the plays I had highlighted over the days videos. It seemed more often than not he had two defenders on him when he caught the ball, and always had to make leaping heroics to secure a catch. After the second full afternoon of watching game tape and B saying “no” to all hits that I had him review, I was frustrated. I know the frustration was not out of lack of success in finding the hit. It was the frustration I felt when it seemed evident that somehow I’d have to adjust from being a mom in the bleachers to a mom in the doctor’s waiting room. My comfortable role of making brownies had changed to my role of readying B for his biopsy surgery scheduled for Tuesday, January 12.
I stayed in at the computer, watching more football, wishing things were different, not just now, but then. Sadly- there were only a few games to review tape of. I delighted in spending some time -just watching him. Whether it was running a route, or blocking for a gain on the ground, I was reminded of how tall, strong and quick he had become over the previous years. I was also reminded of how fleeting some moments in life are.
As I stared at the computer screen, B hollered in at me from his plate of pre-workout pasta at the kitchen counter. “Mom.”
“It was the first home game of the season…just before halftime… I was running a crossing route over the middle…I had double coverage… I didn’t catch it…check out that one.” With that announcement, he followed it with a final bite of pasta, and a “see ya” as he headed off to the gym.
I dug up the tape his dad made of that game. Our camera produces a less grainy copy than the coach's and usually had a little zoom to B. I found the play. I watched it over and over in forward, slow motion and reverse. It looked similar to all the others. He ran a crossing route across the middle. He had double coverage. The pass required a large vertical leap. He couldn’t snag the pass, but was greeted by two defenders. One of which possibly seemed to have his knee collide with Bren’s left femur. He landed on the ground. He shook it off as he ambled back to the huddle. The last play before the half, he sprinted in seemingly effortless form on an under thrown post pattern. Then off to the locker room with the team at half time.
After he came home from his workout, I had him watch the play. “Yep.” He said with surety. “I remember grabbing a heating pad at halftime- to keep those muscles from tightening up.”
So-I was holding on to the slight chance that the five inch tumor in my son’s leg was the result of a fractured femur, and not a cancerous mass. Over the next few days, I thought less about his possible injury and more about the likelihood that it was cancer. I thought about the impact this may have on the other kids. As I drove home from some errands that afternoon, I attempted to drown out my thoughts with some loud music. Unfortunately, I started thinking louder.
Saturday night, I found some time and space alone outside for awhile enjoying a quiet soak in the hot tub. I surveyed the beautifully bright stars and began to speak with God. I told Him I would do my best to be strong. I asked Him if He was going to take B early from our family. I told Him I would understand why He would want him. I know B would be a valiant worker on the other side of things in continuing God’s work. I told Him that I would love to have B’s stay with us extended, but would understand why He may have a different course laid out for him. I felt peace and love-- for the short term- and the long term.
Monday morning, our bags were packed and the younger kids were set to stay here. B, W and I began our easy road trip to the city. We were scheduled to see the doctor in the afternoon. He would at that time let us know Tuesday morning’s surgery schedule for the biopsy. The biopsy would need to be “open”, meaning a large incision in his leg to remove a piece of this new bone tumor. We felt prepared for the course ahead- as much as possible.
We arrived early and transitioned from the aches of a long sit to a chair in the waiting room. I watched other patients come in and wondered what their stories were. I thought about the possible friendships that would be formed with other families with similar plights. B distracted himself with his cell phone, a new one he received for Christmas.
Before too long, B’s name was called. We were led to a small sterile room with one chair and short exam table. After a time, the doctor’s PA entered the room. After quick introductions, she pulled up B’s images on her computer. She commented on how she had never seen anything like this before. That was comforting- - not! She asked B a few insignificant questions, and said the doctor would be in shortly. Before too long, the orthopedic oncologist entered this cramped exam room. Introductions circled around. I was distracted by his inside out looking scrub top tucked unevenly into his black tight jeans. I missed the fact that he called me “mommy” despite me clearly stating my name. He too looked at the images of B’s leg via CT scan and MRI. He said twice, with greater certainty the second time, “This is not a malignant tumor. --Somebody just kicked your butt.” He explained that he must have fractured his femur playing football a few months prior, and gave him kudos for being so tough. Because he sought no medical attention, the body grew its own support system. Moments later we were excused. I stumbled out into the waiting room, a little shocked by our abrupt dismissal. The receptionist asked if we needed to schedule again.
“No- actually, we don’t.” I said.
Her eyes got a little red and her face broadened with a smile as she said- “I was really hoping for you guys.”
We exchanged parting pleasantries. I quickly looked around the room on our way out as I began to feel guilty that we were getting off so easy.
By the time we exited the building, I was already sending Y a text message: “ Nothing is wrong with your brother. We will be home tonight!” B decided we shouldn’t waste our big city road trip. We spent the next few hours shopping and eating at Red Robin.
As I munched on a steamy french fry (stolen from my husband’s plate because I ordered something healthy) I had to wonder. Was this doctor right? Could B really have fractured his femur and played through it? I guess if that’s true, he must be tough. And if he’s so tough, then why isn’t Bronco Mendenhall calling?

A week after returning home, I was trying to piece together this short yet intense life journey, and define what I had learned from it. All week, I had been very tired. I had geared up for tending to B laid up on the couch and a slew of appointments to follow. I was aware of the need to be mindful of the other children and their day to day needs. I was ready for the challenge. When there was nothing, instead of new found energy, I felt exhausted- exhausted, but grateful. The epicenter of tragedy on January 12 was in actuality far away from my home and my child. While my heart aches for the devastation the Haitians are seeing, and living, I understand my role a little more. I understand my faith a little more. And truly, I understand the need to be grateful for the today that I –we have. I am grateful that B can still run, jump and play- at least for today!!