Is that you, Dorothy?
The year is 1965, the place - a frozen football field in Shelton, Ne. with a baseball diamond stretching out into the gridiron. I take a pitch, sprint to the right, turn up field, leap over a fallen defensive end and make a beeline toward the end zone. A short, but stocky little guy named Daryl Blue has the angle and gives me a gigantic shove and I land on the frozen first base line and my left shoulder is dislocated. The first thing has enters my mind is to peer toward the sideline, I want to find Dorothy, I need her.
There is never a season that goes by that I don't replay a scene such as this. I can recall going to a game in Palmer 6 years ago to watch Cedar Bluffs. I wanted to see a running back that had just hit the 1000 Yard mark for the 3rd season in a row. Ben Hansen was also an animal on defense, a head hunter that crushed anyone who came through line from his line backing post. Tough as nails inside and out, pure football player, lean, mean and fast. At halftime as I was walking off the field, I told some folks from Cedar how tough I thought "that Hansen kid was" A small, frail older looking little lady had overheard what I had said. She looked at me, eyes welling up, and uttered the words "that's my baby boy, Ben you speak of."
Quite a few years back, I took my small son Rob to see a game in Kenesaw. I was there to watch a small RB named Sean Daly try to hit the 2000 yard mark. Daly was being pounded all night and finally could take no more, walked off the field stumbling to the sidelines, then falling to the ground. The game continued and for a few minutes Daly lay on those sidelines unattended. Soon a pretty lady stepped over the low fence and began massaging his battered and beaten back. Rob looked at me and said "Dad, where is their trainer?" I pointed toward the lady and answered "son, they have no trainer here, that is Sean's personal trainer.....it was Daly's Mom.
It seems so ironic in some ways. Dads always work with their sons to be rough, tough football warriors, able to withstand any punishment the opposition can dish out. Bring it on baby, my Dad taught me to be brutal, man...but time after time, year after year, when one of these players, who has been pumped and drilled to be oblivious to pain goes down with an injury, the person who first arrives on the scene is the figure he wants to touch him and lay a loving hand on his fallen frame. It's the same hands that wash his soiled and odor-ridden football clothing. The same smile that greets him in the morning and can melt him at any hour of the day. The same person who never misses a game when nobody else shows. The same hands that can even dry his tears when he would allow no other breathing soul to witness him weeping, especially from pain. No, there will no back rubs from a Dad, that wouldn't be right, that would not heal, that touch can never be duplicated. I've laid my eyes on it dozens of times, a Mother running on the field, her quivering hands covering her face momentarily, careful not to let her son see. Then his eyes search in fear, his toughness is suspended in time, frozen for the moment. He's looking for HER loving hand and he knows nothing else will work.........nothing.
As I was walking yesterday, darkness approached. I had come upon a football field about a mile from my home......my back was giving out from a recent Spine Surgery....I didn't know if I could make it or not, too far from home, no strength......but as I stared across the field through the fog and the mist, I thought I could make out a figure standing the opposite sidelines. I just know it was my sweet mother Dorothy over there, smiling and holding out her hand to her Baby Boy......I just know it was. Home was closer than I had imagined.
*(I republish this article every year on the anniversary of my mother's passing.)