Tuesday, September 18, 2012
SLICE OF LIFE.
The alarm goes off at 2:45 and by 3:15 I am on the road, a bag of snacks-- trail mix, pretzels, and tootsie pops, and three audiobooks on the seat beside me. I am on my way to Ephraim, Utah- 497 miles away. My guy is playing football and his mama is going to be there.
I hate night driving, but I drive the dark, curving mountain roads, telling myself over and over again that it will be light soon, that I can do this, that it will be worth it. I pass Georgetown, the Eisenhower Tunnel, Silverthorne, and head toward Vail, where I see a herd of deer grazing alongside the road. And then I reach Glenwood, where the black of the sky becomes gray, and I stop only long enough to grab a cup of coffee. I have to hurry- my guy is playing football and his mama is going to be there.
I continue westward-- through Edwards, Parachute, Grand Junction, Fruita. I drive 15 more miles and cross over the Utah state line at 8:00. I am exactly on schedule. My guy is playing football and his mama is going to be there.
The scenery is breathtaking- miles and miles of striated rock, a huge blue sky, eagles soaring. I want to stop to take pictures, but that will have to wait for another day. My guy is playing football , and his mama is going to be there.
At 10:40, I reach my turn off. Fifty more miles, and I will be there. I stop at a gas station, just to make sure I'm not off course. The clerk, a young guy with multiple tattoos, is a perfect direction giver. He tears my receipt off the cash register, and writes the names of the towns. "You'll hit Gunnison, then Sterling, then Mantai, then Ephraim will be next," he says. "It's about 45 minutes up the road." I grab my Diet Coke and climb back into the car. My guy is playing football , and his mama is going to be there.
The road to Ephraim is a two lane country highway and I am impatient with the ginormous, stinky cattle truck in front of me. Doesn't he know I have somewhere to be? Finally, after 45 minutes, I see a large white building, with a stadium across the street. I think it is Snow College, but it turns out to be a church, and the county fairgrounds. I look at the map and discover I still have 15 miles to go. My guy is playing football, and his mama is going to be there.
Finally, I arrive. I grab my stuff out of the car and sprint a block up hill. The line for tickets is long and I am impatient. I hear the "Star Spangled Banner." "Just be patient," I tell myself. I want to push through the ticket gate, but I force myself to wait, and show respect for my country. The second the last note is played, I shove my ticket at the girl, and head across the field to the visitors' stands. My guy is playing football, and his mama is going to be there.
My boys have strict, unwritten rules about parental conduct at sporting events. Rule #1- Under no circumstances, ever, does a parental unit talk to a player on the sidelines. Mostly, I try really hard to follow that rule, but today I cannot. When I see my guy's number, I shout, "Zay!" and wave frantically. He acknowledges me with the slightest of head nods.
I sit with the ten other parents that have made the drive, mostly from Phoenix. My guy plays, but only a little. I know this is hard for him- he has been a starter for the past three years.
After the game, I rush out of the stands, not even saying goodbye to the other parents. The players have about 30 minutes to shower and board the bus for the 11 hour trip back to Phoenix. I know that my time with my guy will be very limited. I hug him, and breathe in that sweaty football guy smell that I have missed so, so much for the past three months.
"What's that?" he asks, pointing to the bag of snacks I am holding. I hand over the pretzels and tootsie pops, and a couple of bottles of Gatorade I bought at the concession stand, then press a little money into his hand. We walk toward the locker room, stop to talk briefly to the offensive coordinator.
And then our time is over. I give my guy one more hug. Remind him to work hard in school. Tell him I love him. Then he heads toward the locker room. I cry, like I always do when we say goodbye. I hate having him so far away.
And then I get back into the car, to make the eight hour drive home. I get home about 11:15. I left home 20 hours ago. I have driven almost 1000 miles. But it was worth it.
My guy played football and his mama was there.