This piece is being written on Thanksgiving Day 2019. It’s inspiring to look out the window of the hotel overlooking River Street and the Savannah River in beautiful and historic Savannah, Georgia. Whether this will be the start of a new tradition is yet to be seen. We don’t know what tomorrow holds. It doesn’t matter. Whenever we are with family and friends, on holiday or any other day, it’s a good day. Last night, as we discussed old times and the hope of the future, I reflected on the past and how swiftly time passes by. Living every day like it’s our last is some of the best advice I’ve ever received. For it very well may be. But as long as we have today, we should rejoice and be glad in it.
We are quickly reaching the end of college football season. It’s rivalry weekend with many teams across the country playing their most important adversary. In Georgia, this rivalry will take place on Grant Field at Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta as the visiting Georgia Bulldogs take on the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. Georgia comes to town ranked fourth in the nation. The Yellow Jackets, under a first-year coach and new scheme, enter the game with three unimpressive wins. It’s very possible the game will be over quickly. Regardless, like my Daddy before me, I will be rooting for the Yellow Jackets to pull off an upset. Do I think they can? No. Despite my negativity, I’ll still be cheering for my team. It’s what real fans do.
For those of you who have loved someone with Alzheimer’s, you know how devastating this disease is. While talking with friends last night, we discussed those we have known who suffered with this disease. Daddy spent five years in the nursing home. He had friends that didn’t visit because they told me they couldn’t stand to see him in that condition. It wasn’t the best-case scenario for his family. More importantly, it wasn’t what he would have wanted if given a choice. But it was what it was. We play the hand life deals us. Sometimes we’re dealt a winner. Other times we’re dealt a hand that we just want to fold. In life, there is no folding. We must stay in the game until it ends. Daddy did that as well as anyone I know.
I’ve told this story before. But some stories are worth repeating. When Daddy was in the nursing home, it wasn’t the worst time in his disease. The worst was when he knew he had it and watching him run from it as fast as he could. He was fast. But there is no outrunning Alzheimer’s. There was a specific day that was the worst for me as he fought to keep his sanity. I took Daddy to a Georgia Tech game in Atlanta. They were playing Mississippi State on that Saturday. The police were nice enough to give us seating in the handicap area so Daddy could see the game. I remember standing behind him as the Yellow Jackets scored a touchdown right in front of us. He jumped up and down with the enthusiasm of a child. I don’t believe I had ever seen my Daddy show that much emotion in my entire life. He loved Georgia Tech and it showed. No one in the stadium was happier that he was. Once the Yellow Jackets had the game in hand, I suggested we head toward the car as it was a long walk. When we got to the car, I turned the Tech game on so we could listen to the ending. Daddy asked me what game I turned on. I told him it was the Tech game. He said before we left the parking lot, “Are they playing today?” I cried. That was the saddest day of his fight with Alzheimer’s. It would be our last real outing as father and son.
Families will gather this weekend to cheer for their favorite team. I realize as a Tech fan, I’m in the minority. That’s okay. I love them when they’re good. I love them when they’re bad. Just like my Daddy did. For you who gather with family to watch the game, cherish the moment. Whichever team you pull for. You don’t know when it will be the last gathering. I like to think Daddy will be watching. And somehow, he will be yelling, “Go Jackets!”