I will honestly say that nothing, not the fact they're from the same state, nor the fact that the SEC can extend its streak by winning another BCSNCG, will ever make me root for the Barn. I hate them, pure and simple, and if that's wrong then this homeboy don't wanna be right. I will be Tomahawk choppin' their Lie-ger asses come BCS time, as I have to admit that in my younger years, I was a Noles fan. Second to Bama, of course, no one ever overrules the team in crimson. But I did have a little garnet and gold in my repertoire, as my uncle taught there during the Bowden heyday and I was able to catch some games during their memorable run.
For the sake of anti-Barn hoodoo, I'll offer this brief aside. I was at the 1989 Sugar Bowl between FSU and the Barn. It was my first bowl game (other than the Senior Bowl), and my uncle really lit up the town for me. The game fell on my birthday, and to this day, it was one of my best birthdays ever. Long story short, closely contested game, Barn fans all around us. FSU led late, but Reggie Slack had Auburn on the move. They drove the field and threatened to score from inside the red zone as the clock wound down. A TD would have given Auburn the win, but Neon Deion Sanders did what Deion does and plucked the would-be TD pass away from the Auburnite, sealing the FSU win. My most fond Florida State memory, and I for one hope to see it replayed in its full glory in Pasadena.
I just can't not spin y'all some kind of yarn, right? I mean, we don't have HooDoo, but that doesn't mean the stories aren't still worth tellin'. However, unlike the usual fare, this is something that is near and dear to OWB's hardened, Sith heart, not the usual zaniness but something from a thoughtful and reflective OWB. My usual readers may not like this story I'm about to tell, but if so, so be it. More zaniness will follow to be certain, but right now, this is something I just feel it appropriate to say. So if you wonderful ladies and gentlemen will indulge me, this tale goes a little something like this...
As for my Saturday, now last Saturday, that day marked the 12th anniversary of the day that this girl and I started a walk together over a rough and rocky path, something akin to scaling the sheer volcanic walls of Thermopylae while quivers of arrows zinged near our flesh. You see, we'd been screwing around (both literally and figuratively) with no plans for the future for over a year. Dating, I guess, but not really. You know, just friends, never called each other boyfriend and girlfriend, we were just good old fashioned F buddies. We'd break up, not talk for a week, then end up hanging out. It was a roller coaster, up and down, round and round. There was no reason for us to be anything more than "physical friends." We didn't have music, or movies, or books, or really anything else in common, but we were both lonely and took comfort in some rather crazy trysts in the most unimaginable places. Did things, crazy things. We were convenient for one another, but there was nothing that even approached the L word floating between the two of us at the time.
Well, the Good Lord, as He is oft to do, decided to give us a little wake-up call, a little shove from the diving board into the deep end of life. It happened on March 17, 2001, as this young drunken Irishman decided to throw caution to the wind, not out of some grand statement of free-spiritedness, but rather a state of total drunkeness. I did not protect myself from the thing of which I was most frightened, but rather just did what I wanted to do, responsible or not. After all, what were the odds that this would be the one time that she'd actually end up pregnant? The night ended as many others had, she in my arms, sharing a twin bed and an embrace that was warm in the superficial sense, but not glowing at that gutteral, deeply emotional level. Another night of drinking and a physical dalliance in the back bedroom at my mama's house, it seemed just like any other St. Patty's Day.
A few weeks later, I learned that I had fired the shot heard 'round the world...at least 'round my little world. "I'm pregnant..." I remember where I was standing, what I thought, how beautiful she looked when she said those words to me and how terrified I was of the prospect of what I had created. I pulled her close, gazed into the muddied pools of her deep brown eyes and told her that we'd figure it out, that everything would work out as it was supposed to.
Then hell broke loose, pregnancy hormones and immature male idiocy send us crashing through the ice and into the frigid depths below. We didn't speak for three months as my son grew in her belly. But the Good Lord softened our souls and led us back to one another. Mind you, it was not a smooth path, to be sure. I was so afraid of her leaving again that I didn't want to commit, figured we'd find the best way to raise the kid without getting married. After all, we were two smart, resourceful people. But it doesn't take smarts to raise a kid, I have since learned. It really just takes love.
On the evening of December 6, 2001, after months of prodding, I finally asked this beautiful woman to be my wife, not even knowing the full scope of what I had done. But I did know the full scope, or rather, the full circumference, of her belly, and I knew if this child, a boy and the only male heir to my family line, was to be born with my last name, then my time of running from the future was at its end. Without telling our family members, the following day, she and I went to the courthouse, where in a quick ceremony that until recently I was sure would have lasted longer than the marriage it bonded, we became husband and wife. In the legal sense, only. Two weeks later, on the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, my son was born, pulled from his mama's belly and placed straight into my arms. The tears welled and glazed over as I gazed down at this halfling to whom I would be forever tied. He was, he is, a miracle. The pivotal, life-changing event of this, my rather tumultuous existence. I was ripped asunder emotionally: overjoyed but terrified, excited but with a full understanding that I was not up to the job the Lord had put in my hands. At least not yet.
We came home from the hospital on Christmas Eve, to a home in which we'd never lived. I single-handedly moved everything we had separately owned into a house I'd rented the day before while my new wife recuperated from the Caesarian. That first night, our first Christmas Eve together, we slept on a sleeper sofa (that bar!), my wife cussing me through her pain and disgust, my resentment and anger building with each word. It was a microcosm that proved to be representative of our first year of marriage. To be brief, that first year was tough. Almost insurmountable. But for some reason, God or the Universe or whatever you want to call the power that binds us all, held us fast to one another, through thick and thin, anger and resentment, fear and loathing. We clung tightly to the life preserver through it all, through colic and late power bills, a single $22K per year salary, the special needs of our first-born child, a hard-working but absent father and husband who had to run the roads while plying his trade, a woman still herself trying to learn how to be a mother and a wife on the shortest of learning curves.
Our relationship was one of tumult that first year, and for much of its first decade. It was a roller coaster ride, all strikes and gutters, no middle ground. We either loved one another demonstrably, or we hated each other with a fever too hot to touch. Earlier this year, I sincerely thought it was coming to an end. I had simply had enough. I got the feeling she was in the same place, and that she would easily and heartless walk away from the burning wreckage of the life we'd cobbled together without giving it two thoughts. I sought out legal advice. I talked to divorced friends for tips on dealing with the oncoming and seemingly unavoidable split. I prayed and knew that the answer was right there in front of me, yet, like a man groping in the dark for his glasses, it just always seemed frustratingly out of my reach. For the first time in my life, I had given up, given in, and resolved to myself that this outcome was something that I could no longer control, that everything would be over soon and the pain would go away.
But something strange happened. I was finally ready to have the be-all, end-all, "I want a divorce" talk with her, with all of the drama accorded to such ceremonies all too often in our society. But she beat me to it. Approached me, though we had not spoken of anything substantial in weeks, and told me she wanted to talk. I told her of my resolve. As those words passed my lips, I saw her break. That look on her face, half "seen a ghost," half anger, half sorrow (I know that's three halves, y'all, you know I ain't good at the maffs), told me that she too knew we had gone too far off course. I also saw that she was hurt enough by it to give me reason to believe that I had been wrong all along, that maybe there had been something worth saving, a shared point of emotion upon which we could rebuild the foundation of our home. We began to talk, not yell, but talk, which was something we hadn't done in one another's presence for quite some time. I, for once, felt her pain, understood the things I had done to make her feel marginal, unloved, unappreciated. And I voiced my long list of complaints to her, in many cases receiving the compassionate response, "I didn't even know that hurt you."
From that mere remaining thread of love between us, a single tatter found amongst the cutting room scraps of our failing marriage, we began to weave...slowly at first. But eventually, as our hands became more deft at the interlocking of those threads, our shared experiences, our common love for our children, our true naked and uncorrupted feelings for one another, we found out that we did love one another. That fabric of matrimony began to take on a whole new form, a beautiful form, a dense shawl to shield us from the coldness of the world, a thick armor to protect us from the barbs of those around us who think us strange. We realized that all along, in those moments when we thought there was nothing between us worth saving, that love had been glowing like an ember awaiting the wind of willingness to fan it into flame.
We are different people now, and we are not done with the tapestry that is our lives. After all, the loom is only half full, the spools still laden with rich thread for the weaving. We have many years to intertwine the fine wool of our marriage into something that we will one day look upon in wonder. Of all of the friends we had in our youth, we are the last couple standing. Of all couples, we are the ones who rode the rapids of matrimony and emerged on the other side, wet and bruised but still in the same raft. At the get-go, I wouldn't have put money on us completing the first leg, let alone winning the race. But that's how it has worked out, thank God.
So on this SECCG Day, Dec. 7, 2013, I did not sit in front of a television watching football. I didn't drink and cuss and throw things around the room in a fit of rage at that which unfolded on the television before me. I basked in the afterglow of my youngest daughter's first musical theater production. I enjoyed a wonderful lunch at our usual Saturday spot with my wife and children, together and warm despite the biting chill of the winter front passing us by. I, in passing, saw the score of the Barn game, and I walked away from it with three quarters of the game left to be played. Didn't know the outcome until I overheard a conversation later on in the evening. And I was alright with that.
We bundled up that night, December 7, our 12th anniversary, and set out for Bellingrath's Christmas light show (if you've never been, you must go if ever in Mobile during this particular time of year...it really is something to behold). I soaked in the cold, carried my shillelagh like a gent of ancient ancestry and held my wife's hand as we walked through the trails, our children running ahead, dragging us along the way walked dogs drag their custodians. I took photos of my children which will remind me forever of that night, the best anniversary yet and one of the best days I've ever had the pleasure of living. Before leaving, my wife and I stopped in the smooth concrete path as the kids ran ahead, shared a tender moment, an "I love you," a "Happy Anniversary, baby" and a brief kiss before catching up with the children. I remember thinking, "I've never been happier in my life." And gentlemen, it didn't have a single thing to do with football.
So while I'll never give up my love of the Crimson Tide or this game of football over which we obsess, even ole OWB can introduce some levity into this conversation. I, for one, know the obvious, as do you: there are things far more important than football. I don't think many of us ever really forget that. It's just that sometimes we let our view become obscured by the hustle-and-bustle of the ever-marching cadence of life.
For me, my sanity on this day, and in this year, came in finding something else from which to mine my delight. Whereas in past years, this season has crushed my soul for reasons I won't delve into here, at least for this year, I could give two shits about the Barn and whatever in the hell it is they miracle out of their asses in the BCSNCG.
For this year, I don't need football to make me happy. I am just....happy. And for me, that's enough.
Roll Tide y'all, love you all...(except for you JTad...nobody loves you, dude, tighten up every chance you get. Just kidding, of course, YOU'RE MAH BOY JTAD!). Y'all are all great and I have appreciated the kind words this year, you know how to make a feller feel appreciated. Hope you all have a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hannukah, a Joyous Kwanzaa or a Gleeful Flying Spaghetti Monster Extravaganza. No matter what you call it, enjoy it, live in the moment and always keep things in perspective.