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“Mom?  Will you play football with us?”

It’s a crisp fall day.  I was outside raking leaves while the boys ran around the front yard.  Leaf raking is sort of a zen activity for me.  It gives me a sense of accomplishment, seeing the piles grow as the lawn gets cleaner.  Until the wind blows and I start all over again.

Gerry runs over to me with a small Arizona State University nerf football in his hand.  “Mom?  Will you play football with us?”

I lean the rake up against the big tree in our yard as he calls his brothers over. I was hesitant to play, partly because I was finally getting a big pile of leaves but also because getting the three of them on the same page for any activity is difficult.  Their age differences and developmental differences make physical games tricky.  Herding cats is an understatement.

The boys decide that it will be Howie and Lewis against Gerry.  The two younger kids will be on defense.  Gerry comes over to me with the ball.

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“I’ll be the quarterback,” I say.

I have an instant flashback to when I was a kid.  My Dad has the football in his hands.  We’re in our backyard on a cold Vermont fall weekend afternoon. He’s in his tuque and his sweatpants taped up with duct tape with work boots on. He was always the quarterback. To make it fair.

“Can I be the quarterback?” Gerry asks.

“No,” I said. “I will be quarterback for both sides to be fair.”

I draw out a “play” on my right hand.  “We’ll call this ‘the button hook’ play. You go out eight steps, turn around and I will throw it to you.”

I see my dad drawing the same play in his hands.  “Go out 10 steps, then turn to your right.  I’ll throw it right to you. Watch out for that pile of dog poop over there.  And that one over there.”

I yell a bunch of random numbers and then “HIKE!” Gerry hikes the ball to me and tries to run the play.  The boys run all over the yard in no pattern laughing, trying to play their position.

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My cousins and siblings run around the yard, yelling at each other and laughing, trying to make the play.

“NO TACKLING!” I yell.

Two hand touch!” my dad yells.

Touchdown! Between the rake and the pile of leaves!

Touchdown! Between the broken flower pot and pile of hay!

We switch teams after the touchdown.  I stay at quarterback.

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We play until the sun goes down and my hands get too cold to throw the ball.

**********

In the Glee episode “The Quarterback“, the football coach and Puckerman (one of the characters) are sitting next to the memorial stone for Finn Hudson.  Puck looks at the line between the born and died years and says “You know what’s tripping me up? This line between the two years. That’s his whole life. Everything that happened is in that line.” The coach looks at him and asks “What are you going to do with your line?”

I see now my line is filled with being my kids’ quarterback.

I’m the one drawing up the plays on my hand on the fly.

Tossing them the ball as they get the glory of scoring the winning touchdown.

Guiding them through homework and relationships and teacher meetings and IEPs and therapy sessions.

All leading to their personal successes.  In their own way.

Honoring my dad’s memory with my old Target sneakers, faded yoga pants and torn fleece jacket.

Until they are old enough to be their own quarterback and figure out what they will do with their line.

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Today marks 15 years since my dad died.

I miss him every day in different ways. 

But I especially I miss him as my quarterback.

19544_1326211601980_499808_nTook this love and I took it down
Climbed a mountain and I turned around
And I saw my reflection in the snow covered hills
Till the landslide brought me down

Oh, mirror in the sky, what is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
And can I sail through the changing ocean tides
Can I handle the seasons of my life?
Oh oh I don’t know, oh I don’t know

Well, I’ve been afraid of changing
‘Cause I’ve built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Children get older I’m getting older too
Yes I’m getting older too.” – Landslide by Fleetwood Mac

The American Cancer Society’s estimates for pancreatic cancer in the United States for 2013 are:

  • About 45,220 people (22,740 men and 22,480 women) will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
  • About 38,460 people (19,480 men and 18,980 women) will die of pancreatic cancer

Rates of pancreatic cancer have been slowly increasing over the past 10 years.

Learn more about early diagnosis and treatment at http://www.cancer.org/cancer/pancreaticcancer/detailedguide/pancreatic-cancer-detection or visit The Lustgarten Foundation’s website