Thursday, October 10, 2013

Visiting Our Sports Oriented Family

With nephew DuWayne’s help, we made a good trip to Georgia this past weekend—the first time I’d been away from the Illinois since we made the same quick trip to visit son Gerry’s family last year this time. We arrived later on Friday than we’d hoped.  Our first slow-down was a wreck on the Paducah bridge.  Then an accident on down the highway.  Then a long long crawl through a construction site, and then the Atlanta traffic.  Where were those folks all going at 8 p.m.? 
Finally we found ourselves carrying our bags up steps graced with a novelty bulldog and a baby bulldog dressed in University of Georgia garb and then receiving hugs from Gerry and Vickie.  A little later Tara and Bryan and our three great grandsons arrived back home telling us all about the fall party they’d had a church and the sports events there.  While the boys bounced around batting their balloons they’d received, we had a nice evening visit while the baseball game played on TV.  Plans were made for the busy sports schedule that household had coming the next day. Multiple games are not unusual for them. Such schedules are taken in stride by this two-generation family living together in Watkinsville, next door to Athens, the home of the South’s oldest higher education institution.
Saturday morning Gerald and DuWayne were up and ready to go for early breakfast with Gerry and our oldest grandchild Tara, who both help Lu Harris-Champer coach UGA softball.  At breakfast they could enjoy all the pre-game talk before morning batting practice, and they were also rewarded with an early peek at new recruit Alex Hugo at third base, a sight Gerry assured them would be worthwhile.
I slept late and came down to Tara’s husband Bryan preparing bacon and eggs for Aidan (age 7), Maddux (age 4), and Payton (age 3).  He explained they let our daughter-in-law Vickie sleep in on the weekend since she gets them all to work and school on time during the week.  I stayed to visit with Vickie while Bryan took the boys for Maddux’s soccer photo. 
Soon they were back, and I crawled into the van with Bryan and the boys to go to Maddux’s 11 a.m. soccer game.  Vickie met us there and had lawn chairs waiting by the field bordered with tall stately pines. I was surprised at how disciplined and aware of rules these little guys were, and I admired the gentleness and sensitivity of the fathers volunteering to coach them. Maddux was in and out of play as only three players for each team were on the field at the same time, but he was happy because he got a goal. His dad was most pleased at how well he played defense.
Bryan could not go to the UGS softball game at one because his job was to take Aidan to his football game where Aidan is proud to play for a team called Packers.  (The last time he was at our house, Aidan was wearing his Christmas gift shirt that had Rodgers on the back, and I was confused. Aidan was shocked I had never heard of Aaron Rodgers.)  Bryan said he could drop me off at the softball stadium, and Vickie said I could ride with her in the pickup, but before the soccer game was over, Gerald joined us so he was able to see our sweaty enthusiastic Maddux running up and down the field.  Gerald had been afraid I would have trouble stepping into the pickup without a running board, so I rode with him to the softball game after we stopped for sunscreen and then at Subway for a sandwich.
It was a beautiful hot autumn day, but I sat in comfortable seats under a roof with Vickie, so the sunscreen was not necessary.  The fall schedule only allows for practice games, but the teams know they are important since this is their first opportunity to play together with new teammates and find out their potential for the spring season.   The previous weekend the team had met North Carolina at a high school facility half way between the schools since they are only allowed to travel 300 miles for these practice games.
Now for their first home game, they were playing Florida State, who had come to Athens with many enthusiastic fans to witness 10-inning games on Saturday and Sunday. With that many innings, Morgan Montemayor, Chelsea Wilkinson, and our granddaughter Geri Ann all got to pitch at least three innings both days.  What a pitching staff we have this year!  While we watched, Vickie was keeping their middle daughter, Erin, abreast of what was going on--just as she closely follows Erin's career coaching fall volleyball at a middle school in Texas where she teaches math. Later in the year, Erin will help coach basketball and softball, and I am sure Vickie will know what is happening with these games also.
Ten innings seem to last a long time, but it provided more practice.  (Even when the home team did not need to play the bottom of the l0th, they played it to give batters experience against the Seminoles’ pitcher. Incoming high school players must regain confidence sometimes when they first experience college-level pitching.)  Of course, Gerry and Tara had a post game meeting, and later they had to be at a  clinic that an outstanding St. Louis pitching coach was presenting since he’d come down to see his Florida State daughter play against UGA.
It was a long day for the coaches before they were able to join us at home in the family room. Geri Ann came over while we watched the UGA football team play Vanderbilt and then had a home screening for Tara to see Maddux’s soccer game, which Bryan had photographed for her. Meanwhile the three little guys were actively moving throughout the room using up their last bits of energy and the one unbusted balloon before bedtime. Geri Ann had a paper to write and an exam to study for, so she left earlier than we would have liked.  Student athletes learn early the discipline of limited time to goof off.
Sunday morning I again slept in and woke to sweet childish voices downstairs and Gerald’s note on the dresser telling me to phone him if I needed a ride. I dressed rapidly in my red and black and repacked my suitcase to load in Bryan’s van. As I went down the stairs, there in the foyer below were the three little brothers laughing and wrestling together on a large leather football dummy.  They are able to entertain themselves with or without organized sports. I felt reluctance to leave this house where three little book bags hang on hooks on the wall behind the kitchen table and three little cowboy boots are lined up on the shoe rack in the laundry hall. The boys continued getting their exercise at the softball stadium as they went up and down metal stairs visiting, rescuing balls that came over the fence, and charming us with their sweet smiles.
UGA did very well winning at the softball stadium both days, and Gerry was an affable host when he took us to dinner before we departed for home. All of us are excited about the upcoming spring season now that last year’s freshmen are seasoned and the new recruits are looking good.  I chose to sit by Geri Ann at dinner as we were able to see so little of her away from the field.  She misses her little nephews since she moved into the dorm last year and then this fall is sharing a house with roommates. As we waited for our food, the two youngest boys were happily enthroned on Tara’s lap, and despite the fully scheduled weekend of work, she now looked relaxed and rested snuggling her little ones.  Geri Ann entertained them teaching them a new and complicated song. 
The food was good and the fellowship better, but it was time to start the long trip back to Illinois.  Fortunately, we had DuWayne who took over driving home and safely got us through a heavy rainstorm that made many cars pull off the road.  Afterwards we were rewarded with one of the most spectacular sunsets we had ever seen.  (The next day I read on Facebook that my dear friend Loretta White Ruff came through that rain and marveled at that same gorgeous sunset.  She drove from her now North Carolina home to Carbondale to visit her siblings.  They are rejoicing at her brother Sam’s respite at home from the St. Louis hospital, where he has been battling leukemia.  He will return for a marrow transplant.  I wondered our close our cars were together on that common highway.)
I also learned on Facebook that some time after we left, Gerry had attended Aidan’s baseball practice at his coach’s home with its own field for these kids.  It was Gerry’s first time to attend a practice of Aidan’s coach of two years, and he was very impressed.  I was impressed he had energy to attend one more sports event before the weekend was over.

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