It’s early Sunday morning, or so it seems. It’s been a glorious weekend already and I’m not sure but I think today will be, as intended, a day of rest and reflection. So, let me get started…
Miss and I departed mid afternoon and loaded up Tay’s TSX with goodies, art, and ourselves as we turned north on 315 and headed to our second home of sorts, at least during soccer season, of IWU. One short detour and three hours later we turn left one last time and park the TSX just as the IWU Wildcats begin to warm up. We walk through the gates and present our vip passes instead of payment and look at the vintage soccer gear, especially anything with the number 18. Of course, Miss buys some. I smile as a young man notices and asks if we’re Taylor’s parents. His name is Micah. He’s a fifth year senior and he’s been taking Taylor under his wing. We shake hands and I thank him for leading my son. He smiles back and reminds me his parents went to Taylor with me. My mind flashes back to Terri & Steve, his parents, and my friends from long ago. Terri, in fact, kinda took me under her wing as a fellow Kansan back in the day so far, far, away from home. I smile some more about how good our God is.
People, you see, are his most spectacular canvas.
Miss and I take our seats and two hours later, Taylor and his IWU mates secure a hard fought 2-1 victory. Tay gets in for the last five minutes and works hard. His touches are crisp and his effort maximum without looking forced. I’m beginning to see how good his decision making under pressure. He has learned when to attack, when to retreat, when to make the simple pass, and where the open space is going to be just before it actually is. Yup, all that observation in under five.
A late, late dinner with Tay is next. Plenty of teammates and coaches wander in after us and each takes the time to greet us and introduce themselves before congregating with their own. So small and yet so different from the norm. Midnight approaches as Miss and I drop Tay back at Hodson and make a final left for the night into our lonely lodging for the night.
Saturday, I snuck out early, and headed to Taylor. Taylor University, you see is ten minutes to the left of our lodging; IWU, ten minutes to the right. Saturday, I leaned to the left so to speak. Ten minutes later I was walking into the old dining commons where 34 years ago I first laid eyes on my Miss. Memories. This time, scanning the commons, I wasn’t looking for love. I was looking for my brothers. After scanning the young crowd for a few seconds I spied the white hairs in the far right corner kinda out of the main traffic – my brothers. You see, this weekend my old Sammy Morris third floor brothers were having a reunion for the BroHo (as we were known). Guys who had been a part of the “brotherhood” back in the 70’s were invited to huddle up one more time. There, in the corner, they were huddled up and they looked vaguely familiar. As I walked up, late as usual, Wave saw me try to sneak in un-noticed and announced, “Chet Scott, everybody.” Applause erupted as did the back slaps and the handshakes. One really old looking fellow extended his hand, grabbed my shoulder and asked me if I remembered him. I did not. “Zane,” he replied with a smile and instantly my memory put face and facts together as I hugged him and recalled his friendship from 35 years gone by. “Diabetes,” he told me had taken it’s toll on him. He feels great but he’s lost a lot of weight and nobody seems to recognize him. I felt better and kinda bummed all together…
John Boy, Kurt, JJ, Griz, Quart, Don, Wave, and, of course, Roger were brothers who years ago had brought me along. Hearing Roger talk about the BroHo philosophy he had helped create and stamp out with his sincere leadership was FM to my ears. He and the BroHo band of builders had a simple leadership mantra all those years ago. I’d never once heard it but I’d seen it in action. “Nobody left behind,” was it. It didn’t matter where you came from, what you did, whether you were quiet or obnoxiously loud, if you landed on 3rd Sammy – you were a brother. I had come into the brotherhood in 1977 as a punk from Salina who thought religion was, well religion. I would walk out a few years later understanding religion far differently. Jesus, you see, was never a big fan of the religious right or left. Jesus simply wanted a relationship and still does. These brothers modeled the way and I was never the same.
Sitting there listening and taking it in, I found myself humbling thanking my Mom for pushing me toward Taylor in her own gentle, subtle kinda way. She had been brought to her knees by my escapades in high school and probably thought she had no other option. And, I found myself thanking Roger and these brothers for putting me on their shoulders too. Saturday was only a few hours old but it already felt like a special one.
I had no idea.
The afternoon brought lunch with Tay and Miss at the Crack. I had breakfast for lunch and Tay & Miss both had grilled chicken and all the fixin’s. Good. Around mid afternoon we took Tay back to Hodson so he could make his team devo time. Miss and I would now head back to Taylor University together for the football game. Here, Miss and I met up with the brothers which now included the brothers, Krick. Barry and Bryan are twins and were freshmen with me back in 1977. Barry, my roommate, was the first human I met who was Cool & Christian. I never knew the two could go together. I had no idea.
We laughed and laughed and laughed some more, standing just outside the corner of the end zone yesterday. Taylor University played great and won easily. Miss and I made some more memories back where our great adventure laid down its first roots. God it was good. God, again, is good. We said our goodbyes as the game came to a close and booked it back to IWU to meet our new family of friends known as soccer parents. A nice tailgate it was indeed, bees and all. We met some fine folks from Missouri. Yikes. I had the angry bird from Kansas on and no rumble ensued. Good. We met some nice families from Indiana, Michigan, and Illinois too. And, in just a few minutes our collection of sons would meet some dandies from Davenport. Oh yes, Davenport.
Greg told me Davenport was the real deal. Greg is Taylor’s roommates dad. He told me all about Davenport as if he was a part of the IWU scout team. Davenport was ranked 21 in the NAIA. Translation, they are one of the best small colleges in the small school soccer world. A perennial power too. Turns out we had beaten them last year to make it to the round of 32 in the National tournament and they were out for some revenge. Yikes. Walking in I leaned into Miss and reminded her we probably wouldn’t be seeing Tay take the pitch but we were certainly gonna see some good soccer. I had no idea.
Sure enough the game didn’t disappoint. Barry, Bryan, Cam (Tay’s cousin and student at Taylor U.), and Bryan’s daughter LeeAnn crowded together in the stands. Taylor’s IWU dorm has a tradition for big soccer games. They come dressed as the “Scotsmen.” In other words they were all face painted, dressed in kilts, and brandishing iron. They ran into the stadium,across the pitch and took their place in front of the bleachers. What a sight. The place was packed and the scene was electric. After the national anthem they even shot off fireworks. And, the opening kick brought even more; fireworks, that is.
Davenport was dominating from the start. The were huge and hungry. Their center middie plays for the Bosnia national team and looked like a man among boys. I looked at Miss after the second shot on goal within the first three minutes and told her this was looking like a long night. Again, no idea. IWU played their game and slowly, methodically, kinda Tay like, put their passes together and began to frustrate the big boys from Davenport. The first half was dwindling down and both teams seemed to have settled in for a long, long series of runs. No subs from IWU until about 15 remained – a change in defense. And, then I noticed a familiar stride along the IWU sideline. Tay was up getting warm. He’s NEVER gone into the game in the first half. Never. Here they are playing the hardest game and they’re getting ready to send him early. Miss told me she might throw up. I laughed and told her I might join her. We smiled and grabbed hold of each other as Tay strolled onto the pitch like he laid the sod himself. The announcer shouted his name over the PA system and I quietly sent a couple prayers skyward simultaneously. He was playing right middie and mixed it up with ease. He drew a foul, made some right passes and some nice runs, and played a tight 8 minutes or so. Half arrived and the defensive gem was scoreless but filled with excitement.
The second half started as did the first with Davenport putting pressure on the IWU goal but there was nothing doing. The IWU bench was quiet tonight. I was sure coach was gonna keep the starters in as he had only subbed twice in the first. I had no idea. The half wasn’t half over and Tay is up getting warm again. I really can’t believe my eyes. Tay is up warming up again. His coach is beginning to believe. Tay enters, as do a couple other subs, with a little over 21 minutes to play and the game still knotted at goose eggs. He’s right middie this time and is instantly in the mix. A couple more minutes of frenzied action find a fifty/fifty ball at about the fifty yard line. Tay beats his man by a fraction and flicks a perfect pass over the top and only ten yards in length. He played it right to the left middies boot in stride who does likewise. He chips it over the top to a goal seeking forward named Tyrone. Tyrone goes through two opponents like a wildcat ought and in an instant is around the goalie who tries to tackle him like he’s a fullback. FOUL. In the box. The place goes absolutely ape crazy.
Seconds later. GOAL!!!!!!!!!
The Scotsmen congregate in the left corner of the pitch and the IWU leap into their collective arms as the stadium shakes in pure pleasure. Miss and I high five. Cam too. And, of course Barry. Not only is Tay getting to play he’s playing well and I can tell he knows it. The next minutes take hours, it seems. Tay stays in the game while the other subs are replaced with starters. I grab Miss on a couple occasions and make sure she realizes what a big deal this is. She laughs at me kinda nervously…
Tay keeps making hard plays look simple. He hasn’t gotten beat. He’s been beating the guy in front of him. I’m beginning to believe he belongs. Yes, I know, what in the world has taken me so long. Leaders are believers, remember, Chet. It’s just different when it comes to allowing my mind to believe with my best friend, Tay. Moving on. The bad boys from Davenport finally squeeze one over the line and with ten to play the final countdown to crunch time is here. So is Tay. Tay stays in the game until just under 5 minutes in regulation. Coach subs him out for more defense. The game is knotted at ONE. It will end the same.
Overtime. I had no idea. I thought they would end in a tie and was actually quite pleased with it. The announcer comes over the PA and quickly announces two ten minute periods settled by a golden goal. First goal wins.
It didn’t take long. A set piece from IWU about five into overtimes finds Seth Kintigh’s head above the crowd. The goalie never sees it. GOALLLLLLLLLLLLL. IWU wins. IWU wins. We all hug and go crazy in the crowd. Some girls behind us in the stands go particularly crazy and I turn around to celebrate with them too. One of them informs me this was her first soccer game ever, her high school didn’t have it she continues. She’s a freshman at IWU. My mind races forward, maybe some day she’ll be a friend of Tay’s. I smile as I return my gaze to the celebrating throng on the field until my search sees young Tay and his mates. What a weekend. What great memories. I’ve got one more in the making, however.
After a long good bye with Tay and the clock just past 10bells. Miss and I pile back in the TSX and make the turn for home. We estimate our arrival at 1 AM and are flying, it feels like, instead of driving. After about thirty minutes, however, I take us off course and make another left turn into an empty parking lot.
Pizza King. Yup, Pizza King. Miss can’t believe we’re stopping. It’s almost Eleven bells as we place our order for a medium half pep/half sausage. Yup, I’m celebrating and cheating on myself. You see, Miss and I used to go to Pizza King for date night back in the day. We remember the old booths and the Tiffany lamps like it was yesterday. The pizza comes out and it’s nothing special but it is. We devour it and wash it down with some water and some honest tea. I even get a cookie for each of us to celebrate with in the car. Yeah, baby.
Miss and I hold hands and squeeze a bit as we return to the TSX and turn left again back on route 18. Yup, Tay’s number is our main return route home. Gotta love all these kinda nuances, huh.
A couple more hours and around 1:20ish we turn up Sherborne Lane and slowly return Tay’s car to it’s place in our garage. It’s been a long couple days and my mind is still racing. We’ve made memories again. As I hit the pillow I’m thinking…
Sammy Morris Hall is gone. Taylor tore it down to build a new one fifteen years or so ago. The new dorm is much nicer, air conditioning and all. I miss the old building. You see we love old buildings because they represent a memory in a place. Our mind likes this association. However, as so many old faces returned to my mind this weekend proves, the mind’s best trigger for all things old and worth its storage isn’t the place you made ’em, is it. Your mind holds most dear the memories around the people.
People. I had no idea.
We are made for relationship because our maker made us this way. We can’t help being nostalgic. It is how we’ve been wired. I’m writing this now for myself, my family, and specifically for my son. Later, these words just may trigger a memory. Tay and his BroHo may someday congregate in their dining commons or the new one that’s been built in it’s place and use this writing to remember their bond. I know, Miss and I most certainly will.
You are made for relationship, my friend. Today, go make some memories with your peeps. Write a few thoughts about it. You may have no idea why. Some day, however, it may help you make perfect sense of you.
Thanks, brothers, for building into me. Thanks, Roger, for remembering a little punk from Salina and NOT leaving me behind…