Why I Go(pher) 2.0

Before the 2012 season, I wrote Why I Go(pher). The Gopher football team would finish that season 6-7. And under that coaching staff and administration, it never felt like they would be more than a middle-of-the-road Big Ten team.

Yesterday, 7 years later, we turned the corner I wrote about. And as I predicted, I was there.

At the time that I wrote those words, I had no clue that I would have a 3-year-old son and a 9-month-old daughter sitting next to me. Long gone are the days of drinking as much as I want because I had nothing to do on Sunday.

Our Gopher gamedays are decidedly different. In this special edition of TimTalks, I am going to hand the mic over to my lovely wife to give you a gameday-in-the-life as the wife of a Gopher fan:

 

It’s 5:30 am on a Saturday. Warm in my bed, I’m awakened by my husband’s alarm. I keep my eyes closed for a few minutes, considering trying to catch a little more sleep. I decide against it. Time to move. My husband looks up, surprised, as I walk into the bathroom. “I understand. I know this is the biggest game in decades. I’m up.”

Two hours later the car is packed, the kids are dressed, the baby’s been fed, and we are ready to go.

For the first time in years, I have convinced my husband we don’t need to make it in time for the open of the tailgate lots. Lots open six hours before game time or 7:00 am for an 11:00 game. On our drive in, at 7:45, we hear from my brother who has beaten us there. I can tell instantly my husband is disappointed at our late arrival. We pull up at 8:07 am. Three hours until game time. Our shortest tailgate of the season.

Growing up with three brothers, I spent my fair share of time at football games. However, I was more interested in talking with my friends than staying up to speed on the play by play. My first Gopher football game, in 2001, my future husband and I sat in the Metrodome as he tried to explain the basics of the game. I listened, not realizing as a 16-year-old girl that this would become a staple of my life.

Gopher football as a college student and twenty-something without children was A LOT of fun. I loved the social aspect. The chants, the traditions, and the beers. I cheered loud for the big plays but didn’t lose sleep over a bad game. But it got a lot tougher with one and now two kids. And I’ll admit, some days I get a bit salty.

Making it to a tailgate lot at 8:30 am with a three-year-old and an infant requires a lot of work. Arriving home a solid twelve hours later makes for some tired kids, and parents too. And some days I just wondered, could we maybe go at 9:30, or 10:00? Is it absolutely pivotal to the success of the team that we arrive for six full hours of tailgating? And the answer is, yes.

Yes, it does matter. Because it matters to my favorite human on this earth. It matters to him to show up for his team, week after week, some years loss after loss. And this moment, this day, was to date, the most important day in his lifelong journey as a Gopher fan. My husband has never missed a game in TCF Bank Stadium. His three-year-old son and 9-month-old daughter haven’t missed a home game in their lives. He’s been there for the electrifying wins and the heartbreaking losses. He always shows up.

So I show up. I nurse a baby in the sleet under a Gopher blanket to watch the team beat Nebraska. I stand in the pouring rain in Evanston to see the team suffer a truly unwatchable defeat by Northwestern. I’ve never been to Hawaii or Palm Springs, but I’ve been to Ohio State and Maryland.

But some days, like this beautiful November morning, I sit in the sunshine holding a sleeping baby, my hooligan three-year-old being a perfect angel, and watch the Gophers lead a top-five ranked Penn State team through not one, two, or three, but four full quarters of play to maintain their perfect season.

We lovingly refer to my husband as “Timmy Baby Pants.” It’s a lot of fun. On cue, Baby Pants shed a tear in the stands as “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” played and fans rushed the field. Honestly, I shed a tear too. I’m so grateful for the husband and father that he is. And seeing the joy on his face while he hugged our three-year-old in the final minutes of the game, I’ll get up at 5:30 on a Saturday for that. I’ll stand in the snow and the rain to see those smiles on my two favorite boys’ faces.

And I know it’s only going to get easier, and better, as my kids grow up. I can already see the excitement and joy on my son’s face when he talks about “Minnesota.”

We are laying the foundation for a lifetime of tradition.

I’m a big Fleck fan. I love his energy and enthusiasm, and he’s easy on the eyes. Some people roll their eyes at the catch phrases and mantras, but I love them.

FAMILY. Forget About Me, I Love You.

It perfectly encompasses my Gopher experience. I love the energy and the party and the celebrations, sure. But I can’t tell you the score or even who we played in the opening game of the 2018 season. What I can tell you is what the face of a father looks like when his 2-year-old son walks into the stadium for a new season, looks out over the field with eyes full of wonderment, and unprovoked exclaims “row the boat.”

I can tell you about the pride on a first-time father’s face as he walks into the stadium with his son strapped to his chest for his son’s first game.

I can tell you about the sparkle in a father’s eye as he watches his wife unwrap his daughter’s first pink Gopher shirt.

I can tell you what a father and son sing on Fridays before gameday. (Les Mis  – “One Day More”)

I can tell you about the grin on a toddler’s face as he signals for another “Golden Gopher First Down!”

I can tell you how a tailgate lot full of strangers become friends (it takes a village.)

At the end of the game, win or lose, I can tell you about my husband and the amazing bond that he will forever share with our children over this team called the Gophers.

It’s why I Go(pher).

The Mountain

Two decades. 

Twenty years. 

7,300 days. 175,200 hours. 10,512,000 minutes. 

Time is great at playing this terrible trick on us. When you start counting minutes in the tens of millions, time seems to drag. 

When you count it in decades, saying “time flies” seems like a comical understatement. 

After two children, it feels like time is an icy mountain face that I am sliding down making futile attempts to slow myself. 

Looking back up the mountain, shrinking in the distance is me awkwardly asking my wife to “go out” with me and her saying yes, not knowing that she was grabbing my hand and jumping off the side of the mountain with me. 

We have been through it all. Junior high, high school, college, our 20’s, two kids, and half of our thirties. 

What the hell happened? 

Just yesterday we were sneaking kisses in the hallway and talking on the phone until one of us fell asleep. We woke up married in a house with two kids that we are scrambling to get ready for daycare. 

The most brutal truth that I have come to know in this life is that the days are long and the years are short. 

My birthday has become so important to me over these two decades. Today it reached a pinnacle when I heard my 3-year-old run into the bedroom, climb into bed, and burrow into me as though it was impossible for him to get close enough to me.

“Daddy, I had a bad dream…”

My gorgeous wife got up and made me a cinnamon roll and orange juice that I shared with my son at the counter.

I walked into the nursery to find my 8-month-old girl standing and smiling at me. 

I felt a strong pang in my chest.

Long gone are the days of wondering what I will get for my birthday, today I realized that all I need to do is open my eyes.

I’m going to do my best to keep them open because I know the next time I blink another two decades will have passed me by.  

Happy birthday to me but, more importantly, thank you to my wife for jumping off the mountain with me October 8, 1999 at 8:05 AM. 

Cheers. 

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The Intruder

A flush of adrenaline rolls to my legs and they start to tingle. My heart rate speeds up so that I can no longer feel individual beats coming from my chest.
 
I am 33 years old, a suspicious thump in the night shouldn’t cause so much fear. Unfortunately, bravery has never been a trait of mine.
 
In the rational section of my brain, I know that the sound came from outside the house. A car door slamming in the street or a neighbor slamming their front door.
 
Tonight, I have no room for rational thoughts as I sit listening to Stephen King’s It audiobook.  I look to my wife and see that she is fast asleep.
 
It’s nothing, obviously. Everything is fine.
 
A couple of minutes pass with no mysterious noises. Relieved, I laugh at myself and how I am letting Mr. King get the best of me.
 
Then, as I am listening to Bill Denbrough and Richie Tozier escape the maniacal clown that has disguised itself as a werewolf, I can hear the bass of two voices talking downstairs in our living room.
 
I pause the audiobook and freeze, doing my best not to make a noise. It’s difficult to make out the voices over my heartbeat pounding in my ears.
 
Somebody is in my house.

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The Talk

They sat on a bench on the bike path overlooking the river. The late afternoon sun lazily making its descent to the horizon. The leaves rustling in the late fall breeze.

In days past they would have sat holding hands, or at least making some sort of physical contact. Lately, they didn’t mind the space. As a matter of fact, they felt more comfortable with a bit of separation.

They looked at each other at the same time and knew that they were both thinking the same depressing thought. They sighed.

She broke the silence first, as usual.

“How did we get here?”

“Seriously? We parked the car at the park, then followed the path to the bench” he said.

Another one of his ill-timed jokes that she used to find adorable, but now she found irritating.

“Sorry, I just don’t know how you want me to answer that.”

“I want you to be honest. I want you to tell me how you feel. Why do I always have to drag things out of you?” Continue reading