However, it was different football remembrances that came to mind when I recently came across tickets from Dad's and my last game together.
For as long as I can remember, one of dad's and my special times was traveling back to the ancestral hometown to attend games at his undergrad Alma Mater, Winston-Salem State (WSSU). From junior high on, probably even prior, I remember going to the games with dad.
Our favorite spot was always by the band. For those of us who grew up in the atmosphere and history of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), the game was always a distraction until the real game begin at half time, between the two bands. Daddy, who had been a band director prior to integration, always commented on what he thought the bands were doing right and wrong.
For about 8 years, dad and I missed out on this special time. I decided to move out of state for awhile, almost to the other side of the country, and only saw the folks twice a year. So, for 8 years there were no games, no homecoming parades, no half-time shows.
I moved back home to NC in 1998 and dad and I slowly picked up where we had left off. By this time, dad seemed to be more interested in attending games at his Grad School Alma Mater, North Carolina A&T. I personally, still preferred going to games at WSSU.
As dad's health begin to fail, and he didn't like traveling as much, we begin to attend the games of our local HBCU, Johnson C. Smith (JCSU).
Last years game in Charlotte between dad's undergrad Alma Mater, Winston-Salem State, and the local school Johnson C. Smith would be our last game together. Since this tends to be a big game, the game was held at Memorial Stadium instead of Johnson C. Smith's on-campus stadium.
Unable to find parking near the stadium, I ended up parking a bit away from the stadium. I had asked dad if he wanted me to drop him off while I found parking but he said no that he could make the trek back to the stadium. So, slowly we ventured back down the street toward the stadium, stopping ever so often so that dad could take a break.
We entered the stadium on the home team's side. Daddy would have been fine right there but since we were there to represent WSSU, I insisted that we go to the visitor's side. On the way to the visitor's side of the stadium, we ran into my younger cousin Reggie, who had come down from Winston-Salem with his dad. Since we had no clue they were going to be there, this was a special treat for dad, who always loved being around his nephews and nieces.
During the game, daddy was a little more subdued than usual. I kept asking if he was okay and he kept saying yes.
WSSU won the game and as far as I'm concerned the game within the game (halftime show). We bid the cousins farewell and wished them a safe trip back to Winston-Salem. As we begin the trek back to the car, daddy realized he just couldn't make the trek back no matter how many times we stopped, so he asked if I could go get the car while he waited. So, I left him with a nice police officer while I went to get the car.
Daddy was silent more than usual for the short trip back home. He thanked me like he always did as I dropped him off at the assisted living facility.
Unfortunately, that was the only game we attended last year. From Sept - Dec 2010, dad had doctor's appointments practically every week, so I worked practically every weekend for the remainder of the football season and year so that I could have time off during the week to take dad to appointments. My coworkers loved me for taking all the weekends.
I always thought there would be more games and was so looking forward to attending some games with dad this year but it wasn't meant to be.
And so, I'll treasure these tickets that I hadn't even realized I had kept and include them in that yet to be started scrapbook that I keep hoping to make. And even though the journeys won't be the same without dad, I still plan on attending a couple of those WSSU games each year, because even though I didn't attend the "family" alma mater, deep inside I'm a ram at heart.
Ram logo obtained from the Winston-Salem State University website.