We felt a little odd Friday night at the New Albany football game against Ripley. It’s not that we felt out of place. We love football and we’ve already adopted the Bulldogs as our new high-school team (I even have the mandatory maroon knit shirt.)
But it’s not quite the same when you don’t have a personal relationship with anyone on the field.
For the past four years, we’ve been watching our son, Joe, play the trombone in the Florence, Ala., Big Blue Marching Band. At least, we did that on the nights we didn’t have to work in the concession stand.
Friday night we had to be content with talking to people sitting around us about whom they knew on the field. The couple in front of us was keeping an eye on their grandson, who plays on the special teams.
And the lady next to me, who had brought her granddaughter to the game, said her grandson was playing the mellophone in the Pride of New Albany band.
Jenny even teared up a little as the trombone section marched by. She did not tear up when we stopped by the concession stand. It was early when we got to the game, so there were plenty of even-tempered parents passing out a few hot dogs, Pepsis and popcorn. Later, we noticed, the concession stand was swamped, and we said a silent prayer for the poor souls with sore soles and sweaty T-shirts.
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It wasn’t just at the football game that we were missing Joe. I didn’t realize how many things Joe did around the house until we had to start doing them ourselves.
Let’s see. There’s mowing the yard. Feeding the dogs. Making salads for dinner. Running out to pick up pizza. I could go on, but you get the picture.
This empty-nest thing has its drawbacks.
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While we were missing Joe, he was missing us. After the first three days at college, he called home and, in his best sad-sack voice, talked about how he was homesick and how he hadn’t made any friends. He didn’t even have a roommate, because the kid assigned to his room had decided to live at home and commute.
“We’ll come up this weekend and take you out to lunch,” I told him, in my best upbeat voice.
Two days later, I called to see whether Saturday or Sunday would be a better day for us to visit.
He didn’t have much time to talk, he said. He had just come from playing Ultimate Frisbee with several other students, and had only a few minutes to take a shower before joining a group headed to IHOP for a late-night snack.
Oh, and he was going to be too busy with activities on the weekend – including laundry – to make time for a visit. Maybe another day.
We’ll probably be there next weekend, though, to remind him that his job for the next four years is to go to class and do the work. We didn’t talk much about the Friday night football game, and it would have been a mistake to talk about the marching band, the part of school Joe loved best.
Or maybe it wouldn’t have been a mistake. It looks like Joe is moving on. Hopefully, in time, so will we.
T. Wayne Mitchell, publisher of the Gazette, can be reached by phone at 662-534-6321 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.