It was a cold day with a driving rain. I am not complaining because the conditions were the answer to many collective prayers for an end to the oppressive heat and the lingering drought. It is just that I had not planned to spend such a day outside watching my oldest grandson play soccer.
Henry’s team was playing a tournament in Auburn. It is not often that my grandchildren come to us for a sporting event. It is just the nature of things that grandparents are usually the ones doing the traveling.
The soccer fields were in excellent condition but were no match for the kids slipping and sliding in the extended downpour. By the midpoint of the first match, the area around the goal was a sloppy mess, as were half the uniforms on the drenched boys.
I sat under a tent, but the rain was blowing so hard that I had to open an umbrella sideways under the tent. I was wearing a rain jacket with a hood and a cap. I suppose all that gear helped, but I felt wet from head to toe.
Nevertheless, I would not have wanted to be anywhere else. I posted a picture of myself on Facebook all bundled up. I enjoyed the comments from other grandparents. They get it. These are priceless memories that will linger a lifetime. I know because I remember my grandparents and parents doing the same thing.
I suppose my grandfather watched every baseball game I ever played if he was in town. I know my parents did. They followed my brother, who was more athletic than me, all over the state as he played in various sports.
It is not just sports. I spotted my grandparents at piano recitals, wondering if I hated recitals so much how could they possibly enjoy being there. Nevertheless, my grandmother would always tell me I performed better than anyone else.
Dance recitals. Spelling bees. School plays. It did not matter what the event. If any of us Ponder kids were participating, they were there. Parents and grandparents. Rain or shine, though I never recall any of them sitting through a rain like we experienced last weekend.
As I sat there, cold and miserable I realized what a good time I was having. Everyone on the sidelines was just as wet and miserable and having just as much fun as I was. The ones having the best time were the boys, soaked to the bone, playing hard until the very end.
The tournament was eventually cancelled, and the eleven boys went to a Mexican restaurant together. Half then went to a Haunted House and the other half went bowling for a couple of hours. Bonding. Making friends. Making their own memories.
Henry’s team did not win the only match they played. Some teams never got to play at all. There was no winner of the tournament, but that is not really the point. These are boys on the cusp of being teenagers. They are learning so much and do not even know it. These are the carefree days of youth at their finest.
Henry’s team will not win or lose because I am on the sideline. Yet part of me understands that I am the real winner. I get to see him having fun, growing and learning. I get to see him making friends and learning good sportsmanship.
At the end of the day, I want all my grandchildren to know I will always be there to support them, no matter what the event, cause or venue. But the blessing in some ways is all mine. I am getting to watch the next generation blossom and grown.
Rain or shine the lesson I learned is one I already knew. I remember the look on my own grandparents’ faces. I had to become a grandparent to fully understand what that look really meant, namely there is no limit to a grandparents’ love.
Dan Ponder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org