Tuesday, November 18, 2014
"CATCH THE BALL STEPHEN HILL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! GOOD GRACIOUS!"
"I don't know if we each have a destiny, or if we're all just floatin' around accidental-like on a breeze. But I, I think maybe it's both." (forrest gump)
I knew nothing of this man and his family that started sitting in front of us at Georgia Tech football games some 15 years ago or so. But over the next 15 years we were afforded the opportunity to get to know a fine soul, one that tolerated me becoming sometimes loud, sometimes stupid, sometimes, uh, "over-served." There in section 206 he and I became buds, we became philosophers, we became coaches (convinced that we knew full well what needed to happen on this play, this fourth down or in this time-out than more-so than anyone Tech had on their payroll.) A good day was one where I went home with my hand stinging because he and I had exchanged so many high-fives.
However accidental it was that he and his beautiful family ended up part of our lives, the years that followed acquainted me with his destiny - To make everyone around him happier, better, stronger and feeling important and good about themselves.. It didn't matter if it was family, stranger, someone getting their chemo treatment at the same time he was getting his or just some goober sitting behind him at a ballgame. Perhaps it was his destiny to be that feather that floats on the breeze in and out of lives that needed him.. For a large chunk of the time that I had the pleasure to watch those ballgames with him, I was in terrible health due to large amounts of excess weight. There was a time when my family had to consider whether or not it was safe for me to go through the rigors required of climbing to the upper tier of that venerable old stadium. I was, quite often, mocked in public, pointed at, laughed at and became a sideshow for many sad folks. It often made me rather reclusive, the game was - after all- going to be on t.v. (and a Georgia Tech football game was sometimes the only time I'd even consider putting myself in a crowd.) But knowing HE would be there I insisted on getting there. And there he was, just glad I'd made it, not seeing the fat guy, not seeing the one getting help going up and down stairs, I was just ME and he always seemed glad to see ME. Many times he offered to get me a bottle of water or something from the concession stand knowing that navigating stairs more than I had to wasn't possible. He'd asked how I was feeling but without dwelling on it. Instead, he knew I was there to talk football and I imagine he knew that the time I spent talking it with him took my mind off much sadder issues that usually occupied my mind. He never mentioned my weight to me until I lost a CONSIDERABLE amount of it and could then bound up and and down those stairs like a teenager and get my own bottle of water. THEN he took a minute to shake my hand and say "You look great." He could've slipped me a wad of cash and it wouldn't have felt any better.
We got word that his fight was over very early Saturday morning, just as I'd started loading tailgating necessities into my truck, getting ready to watch the boys play their final home game of 2014. We contemplated not even going to the game wondering if that would show a a certain measure of disrespect to the passing of our friend,. But in those pre-dawn hours we decided there was no greater measure of respect that we could show him than by being there and being very loud. At our tailgating festivities we drank a toast to him (though I'm not sure he approved of such libations) And then, in the third quarter, I stood up on my row and gave the loudest "WHAT'S THE GOOD WORD???????????!!!!!!!!!!" cheer that I've ever mustered for the inhabitants of section 206. Those around us joined with great gusto, emboldened by the beating those wearing white and gold were throwing down on Clemson. I'd like to think he heard us and laughed. Many times over the years he and I dared each other to give that cheer our best shot. My bride told me that on this Saturday she'd never heard my voice get that loud. I told her I must've had some help. Speaking of getting some help, those poor boys from Clemson didn't stand a chance. I like to think Bill was somewhere, giving a push the likes of which he could've never given from section 206 At least one son of Tech did, indeed, "arise, behold!"
The spirit of the cheering throng
Resounds with joy revealing
A brotherhood in praise and song,
In memory of the days gone by.
Oh, Scion of the Southland!
In our hearts you shall forever fly.