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Multigenerational Mom Muses on Twin Toddlers & Twenty-Something Daughters

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This Teacher & Mama is Worried about this School Year

I’d been feeling so good, so hopeful about having a classroom full of consistently present students this year. That there would be no more masks at school. No more social distancing. No more diligent seating chart documentation. Hopeful there would be no more quarantines. 

I was feeling good about devoting my mind and energy to educating my students, not keeping them disinfected.About sending my boys back to school where the focus would be back on schooling.

I’ve been vaccinated. Many of my fellow faculty members have as well. Even some of my high school students have been. These vaccines, plus Covid19 cases subsiding due to a variety of factors, had me feeling hopeful. 

But then July hit. And the delta variant began wreaking havoc. Cases are rising again.. as rapidly as November of last year. But this time, a new fear comes with the rise. This time, kids are getting really, really sick. 

Last year, the severe coronavirus cases – and/or severe aftereffects — were more likely to occur in adults. And even mild cases left some adults with severe aftereffects – my baby sister being one. Covid19 saddled her with viral myocarditis and only 15% of a functioning heart.

She tells anyone and everyone she can to get vaccinated. I agree. My physician daughter does too. I trust my daughter who knows and trusts the science.

But our kids… the little ones… they can’t get vaccinated yet. And that scares me. 

Last year, our children, our students, were fairly safe. Our school system had only one student hospitalized – with Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome — due to Covid19. Thankfully, that student pulled through. 

But this year, things could be very different. 

This year, with this delta variant, children are being more heavily impacted. This past week, here in Georgia, a five-year-old with zero preexisting conditions died of Covid19.  In Mississippi, seven children under twelve are in the ICU with Covid19. Two on ventillators.

Y’all. That’s scary. As a parent, it’s terrifying. As a teacher, it’s terrifying. This year is terrifying on a whole different level. And while some would argue the odds are minimal, tell that to the parents of these children. 

Our middle and high school students have the option to be vaccinated. And some have been. I am thankful for that. But not all of them have been. Likely, not many.

And none of the elementary school age kids have been. No children under twelve. No children my boys’s age. They haven’t because they can’t yet. But rest assured, as soon as they can be, my boys will be. I want to protect them. And I want to protect others. 

But until then… I’m hopeful that masks will be back. And social distancing. And diligent seating chart documentation. And while I’m prayerful that there will be no more quarantines, I’m worried.

This teacher is worried, yes. 

But mostly, this Mama is worried. 

When Life Gives you the Bird x 3

We found a dead bird under my father’s mattress. It’s the second dead bird since he’s been gone.

The first was the week following his death. It lay in swirls of peach blush and red feathers, sprawled on the outdoor sectional’s cream cushions like a puffy Renaissance nude — an Audubon Society pinup — anticipating a quick nap. Only the nap was prolonged due to a picture window kamikaze mishap.

And then last weekend, the second one. Also red, no blush this time, all sleek and secret under my father’s upstairs master bed mattress. We unearthed it while diving for dumpster deposits in preparation for an estate sale. The mattresses had to go. No one wants to sleep on a dead man’s mattress. Especially a decades-old one. The mattress, that is, but so too, was the man.

And then a third bird — a robin this time — flew headlong into our screened door on Sunday and knocked itself senseless. It hung out for a while on our porch, ruffled and pouring shat like a cement mixer, before finding the wherewithal to fly away.

I’m a big believer in signs. And birds… they’re symbolic. And things in threes — they’re like the Holy Grail of signs and should never be ignored. But what do they mean?

Well, birds are symbolic of souls. Of souls ready to fly. They can be souls bound for glory or souls bound for freedom. Sometimes those things are one and the same. Sometimes they’re not. Here’s hoping they’re not — at least not in terms of that third bird.

Pretty sure the first two are representative of my father’s soul — a soul flown to glory. Especially considering when and where each was found. A bird in a house symbolizes a trapped soul. And when that bird doesn’t make it, it symbolizes death. So, too, does a bird hitting a window.

So here we are… three birds: two dead, one dazed and confused and shitting on my back porch. In a year already swollen and battered by anxiety, I can’t help but worry.

But that third bird… that robin (the species itself a harbinger of spring and new life)… I want to believe that bird symbolizes freedom. Freedom from this pandemic. Freedom from the ungodly stress and hit after hit this year has delivered to me and mine: my kids, husband, extended family, students, school.

This week has been particularly awful. We’ve had upheaval after upheaval. Our boys have croupy colds. My daughter’s boys have croupy colds. My other daughter endured a traumatic patient loss. And then there’s my husband’s and my work week (and it’s only Wednesday).

We have students sitting social distanced in hallways watching class from computer screens, and students sitting quarantined at home watching class from computer screens, and students sitting in class watching class from behind masks. And none are eager to participate. It’s all just too overwhelming.

And then there’s us. The teachers. We have teachers teaching their own students — in a myriad of ways — and teachers teaching other teachers’ students — for a myriad of reasons. We have teachers getting their temperatures taken twice daily because of exposure risk, and teachers taking anti-anxiety meds twice daily because of exposure risk, and teachers getting sick because of exposure risk, and teachers taking early retirement because of exposure risk. It’s all just too overwhelming.

And then there’s my father’s estate. I’m executor. And road blocks and delays are waiting at every turn. None of it’s been easy. Then multiply the “not easy” times a thousand because I am not a financially-inclined, legally-minded sort of individual. Not in the least. So it all keeps me forever off balance. And honest-to-God exhausted.

And any way you look at it, we are all, all of us, taking punches right and left, and the universe just keeps swinging.

It all feels so overwhelming and so honest-to-God impossible.

So here I sit, dazed and confused in a pile of shit not of my making, as the blows rain down upon me, and I pray there is another way. That there are indeed, better days coming.

That robin on my back porch regrouping while the wind whipped around it — I really need it to symbolize me. All of us. My family. My students. My school. My community. My country. All of us struggling under the whiplash of all the screen doors slamming us sideways right now — but still fighting our way toward freedom. Toward rebirth.

Bruised, battered, and split stem to stern, though we may be, I need to know we can rise above the monumental, excremental existence we’ve been living for far too long now and learn to soar. Again.

Amen.

2020 Won: now to find myself again

The holidays felt so very different this year. Not like the holidays at all.

Like so many, I lost a loved one in 2020. My father. And I nearly lost an aunt, an aunt who is still not out of the woods. And while neither were victims of Covid19, we’re still theoretically victims: my dad’s siblings couldn’t come to his funeral, my aunt’s wife and family are isolated from her, and I didn’t see my daughters at Christmas.

Nor did I see my husband on New Year’s Eve — or for the dawn of this rainy new year. He’s quarantined in the basement and has been for a week now. No kiss for me from him on New Year’s Eve — for the first time since the calendar turned from 07 to 08.

Christmas just didn’t feel like Christmas — even with the Christmas star. Even with the conjoined energy of shimmering planets sending out hope for the first time in 800 years. And boy, this year has felt like eight hundred. And we desperately need to see — and feel — more beacons of light in this darkness.

And we had one — one we were going to not just see on the horizon, but actually be a part of. Our high school football team — in this most-hazardous and unprecedented of years, achieved the near-impossible: they made it to the state championship.

My husband coaches on this team. The season was longer, more exhaustive (and exhausting), and anxiety-riddled than any other. And our team made it all the way to the pinnacle. The coaches, players and families dedicated more time and energy, and made more sacrifices this year than in any other. But while the team made it to the ship, we didn’t.

We were separated from that, too. By Covid19. So my husband and I watched on television, separated from each other and from the rest of our team.

And to add insult to injury, the other team won. Big time.

And now its New Year’s Day. 2021. And I saw a meme about how when you say it out loud, it’s “2020 won.”

And that’s pretty much how I feel.

Defeated and depressed and about as far from who I am as I’ve ever been.

Isolated. From my loved ones and myself.

Divided by walls. Walls I’ve put up to insulate my heart against more hurt. And walls I’m relying on to insulate my body from a virus. I feel like I’m living in a steel bunker and trying to ride out the storm. Alone.

Well, not quite alone. I have twin six-year-old boys with me. Two six-year-old, stir-crazy boys doing their best to stir their mama up. To push my buttons and release a raging inferno of wrath. And the one thing that’s saving them is I don’t have much spark left.

Rachel Platt may sing it only takes one match, but my match is nearly snuffed out. It’s barely flickering. It’s spitting and hissing under the weight of all the darkness. Darkness that descended in March, but got really, really oppressive on November 17th and hasn’t let up yet.

And in just three days time, I have to emerge from this bunker and back into the perils of my parallel universe… the one with more people surrounding me, but where I feel equally alone. And much more vulnerable.

Next week, I will go back into a classroom, where I will hunker down with over 160 rotating currents of students. Eight times a day, students will flow in and out of the halls and classrooms, bringing and leaving tide pools of contagion that teachers hopefully can contain and curtail with Clorox wipes and seating charts.

But the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks made it abundantly clear that those weapons were not nearly enough.

And right now, I don’t know that I am enough — that I have enough. Enough of what it takes to face more obstacles, difficulties, and darkness.

2020 won. I hope 2021 is a bit kinder and gentler, and I pray it will give me some time to get up, dust off, and find myself again.

Was I Responsible? A Brutally Honest Reflection on My Father’s Last Year

This week, we buried my father.

On the day after Thanksgiving, at the start of the holiday season, we laid my dad to rest. Among those present were five grandchildren, four neighbor friends, three mourning girls, two sons-in-law, and a pastor sans a pear tree.

We kept it small. We sent him to glory in a rough-hewn coffin among the smallest of crowds. In this time of coronavirus, we tried to be responsible. No sibling of his was present. No son. No church family, save his pastor and a crew of food pantry volunteers (of which he had been one) watching from the safety of a truck on the driveway.

We kept it small, trying to be responsible. We had been so responsible for so very long. Or had we?

I had not seen my dad since February. I was trying to protect him.

I called him. Often. In the beginning of the pandemic I called him every day. Then every other. Then when school started back, every other week. Things got really hectic. Teaching school and coaching football in 2020 is no small feat. But I spoke to him more than I ever had in my life. I can honesty say that.

Still.

I hadn’t seen Dad since February. The last thing he texted me as I invited him to a gathering at my house for the Saturday before Thanksgiving (outside in an attempt to protect him and my mother and her partner, all hovering around the 80-year mark) was, “The Lord continues to be merciful and gracious to the completion of my bucket list.”

Getting everybody together again after such a long absence was on his list. We were so close. Four days away.

As a matter of fact, my sister and I were even closer than that. We were supposed to meet him on Wednesday– the day after he died. We had an appointment to look at a cottage in an assisted living community, but Dad didn’t show.

I didn’t have an inkling. Not a premonition, one. I always thought I would. I always thought I would know if something happened to someone I loved dearly.

He’d had them. When his dear Aunt Emmy died, he woke in the middle of the night to see her ascend to heaven in a hot air balloon. But me, I had no idea. He did, however, send me a signal — I just didn’t realize it.

The Tuesday night he died, alone, in his basement, tangled up in a chair, I developed a pain under my left shoulder blade, a throbbing behind my heart under my rib cage. It started right after dinner and bothered me all night and all the next day. I’ve never had an ache there EVER. But it was persistent. I tried stretching my back, pressing against door frames, taking Advil. Nothing did the trick.

Then, after my sister and I realized Dad wasn’t at our appointed meeting place at our appointed meeting time — after I’d summoned help from a neighbor friend of his (a neighbor so kind and generous, who I can never thank enough) — after he found my father, after my father was no longer lying there alone… the pain went away. Vanished.

I believe it was a sonar signal from Dad. From his heart to mine. A beacon begging he be found, my sweet-hearted, broken-hearted, father.

He’d died, the coroner tells us, of a massive heart attack. Instantly. Approximately twenty-four hours before we found him — approximately the same time my pulsing pain had begun.

I had not seen him since February. I was trying to protect him. Instead, I lost him.

Was it worth it? I honestly don’t know. I want to say no.

But then I will also say this… Our family, who was so very careful for so very long, gathered together in my father’s honor, and Covid, despite our precautions and best intentions, caught fire and spread like lighter fluid on the flames of our grief.

Three of the third-generation family members who came in for his funeral have come down with the virus. Six more of us are now in quarantine. The three with Covid are young. They have been thoroughly knocked off their feet. I pray they are soon well — and the odds are definitely with them.

But at seventy-eight, the odds would not have been in my father’s favor. And the illness could have (would have?) wreaked havoc on his body. It could have proved a slow and painful, a brutal end.

But I hadn’t seen him since February. Was that not also a slow and painful and brutal end?

I am wracked with guilt. This virus is awful. But did it also make me an awful daughter?

I certainly feel that way. I feel awful.

Teaching inside Covid’s Inferno

While teaching Dante to my honors sophomores, I can’t help but reflect on the parallels between his epic journey and the year 2020.

We should’ve known when we lost Kobe that this year did not bode well. Then March happened. And schools took a “two week break” to flatten the curve, and there was no turning back.

The year should’ve borne a warning label: “Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here.”

Two weeks trying to flatten the curve turned into two months, then two seasons, and now three. It seems there’s no flattening this curve. The bell swells bigger and bigger — but in reverse — as down we go, sagging lower and lower into this hell curve.

We’ve been plunged into Covid’s Inferno. A continuous downward spiral. Concentric circles of darkness and despair.

My students are suffering. My fellow teachers. My family. Me. We’re all suffering. Schedules and structure have been harrowed, relationships strained, connectivity disrupted, disjointed, destroyed. Time lost. Joy lost. Lives lost. Adolescent angst is at an all time high. Adult spirits are at an all-time low.

For a brief while — at the end of September — things finally seemed to be looking up. Turns out, we were just climbing one of the rocky walls that separate some of the more wretched ditches of the depths of hell.

Things began crumbling beneath us again. We rode a rockslide of new outbreaks, new quarantines, huge empty sections of classes as students became At-Home-Learners — a new, benign term for a much-maligned state in this 2020 school year. So… we went on hybrid again.

There are lots of hybrid creatures in Dante’s version of hell, half human, half beast. And now there are hybrid schedules in our version. Half our students here for half a week while the other half are at home, then switch.

The hybrid schedule is likewise half beast. Students really struggle with it. Still, at least kids are meeting with teachers in person. At least we can see their faces — half of them, anyway. Half-faced students, all foreheads and eyes, the rest hidden beneath masks.

Some say eyes are the windows to the soul. If that’s true, these kids still feel hopeless, despite our best efforts. Lost in a hell swamp. Drowning in an abyss of strangeness, angst, and isolation. And we are too… we teachers are drowning too.

We’re all fighting so hard. To stay afloat. To stay positive. To do good work. But we’re exhausted. It‘s an exhaustion like we’ve never known before.

And now, watching the news and seeing the headlines, the pictures — the miles and miles of cars waiting for COVID tests outside Dodger stadium, the pop up morgues constructed in El Paso, the renewed lockdowns in New York City — I feel like we’re waiting for a tidal wave to hit us and we’re armed with nothing more than a mask for safe passage across the swirling torrents of infection. Masks and wishful thinking.

…and so often kids let the masks slide down their noses and mouths while talking to each other and to me, sending droplets circulating into 2nd circle whirlwinds waiting to sweep us all up in their contagion. Droplets poised like microscopic 7th circle centaurs, arrows pointed at our chests.

It’s hard to guard ourselves from infection. If we haven’t been impacted physically, we’ve been impacted emotionally. Our hearts are feeling defeated. Covid has threatened every piece of refuge we have — school, home, church, and now, in this season, holiday gatherings. It threatens our every peace, this snapping, vicious multi-headed beast.

We’re in the ninth month of this journey. Surely we’re nearly done. I want so desperately to believe it… that Satan’s about to show his ass one final time so we can crawl down the hairy hank and emerge from this Hell hole of a year and into the shining light again.

I don’t know when it will be over, but I know it will. One day, good Lord willing –and hopefully soon — we will emerge, better for the journey. Wiser. More compassionate and understanding and thankful.

Good Lord Willing.

God, I hope it’s soon.

.

Get us off this Bumper Car Demolition Derby Year

This year is out of control. And the hits just keep coming.

Teaching in a pandemic is no joke. Being a Democrat in the South in an election year is no joke. Staying optimistic in the midst of unfiltered negativity and knee-jerk reactionaries is no joke. Unmuffled jeeps waving Trump flags and wearing MAGA hats stealing our Biden sign on Halloween night is no joke. Sweet-faced, golden haired, eleven-year-old girls coming into my yard in broad daylight to steal our sign — proclaiming it illegal, but willing to do it anyways (until I stop them and tell them to move along) — is no joke.

What is this world coming to? What is wrong with people? With the universe? With me?

I feel like no matter what I do, nothing is in my control anymore. Like I’m living on a bumper car track — strapped in and tethered to some chaotic electric current of negativity and mayhem. Like an All-State commercial has taken over my life. My world.

Sometimes I feel slightly in control. I can feel the tug of the steering column on the rubber beneath me as I try valiantly to drive my life and stay healthy and in good humor. And it begrudgingly responds to my demands — until some flying obstacle slams into me and sets me spinning inside this cosmic carny ride.

Well, I’m tired of this wild ride.

I’m tired of the gleeful abandonment of humanity I see on a daily basis. I’m tired of being accosted by distorted, funhouse mirror versions of values.

I want kindness and order again — not “law and order” makeshift militias raiding my property on Halloween night while my boys and I are snuggled up in our pajamas watching “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown.” Robbing our boys of sweet memories and replacing them with nightmares of cult followings and cruelty. Robbing my husband and me of our faith in this country’s democracy and the processes it founded so long ago.

My heart and my country have been flung off course from all directions.

Nothing feels normal anymore. Nothing feels right. Everybody seems to have an accelerator, but no brakes. An uncanny ability to aim for one another with a gleam in our eye and maniacal laugh on our lips. I do my best to stay out of the way of barreling bullies intent on careening me off course, but it is getting harder and harder to do.

Because I’m leashed to this bumper car demolition derby of a year and I despise everything about it.

I’m tired. I am a strong, fierce female fighting the good fight, but boy, am I tired.

Somebody bring back compassion and calm. Somebody cut the negative energy encircling and snaring us all. How about a whole lot of somebodies… Let’s cut this negative energy at its source and bring back the compassion and calm of America again.

The Absence of Smiles

Do you ever feel like the celery in a hot wings basket? Or an ad on YouTube? Or the tootsie roll in the bottom of the Halloween pumpkin? Judged and found lacking? Or ignored altogether? Unable to connect?

I’ve been feeling that a lot lately. And I think it’s the isolation behind the mask. I find myself trying to connect by overcompensating — chattering aimlessly, using lots of hand gestures, smiling till my eyeballs vanish — trying to appear welcoming, to sound happy, to be happy. But I probably just seem crazy.

Teaching through a mask to 190-plus students also wearing masks is lonely business. And no matter how hard I try, they mostly stare silently back at me. Judging me. Or worse — not caring. Or even worse still — feeling as isolated as me.

Because I definitely feel lonely. And dejected. And detached. (And I fear that they do too.)

There’s a human connection we miss when we can’t see whole faces. Two-thirds of our features are currently hidden. And what’s hurting me most is the lack of smiles. I’m missing them something fierce.

And it’s breaking me.

Smiling’s my favorite. They’re so contagious — way more than COVID-19. And while the virus droplets aren’t getting shared and spread, neither are the smiles.

And I’m not just missing the smiles. I’m missing myself. It’s like my personality has been purloined by my PPE.

I never thought not seeing smiles could impact me so much.

But even without the masks, smiles are so few and far between right now. Everything and everyone is so angry and divided. Between the plague and the politics, I feel a social distance not solely attributable to the pandemic.

We’ve been losing our humanity for a long time now. And it’s what I need more of. More connections and grace. Not more exclusion and judgement.

Not more I’m better than you because I think like this. Or I’m better than you because I have accomplished this. Or I’ve been rewarded with this. Or I wear this. Or drive this. Or live here. Or work there. Or have this skin color. Or vote this color.

I want to belong, not to exclude. I want to be a part of something. Not to feel like the last one picked. But also not to be part of a click. And I definitely don’t want to be a dick. I just want to be included and to include others. To be a part of, not apart from.

Can’t we do better? Can’t we love better? and live better? and be better? Even behind masks? Because I am a believer in the safety and science of masks. But I’m also a big believer in smiles.

I miss sharing and spreading and basking in smiles.

The Most Critical of Workers are Reporting for Duty: Students in the Pandemic

As school starts back, we have a whole new essential workforce hitting the frontline in the pandemic. Teachers were labeled critical workers by the POTUS. And that is as it should be. We are willing and able to meet the challenges ahead — especially with a dedicated and conscientious school system supporting us. 

But I’m here to call attention to another group of critical workers out there — a group vital to the core function of society and the entire future of our great nation. A group of young, unsung heroes willing to do whatever it takes to succeed under strange and difficult demands. 

I’m talking about our students.

The changes these kids are facing — and embracing — are enough to rattle the steadiest of veterans. Our school has opened on a hybrid schedule, leaving us at half capacity inside our walls, with kids reporting both in person and virtually at different times throughout the week. The hallways and stairwells have one-way signs, there are hand sanitizer stations every fifty feet, lunches are eaten inside classrooms, masks are worn when social distancing isn’t possible, and desks face one direction and sit six feet apart.

But these kids of ours — these superhero Gen-Z go-getters — they are taking all these hurdles in stride just to be here and be educated in far-from-ideal and so-far-from- normal conditions.

And they’re doing it with smiles on their faces. Not that I can see their mouths, thanks to the masks they wear so willingly — but I can see those smiles in their eyes. And they can see mine. Or I truly hope so. Because I love being with them again, interacting, forging relationships, watching light bulbs click on, discussions unfold, learning ignite. 

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s far from easy peasy Lysol squeezy. Despite our school system creating one of the best re-opening plans I’ve seen out there, I’m not gonna lie, things feel weird. Because being socially distanced to keep us all together is messing with the normally exaggerated and wide-open personalities of my teen students.

I’m sure some of it has to do with the trauma of the past four months — the PTSD of losing classrooms and classmates and social lives literally overnight. And I’m sure a large part also has to do with the smaller class sizes and the masks we wear.

But y’all… I’m used to kids who like to talk. Who, if anything, talk too much most of the time. They’re teenagers. On the cusp of adulthood. It’s a confusing stage under normal circumstances. So they talk through their confusion in class A LOT… way more than they do at home. They feel freer to vocalize thoughts, feelings, dreams, and fears. And through their persistent chatter, formal class discussions, and best-friend heart-to-hearts, they learn who they are, what they know, what they believe, and where they stand in life. And I love that about teenagers. 

Like, really. I’m not lying. Some teachers love it when their students are silent. But me, I love it when they’re not. When they feel comfortable and safe enough to give voice to their rapidly-evolving thoughts and feelings. 

But this year, they are quiet. Eerily so — as if the masks are acting as mufflers. 

And not just for them. Me too. 

I teach because I love to make connections, to share literature and love and learning with young people so they know and understand their worth and potential. My goal is always to make a positive impact. 

But this year, my impact feels muffled, like my best efforts are falling on… not quite deaf ears, but more like mute mouths. Our kids, I think, feel vulnerable and isolated and self-conscious. 

But then, these kids are also brave. Brave and here. At school. In a brick and mortar building. Present and determined. They make me prouder than they’ll ever know. 

I wish I could put into words how much I love them. How far I am willing to go to help them succeed. How much they inspire me to be the best possible teacher — because they deserve only the very best. 

As our superintendent says, this school year should be seen not as a challenge, but as an opportunity. An opportunity to grow and become better at our craft. I want to be a better communicator and a better teacher — to bridge the social distancing distance and reach my students. And teach my students. And see them grow. 

I will rise to that opportunity, and I will seize it with both hands (well-sanitized, of course).

Because my students are willing to do the same. 

The Alchemy of Football: Spinning Straw into Gold

Football players know how to spin straw into gold. They know how to take the tough times and hard hits and turn them all into victory. Into pure gold.

Football has proven to me that alchemy exists. Remember alchemy? The science of legend and starry-eyed madness — that Middle Ages’ fever to turn base matter into precious metal?

It can be done. Football has discovered the secret. But there’s no short-cut, no cheating, no sleight-of-hand or fairy dust or smoke and mirrors. It takes months and months and years and years of dedication, sacrifice, discipline, and hard work.

The transformation is real, but not everybody makes it through to the other side. The process is hard. The grind is grueling. And if you survive it, you transcend it. And the result is pure gold.

But this year, the alchemy may be interrupted.

The hard work — the blood, sweat, tears put in during the off-season — may all get upended. Snatched away before the first opponent is faced. Snatched away by a virus that has completely transformed the world into something none of us recognize. A kind of reverse alchemy where conversation becomes altercation, faith reduced to condemnation, politics spun to propaganda — fueling shutdowns and shouting matches. A virus ending with so much death — of people, civility, relationships.

And in the aftermath of this virus, in an upside-down world, we may lose football for a season.

Robert Frost penned a famous poem about how quickly beauty and youth and life can pass us by — how “Nothing Gold Can Stay.” But I refuse to believe that. Beauty may be fleeting, and youth and life as well, but character is steady. Character remains.

That character is particularly evident in the new movement currently underway to give players input in decision making. One of the leaders of this newly-established #WeWantToPlay initiative is Trevor Lawrence, a player with well-established, 24 karat character.

Trevor is leading the charge to allow Power 5 conferences to play football. His points are valid and well-articulated. These schools have abilities that smaller colleges (and high schools) don’t have. They have the funds to take proper precautions and place programs in bubbles that will isolate and monitor players, their contacts, and their health. While there are still risks, these colleges’ situations are as ideal as it’s possible to be right now.

Still, there would be sacrifices. Beyond the risk of actual contraction are the documented after-effects of COVID-19, including potentially life-altering heart complications. These young adults are willing to make the sacrifice. They are adults, after all. They should have a say. Their voices should be heard.

High school football is another story entirely.

My family is involved with high school football. Our players are not adults. They do, however, know and understand sacrifice. Both the boys and their coaches have sacrificed a lot for the season already — and now they may end up sacrificing their season. It’s a sacrifice they never saw coming; one nobody signed up for.

Sacrifices are hard. In a normal year, football demands countless hours of sweat, blood, tears, bruises, sore muscles, brain power, and lost family and social time. This year, the sacrifices could be far more.

There are no easy answers. Some will have a voice in the choices of sacrifices. Others will not.

But if I’ve learned anything about football, it’s that sacrifice renders gold. If the Power 5 conferences have football, those players and their coaches will spin straw into gold.

And if high school and the smaller conferences don’t have a season, they, too, will spin straw into gold.

Even if the alchemy of football is interrupted… its magic will not be reversed. It will not be halted. It will persist and proclaim itself victorious. These young men and their coaches will come out on the other side stronger.

For all involved in football programs, it’ll sting — and way more than a little bit. It’ll hurt — a lot. For us, football IS fall. But the loss (or unexpected win) of a season won’t cause any of these coaches and players to fall. They know sacrifice. They’ve overcome pain and hardship before.

Because the gold of football is not in the wins, in the trophies or championships, in the college careers or NFL draft picks.  No, the pure gold that is forged from football is strength of character. So while the spent blood, sweat, and tears of the off-season may come to nothing, it won’t really come to nothing. Not really.

These players and coaches — from high school to college– have gold pumping in their hearts, fueling their souls, and lighting their wisdom. They are strong, brave, principled, driven, and more flexible than a game plan at halftime.

With or without a season, these programs will be victorious.Their gold will stay.

And even better, their gold will help lead the way out of this dark age and back into light.

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