What’s in a game? Try looking through the eyes of our children

With a few minutes to spare before Alexis’s soccer game, we stopped at a Shell station.  We stocked up on gas and lemon/grape Trident gum. (Sugarless is de rigueur. Grandpa Bob is an oral surgeon.)

On the way out, Alexis said, “Make your dream a reality. I read that on a moving truck a few minutes ago. It’s stuck in my head.”

Burton and I were staying with our three granddaughters in Glencoe, IL, for the weekend.  Their mom and dad were out of town.

I asked our then-almost-10-year old, “What dream do you want to make a reality today?”

“I’d like to score a goal.”

In the first quarter Kate, a teammate on Purple Power, saw an opportunity. The Strikers goalie missed a kick. Kate pounced on the ball and shot it into the goal. Soon after, Alexis stole a ball from Lillian, star of the Strikers, and angled it into the net.

Within minutes, Alexis commandeered the ball, ran it the length of the field—and scored again.

I watched my granddaughter dart and fly, totally focused on the game. For a minute in that bright sunshine, I was back in Huntington Woods, MI, on the sidelines of a dusty Burton School baseball diamond. Alexis’s father Andy was about her age, pitching in little league. He had racked up a lead of several runs and was taken out to give another boy a chance. Before long the score was tied. Final inning.  Bases loaded.  No outs.

The coach signaled Andy to return to the mound. Too much pressure for anyone, I thought. Andy’s arm was hot, but his head was cool. He struck out the next three batters. As I watched his daughter play with equal skill and resolve, I thought about her daddy’s comeback that day. For just a moment, my view blurred.

At halftime, Purple Power was ahead, 3 to 1.

I approached Alexis and said, “Reality, twice.”  She gave me a grin and a fist bump.

Alexis played goalie in the 3rd period. Lillian bore down, aimed for the corner and kicked the perfect shot. Alexis dove. Her hand deflected the ball. Saved. In the 4th, Alexis was back on the offensive but didn’t score. Lillian did. The Strikers made 3 more goals.

Final score: 4:3.

Though I’m no athlete (as numerous golf partners will attest), I’m a zealous fan. I was disappointed for Alexis. She, however, let the loss go with grace.

Next stop: then-7-year old Camryn’s game. We showed up at what we thought was the right field. It turned out to be in the middle of a bike race. Several recumbent bikes passed, their riders working their arms, having lost one or both legs. Tears sprang back to my eyes. These athletes were still in the game, courageous and determined in spite of their limitations.

When no other orange t-shirts showed up, we called Andy and learned we had come to the wrong field. But as I cheered those challenged athletes, I thought about how blessed our family is: six grandchildren, arms and legs intact.

I thanked God. And I let go of my earlier disappointment.

The wrong field was the right field for me.

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