We were running a little late, which conflicts with every ounce of my personality. I’m nothing if not punctual. The traffic between Bruce and Oxford early mornings and around 5 p.m. is always amazing to see, and it cost us this night.
We finally arrive at FNC Park on the north side of Oxford and begin making the long walk toward the farthest soccer field from the parking lot when I tell 10-year-old granddaughter Addi Claire (AC),
who was helping me carry gear, to run on ahead to get ready for her game.
“You need to be with your team. Ellie and I will take care of all this,” I said.
“I’ll carry my drink,” 7-year-old granddaughter Ellie explains to me.
“Who is going to help me with the other drinks and carrying both of the chairs?” I asked.
“You can handle it,” Ellie said with supreme confidence. And yet she gets angry when we jokingly call her “The Boss.”
We make it to our spot, halfway between the corner flag and goal off the end line (I like to view AC playing from an attacking position to use soccer terms) and I fold out some chairs and organize the drinks as AC goes through warm ups with her soccer team. It didn’t take long with temps hovering over 90 and the heat index in triple digits.
As soon as I got sat down, “The Boss” proclaims she needs some money. I reach for it and realize I hauled everything from the car except my wallet.
“You’ll have to wait for your daddy,” I explain. “He’ll be here any minute.”
He walked up shortly after and she got her “Dipping Dots.” Ellie is playing soccer for the first time at Oxford this year, and I don’t know that she didn’t ask to play simply because the concession stand at the park sells “Dipping Dots.”
Five minutes into the game and AC receives the ball at the top of the box, cuts left to fake out the last defender and takes one more dribble to approach the goal. The keeper freezes and AC buries the ball in the corner for a 1-0 lead. There’s no jumping up and down and celebrating on her end, and I try to always be calm because I know how she’s easily embarrassed. She matter-of-factly jogs back to midfield to get into position for the kickoff.
But then, it’s that absolute best moment. Once she gets to her spot, she turns back and gives me a look with a little smile. It’s one of the best moments ever, and thankfully I get to enjoy it a lot.
My late father-in-law Gale Denley always joked about the grands – “Love to see them come. Love to see them go.” I can relate to that. My late wife Lisa never could. Even when she was exhausted beyond means from chasing them endlessly, five minutes after they left, she was beginning to miss them.
Like all grandparents, I love watching my grands do most anything, but the absolute best is AC on the soccer field.
The opposing team had rallied to tie the game at two when in the last minutes AC stole the ball, transitioned perfectly and scored the game-winner. I applauded and waited, and then it came, that beautiful look and a smile.