Friday, January 8, 2010
We Did It, Cyn
We did it, Cyn. Girl we did it.
I felt you. I couldn't have watched a second of that game without you "there" somehow. Tide nerves. All my talk back when about not being interested in football, about the Crimson Tide. That was blither. You knew.
Cyn called that (Longhorn) bull from hundreds of miles away. That's the thing about keeping friends through the decades. They know your crap.
She always knew when I was thinking about going to the floorboards. You know, the way the Mafia went to the mattresses during times of conflict? When we were little, we slipped keys out of purses and crawled into the family cars, onto the floorboards, to listen to the game on the radio and pray for the Crimson Tide to pull out just one more victory, for us and for the Bear.
I was thinking about doing that on Thursday night, despite the freezing weather, about the time I called that baby Longhorn QB "a little A..-hole" in front of my teenage son. The same baby quarterback I'd worried about earlier when he went in to replace the regular quarterback. "Don't hurt him," I told the mountain-sized Alabama defensemen through the TV screen.
We needed that victory more than Texas. Texas has the Cowboys. Texas has the legends, the romance, the ranches. We used to visit family friends near Denton, Texas, with a ranch that could be viewed only by riding for a long time in a truck. They had peacocks. So I have two beautiful silk shawls with peacocks on them. I slide one over my bare arms and think of Texas. Of big skies, ranches, cowboys and those peacocks.
Paul "Bear" Bryant's Crimson Tide was just about the only positive news coming out of the state during the bad times, the 1960s, as Gov. George Wallace helmed the ugly fight against civil rights. The days of riots and fire hoses, bombings and white hoods. Unspeakable things, people hanging from tree limbs, ropes tied around their necks, horses charging praying men and women asking to be treated like human beings.
And then on Thursday night, our team brought it. Texas suffered a terrible injury early on and that wasn't fair. But still, those teams battled full out. Nobody phoned it in. Nobody sat on the ball to run out the clock in the last minutes, preserving a tie and stealing, in the eyes of the faithful, Alabama's deserved third national championship in a row. (If I must write it, this references the 1967 game against, shudder, Notre Dame).
Cyn wanted it so very badly, this win. So much so that our friend J., an Auburn graduate, sacrificed and pulled for Alabama for two years to make Cyn happy. And the Tide brought it to us, they brought it home. Even though I'm sure the cynical think she wasn't really "here" to see it.
But she's been around, somehow, still. Hovering near the veil, the membrane, whatever it is that separates us from the next place. I've been relaying her stories here, of course. And then last month, my husband found the ornament in the attic, tied with Crimson Tide ribbon. It showed up after being missing for years.
I posted the picture at the top. A few years after I married JO, she made that ornament and mailed it to him. She thought it was time to tell about the "secret clause" that had been inserted into the marriage vows. And which he had solemnly sworn to uphold, 'til death do us part and the like.
Although he was a proud son of the great state of Iowa, marriage to a woman with crimson red blood in her veins comes with a price. And that is sworn allegiance, for a lifetime, to the Tide. Above and beyond all others.
JO liked the idea, actually. An athletic man, he would rather do than watch. But he was happy for an excuse to "marry into a winning football team," as he put it. "Let's face it, the Hawkeyes suck." Well, not always. But he took to the team and converted our son last year, a rabid Washington Redskins fan who previously had no time for college ball. And now JO is working on his brother in Chicago and they're planning a pilgrimage next fall to see the Tide play in Alabama. Tailgating and all.
The ornament has a joke on it -- Cyn wrote "Louise" on the glass bulb, a nickname I gave her when we were little. I don't know why, we thought it was funny. She nicknamed my mother Mildred in response. Louise stuck. Even her mother called her Louise.
So, after Thursday's 37-21 whipping, I can hear "Louise" calling it that now, I think she can safely go on ahead. It's okay. Her work is done here.
She can move away, climb if she needs to, like we did with these mimosa trees in my yard so many times. We spent hours there, escaping from the hot summer sun, planning our futures, making fun of boys. We had no intention of marrying, ever. And then we both did. Twice.
I know a couple of guides who can accompany her if need be. She didn't like being alone, really. Her dad. And of course, mine. The strongest man I've ever known. He was particularly good at leading expeditions in trying circumstances.
I don't have proof. But I know her strong, vibrant, brave spirit is glowing just beyond the veil. And she'll be larking soon, where she's going. And what a treat "others" have in store.
I kept thinking of this after she passed, something I read, by Victor Hugo. It sums up what I think about the afterlife. Not think, feel. And somehow, I know it in my bones, in my blood.
"A ship sails and I stand watching till she fades on the horizon, and someone says, 'she is gone.'
Gone from my sight, that is all; she is just as large as when I saw her...
The diminished size and total loss of sight is in me, not in her, and just at the moment when someone says 'she is gone,' there are others who are watching her coming, and other voices take up a glad shout, 'there she comes!'...
And that is dying."
I can't see Cyn anymore, but I can hear her. Can you? Listen. It's Cyn, or maybe she's going by Louise these days. She's shouting. She's running, a feisty blue-eyed girl, blonde hair flying, growing smaller in my mind's eye, but she's shouting at the top of now-strong lungs, "37-21, 37-21, 37-21!!!!!!!!"
And they are shouting. Cheering. They've been waiting for the likes of her. And they're glad. They're shouting too, "There she comes!"
We love you, Cyn. J. and I and so many people, even those who got to know you by reading about you here. And we will never, ever forget you.