|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.52(d)|
Read an Excerpt
By D.W. Sower
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2012 D.W. Sower
All right reserved.
Chapter OneWhat day is it?
Grandpa! Wake up ... Wake up! You know what day it is?" My grandson, Christoph III, called out as he came into my room.
"Game day." I replied as I was barely awake.
"What day is it!?" He stated louder, now standing next to the bed.
"Game day!" I shouted as I started to roll out of bed.
"Always! You ready?" I yelled as I picked him up and lifted him over my head.
"Always!" He cried out.
He's only seven years old but has a love for the game like no other child. Christoph has been our team's water boy for two years and knows all of my sayings and habits like the back of his hand.
"Where's your papa?" I asked as I sat him back on the ground.
"Everyone is downstairs waiting for you. I was told to come wake you."
"And a fine job you did! I'll be down in a minute." He went to the door and waited. Growing impatient he yelled out,
"Faster grandpa! Quick feet! Quick feet!"
Quick feet, a simple expression the young boy has heard thousands of times while standing by my side. After putting on a pair of practice shorts and shirt, I slowly follow him towards the stairs. Watching my grandson pick his knees as if he was doing a ropes drill put a smile on my face. While being led down the stirs I am hit with the smell of biscuits, bacon, coffee and so much more. Instead of taking a right towards the kitchen, I am led to the left towards the library. Looking down the hall I see an array of new décor.
"Hold on son." I paused as I came to the first picture.
"Do you like?"
"These are ..." I muttered as I looked down the line of pictures.
"All your teams' grandpa."
"How ... Who?" were all the words I could get out as I slowly walk down the hall and visit decades past. Seeing all the faces brings back so many memories of games and field house shenanigans.
"Everyone grandpa. We've been working a long time."
I felt a tug on my arm but I didn't want to leave. I wanted to soak it all in. Although these pictures are hanging in our field house I haven't paid attention to them since I put them on the wall. I've had the chance to look at them everyday for forty years but never took the opportunity to do so and now that I take the time I am pulled away.
"Wait. I have to give the knock."
With two quick taps the double doors began to move. As the doors slowly opened, I start to see my wife, Elizabeth, surrounded by the rest of the family and the seniors of my team. Banners lined the room saying "We will miss you coach" and "Thanks for everything" were signed by other teams from the school. Trophies from all the districts, regions, states, and footballs signed by each team fill the room. The three captains from this years team come up to me.
"Coach, you've watched us grow up for the past six years and you were the only one who never gave up on me. I got into Tech because of you and have memories for a lifetime. Today's state is one for the ages and I won't let you down."
Eric handed me a ball signed by the team and starts towards the front door.
"Coach, he said it all. You gave us more than just a game." Derrick said walking up to me.
As he shook my hand I saw a tear starting to roll down his cheek. Derrick's background is a lot like mine and he needed this game just as much as it needed him. I nodded and he started to follow Eric. Steven, whom I've known since he was a baby, walks up to me.
"You've known me awhile now," he says with a grin. "My family owes you more than most. You gave my dad a ball to hold instead of a knife. The game kept him in school and off the streets. The rest is history. It's scary to think where I'd be if you didn't help him." From his backpack he pulls out an old ball. "This is the ball you gave him that day. We both find it fitting that it goes back to you today."
Written on the ball was "I owe you my life. You gave me more than just a game," signed Pete. A firm hand shake and Steven followed the same path as Eric and Derrick.
Steven's dad, Pete, was on his way to stick a guy and to be honest I don't remember why. It was during my planning period and I was watching some film while tossing the ball in the air, when I saw Pete walking by with a knife in hand. Back then it wasn't a rare scene. I took the back entrance to my class and cut him off, grabbed him by his neck and pushed him up against the wall. I told him he had two choices. One, do what he was planning to do and possibly not make it out of here. Two he would give me the knife, come to lifting after school, and all would be forgotten. Now maybe it was the lack of oxygen or maybe he gained some clarity, but he dropped the knife. I let him go and picked up the knife. In my other hand I was still holding the ball and gave it to him stating that he was my new tailback. Pete still holds the school's rushing record.
The other eighteen seniors followed Steven out with each saying thanks and giving a handshake. I still can't believe what everyone had done for me. My son wakes me out of my trance by shouting,
"Come on dad, there's plenty of time for looking. Now let's do what we all do best ... eat."
"I'll be right there."
Everyone started for the kitchen except for Elizabeth. She grabbed my hand, gave me a kiss on the cheek, and asked,
"So how do you like?"
"It's amazing. I can't believe that you all did this."
"It started with us making a few calls and before we knew it people were calling us asking what they could do for you. We also have a retirement banquet for you in two weeks. I also have a little reading material for your trip." In her free hand she had a manila letter sized envelope. "Some of your players who won't be able to make your banquet and some that can want you know how much playing for you meant so they wrote in. Come, we will have plenty of time now to look."
I took the envelope from her, laid it on the inn-table, and with a tug on my hand she led me to the kitchen. Some how they were able fix the library, hallway, and cook breakfast throughout the night without me hearing a thing. It was quickly becoming one of the most memorable days of my life. We ate our fill and laughed about old games and memories around the house.
We had finished eating and my daughters Sarah and Jessica as well as my daughter-in-law Brittany, took the kids to school. Jessica had the oldest of the grandkids. Jeremy is thirteen and Chelsea is sixteen. Sara has the most kids with three. Laura is twelve, Samuel is ten, and Jacob is eight. Christoph and Brittany only have Christoph III for now. It would take the girls a bit to get back so to help the wives out Christoph and my sons-in law Rob, who married to Sarah, and Justin, who married to Jessica, started to clear the table and make a fresh pot of coffee.
Despite this being game day, the whole family took the day off work. I haven't been teaching a class for about fifteen years but I had never taken a game day off. I am always at the school checking on players, cleaning the field house, watching film, or just helping secretaries or teachers out wherever needed. But I took the day off to soak it all in and now with the surprise I'm glad I did.
"Guys, do ya'll mind finishing up cleaning while I go clean up?"
"Sure dad, we got it covered. We'll meet you in the library."
"Thanks." I headed back upstairs to take a shower and shave. I scrolled through my IPOD to one of my favorite albums, Tool's Undertow, and put it on while the water got hot. The album is over fifty years old but has stood the test of time. It helps me focus, think, and always brings back a few memories. It's hard to believe that I will be leaving Athens after so long and as the water flowed over me I got lost in the music and the memory of a call from my first high school coach, Steven Smith.
* * *
"Christopher, this is Coach Smith. How are you?"
"Doing well coach, how about yourself?"
"Not bad. I wanted to run something by you if you got a few minutes."
"Of course coach, what's on your mind?"
"Well Christopher, it seems as though the powers that be want me to move on. We have had a few rough seasons and they think that they need some young blood to revamp the program."
"I wouldn't call a 7-4, 9-3, and 6-5 hard time's coach. It's just the way it turns out sometimes and besides you got to the playoffs every year."
"Past few years were just ok and we had a couple losing season before that. The administration isn't the same as when I came in. The ones who backed me are gone and we haven't won a state title since you left. I'm not going to lie to you Christopher it will be a huge undertaking. Fan support has dropped and due to budget cutbacks the funding for athletics has almost been eliminated. Even the weight room has taken a hit. We couldn't spend money on fixing equipment so once it broke we had to toss it. It's half the size it used to be. The tradition that we once had is starting to fade. One of the good things is that they are allowing me to stay for the search. I wanted to ask you first if you would be interested, so how about it?
"Coach, I'm only in my third year of coaching and that's only been as an assistant. I don't think that I'll be considered to run a program."
"You got playbooks?"
"You got a lifting program?"
"You know how to talk to people?"
"You care about the players?"
"Then you will be fine. You're one of the best players that I ever coach and unfortunately I didn't get as much time with you as I would have liked. You know this game better than anyone, including myself. You have the knowledge, devotion, and youth that these administrators are looking for. Most importantly, I wouldn't have asked you if I didn't think you have what it takes. Think it over and give me a call back."
"Yes sir, as always I appreciate your confidence in me, thanks coach." With that we hung up and I went straight to Elizabeth and told her everything.
"Is it what you want?"
"Of course I want my own program, just so soon and the way its happening. Coach is a great man and I hate that they are cutting him short just because of a couple of so called bad seasons. Each season they have been to the playoffs and the administration still doesn't want him there. Another thing is coach said the funding has been cut. They want winning seasons but aren't willing to pay for it."
"Well you know we can donate any money you need for the program, so you shouldn't worry about that. Do you think they will cut you loose if you don't win?"
"Not think, I know they will."
"Well what do you think then?"
"My style is so similar to Coach Smith's that it should be an easy transition for the players, me, the current staff, and anyone else I would be able to bring in. But this doesn't just affect me Elizabeth, being a head coach means we will give up even more time together during season. I don't mean just a little more either, probably about twenty hours more a week during season. So what do you want to do?"
"Well thankfully we don't have to worry about money so it's not like it will be a financial risk. As long as I'm with you then I'll be happy anywhere. And if this means you get your shot at a program of your own then you need to take it. Give him a call back and find out what you need to do."
I picked up the phone and a month later we made the move to Athens. Although the first couple seasons were a bit rough we survived and re-established Athens High as one of the most dominating programs in Georgia.
* * *
Sober had just finished when I turned off the shower. I went to my side of the bathroom and began to shave. I've grown out my beard for more years than I can remember so it never takes long to shave. With each stroke of the razor an old face is revealed. I was twenty-six when I got the call from Coach Smith and everyone that helped me on my way has been gone for years now. To me today isn't just my day, it's theirs as well. When many people are young they don't realize the importance of people around you; however, when you get to be my age and reflect on your life it's the positive supporting cast that made you who you are today. That is of course if you listened to them. Once I was finished I got dressed and went back to the library to get a better look at what everyone had done.
When the ladies returned they all joined us in the library and we sat by a lightly glowing fire. It's just a little after eight and we started with just small talk about what I am going to do after the game. For once I didn't have an answer. It was the first time in forty-three years that I wouldn't have to start breaking down film or arranging next years line up after the game. All was great until Jr. asked a question that I had been avoiding since the kids were born.
"Dad, I don't want to ruin the morning. Looking at the pictures and trophies, I can see what you've done and where you've been since coaching. There are pictures and albums full of you and mom in college, of mom's family, and of your extended family. We've always done the family gatherings, met all the cousins, great aunts and uncles on your side. Whenever I'd ask Uncle Joseph or Aunt Stephanie about your family they just brushed it off and never gave me an answer. We've even crossed the globe to visit mom's family. We know most about her upbringing with the exception of the couple years before college. But, we don't know anything about your parents and no one seems to wonder why anymore or bring it up. There's nothing of you before college. Growing up when we would ask you would tell us not today, you're too young, or the same story of your parents dying in a wreck."
"Jr." I could see where he was going and I wanted to try to stop it.
"You avoid the question so much it makes me wonder that there is more to just a car wreck or want to know if there was a car wreck to begin with. We are all old enough to know and handle it. So, what was so bad that you have never told us?"
"Jess you feel the same?"
"Yeah dad, it would be nice to finally know what really happened."
"I do but I don't. Not talking about it proves that there's a big wound there. It always made me think there's way more than what you've told us but I never wanted to push. I really would like to know about your mom, dad, how you met mom, and what ever else you can tell. Not to use your words against you dad, but you always say you can't appreciate where you're going if you don't know where you've been. So where have you been?"
Chapter TwoThe Saur Family
Elizabeth had been my high school sweetheart and from the time we were married I had explained my wishes regarding my past. I didn't want our kids, whenever we would have them, knowing about certain aspects of my family's history. She has always been supportive of my wishes and this was no exception. Before Sarah was born I went to both sides of the family and explained the same thing and they all agreed. We all told the kids my parents died in a car wreck when I was young and raised by my Uncle Joseph and Aunt Steph. All the other details remained in my office. On one hand, I selfishly thought that the memories are my burden to bear and not theirs. On the other, I just didn't want to have to keep reliving everything. To be fair they are more than old enough to handle it and should know.
"You're all right. With all of you old enough it is time but this does not leave this room. And by this room, I mean my office."
They looked at each other with confusion until Jessica broke the silence with,
My office had always been off limits to the kids. The room was roughly a twenty by twenty that became a place of homage to my family, where Elizabeth and I took care of business, and in general it was our private sanctuary from daily stress. It was complete with entertainment unit, built in shelving units, display units, desk, fireplace, and a living room furniture set. They followed me to the back on the house where I entered the code to unlock the door.
I opened the door and the kids were amazed. They started to walk around the room and were asking question after question. "Who's this? How old were you in this? What's this from?" I walked towards the wall behind my desk. Taking down the picture to expose a wall safe, I entered the code. The safe mostly contained important documents on the top shelf, like insurance policies and our will. On the lower shelf were two photo albums. One was my keep sakes from time I spent with Elizabeth over the years and the other was about my family. The kids all looked on as if they were eight years old opening Christmas gifts.
Excerpted from Life by D.W. Sower Copyright © 2012 by D.W. Sower. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.