“No way, no thanks. I’ll be the ref. I know the game of football and I can officiate,” I pleaded. But my protest was met by somewhat selective hearing from the twelve-year-old, self-appointed mini NFL general.
Our inter-generational church group was on a mission trip and because we all had worked so hard, we decided to take the kids to a park for a little run and fun. In the park there were several kids from the local community and they were delighted to see more kids arrive. Now they could have a real game of football – with enough participants to make up two teams.
When the appointed captains began to choose sides, it became apparent one team was short by one player. The captain of the less populated team looked at me and said, “Okay Granny you be on our team.”
“Oh no. That is not happening. I’m the ref.” I stated.
“No, we need one more and we just have to settle for you.” He turned his back and walked onto the field to discuss goal selection, coin toss and other details of what was an impending game for them, and an invitation to traction for me. I had no time to be offended by his tone or his assumed authority.
Now I can hear a lot of folks out there saying, “How rude that he would address you as ‘Granny.’” Well, that was not my first, second or third concern. I felt like I had just fallen off a boat into deep water without a life jacket and the realization that I am less than an excellent swimmer.
I directed my panicked stare to one of the other adults in the group, (30+ years my junior) and tried to silently present my case while my head shook and my eyes widened to assume 80% of the real estate that once was my face. He shrugged, smiled and I succumbed to what appeared to be my destiny.
Blessed with a quick mind and fueled by an intense sense of cowardice, I formulated an emergency plan. I would just hang out in the backfield and help guide the guy or gal with the ball handed to them. On the first hike of the ball, the intended runner fumbled the ball right into my hands.
“Run Granny,” he shouted.
It didn’t take long to realize this was great advice as I stared down an advancing wall of little defenders who were between me and the direction of our assigned goal. I can’t remember what came from my mouth but I hauled my 5′ nothing frame in my best moves to maneuver around the string of goal-stealing units.
Okay, spoiler alert. I am a gold medal winning Irish step dancer and ran track with quite a few victories in my earlier days. Note: The latter was in the previous century. It is amazing, however, how muscle memory can be resurrected in a moment when life and/or limbs appear to be in danger and one’s life passes before one’s eyes.
I ran, dodged and sidestepped my way three quarters of the way down the field before I ran out of bounds, leaving not just a few of my teammates and opponents behind. Please know I didn’t give a toss about victory. I just wanted to go home with all the parts I had arrived with. Knowing that this little shenanigan of mine was going to be costly, I chose to end the sprint with a face-saving out-of-bounds exit.
“Man, Granny can run.” The cheers and whistles from the quarterback and my teammates were welcome relief when considering that just moments before I was pretty sure I’d be greeted by a choir of angels crooning, “Welcome home, your race is completed now.”
The rest of the game I did my best to not carry the ball and was successful at it. I also tried to remember where I had seen the closest Walgreens, where I could pack a cart with Advil and Epsom Salts.
The game ended, (Praise God), and my teammates slapped me on the back and thanked me for being a good sport. They kept saying how surprised they were that a woman of my age could run and move so well. I resisted temptation to say, “You think You were surprised?”
That night, after my hour in a hot tub and then an Epsom Salts bath offered to my aging frame in apology, I reflected on the game, and the kids. And even though I was going to be sore for a few days, I decided it was worth it to see their smiling faces. It was beyond precious time to be with a group of kids from different backgrounds, ages, sizes and colors as well as different locations and in some cases different languages. All they wanted was to just be together, live, laugh and have some fun. I wondered if that was a little glimpse of Heaven.
When my husband asked what I was giggling about, I apologized for keeping him awake and told him to go to sleep. I assured him I’d be joining him in Slumber Ville as soon as the Advil kicked in.
This story is dedicated to my dear friend Nathan Heimer, who witnessed the whole thing and we both lived to tell about it.
Copyright June, 2021 Laura L. Padgett, M.A.
Connect with me, Laura Padgett, on Twitter @lauraleepadgett or my Facebook Author Page
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“Dolores, Like the River,” available at Westbow Press, Barnes & Noble, Amazon and all major online retailers. If you live in the U.S. and would like an autographed copy sent directly to you, click on the tab for buying books on my home page
The award-winning “Jesus in Shorts: Twenty-five Shorts Stories of Life-Changing Jesus Moments,” available now at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. If you live in the U.S. and would like an autographed copy sent directly to you, click on the tab for buying books on my home page.
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