As a kid, most of my exposure to my father and his family involved weekend stays at my grandparents’ home. Whenever we made those trips during football season, our group activities always centered around listening to the Buckeye games on Saturday.
My grandmother was the one with the biggest heart in that house that sat back off Pierce Avenue in North Canton. She was constantly fussing over me and my little brother. We never missed all the attention we were used to with Mom whenever we were with Grandma Holl.
But on those fall Saturday afternoons, Grandma always became a bit distracted once the Philco radio got snapped on. Greg and I learned very early that Grandma was crazy for Ohio State football. Grandpa, Dad and Uncle Phil were huge fans but Grandma lived and died with the Buckeyes. Once, every game, Grandpa would offer some sort of explanation for his wife’s behavior by telling us, “not only does your Grandma love football, but she understands football!”
Grandma or Coach Woody Hayes lit the spark sometime early but late in 1969 I began to feel an intense dislike for anything colored maize and blue. Over the next years that animosity only seemed to grow deeper and spread wider as each season Ohio State vs. Michigan always ended up as the most important game. By the end of the 70’s, it had gotten so bad there was nothing pleasant I could say about anything to do with ‘that state up north’.
Grandma passed. Then so did Coach Hayes. My wife’s best friend moved to Lansing and we had to make a couple of trips up there. All the green and white in that part of the state kept my mind off the fact that we were behind enemy lines. You could buy anything at Meijer’s Thrifty Acres. Going up and coming back I always took the long way around Ann Arbor.
There was one remaining CAREBIKE in the shop. A mom near Detroit began a calling to see if the bike was right for her son and their family. We were talking back and forth, moving toward completing the sale, when she added that her son saw doctors and therapists at the U of M medical center. An instinctive shudder went through me when I heard those words. I don’t think Mom detected any change in my voice or manner.
I loaded the CAREBIKE in the back of my van and headed up north to make the delivery. Crossing the northeast border of Ohio, I noticed the interstate signs took on an odd shape. Near Detroit, exit signs spelled out ‘Eight Mile Road’, ‘Six Mile Road’ and I chuckled and wondered who was in charge with coming up with such clever street names.
I got to the house and backed the van in the driveway. Dad was in my rearview mirror directing me up the drive all decked out in his Wolverine sweater. I got out of the van and introduced myself never once looking directly at the sweater.
I opened the back of the van and rolled the CAREBIKE out. Mom and Dad were in the garage tending to their son Michael. I watched as they started into their long practiced routine of getting him ready for the weather. Betsy and I have a very similar type of cooperative, working in unison, thing that developed in caring of Megan. It looks and feels like some kind of dance. Right away I felt connected to these people.
They live in a perfect setting for CAREBIKE. The driveway is directly level with the street and the street has no crown in the center. It is nice and perfectly flat; easy pedaling. Mom and Dad each took Mike for a short spin out the drive and down into the neighborhood and back. I’m out there with them checking them out on the bike. Training came as I either jogged along side or, unable to keep up, hollered out instructions between large gulps of air.
Inside, where it was warm, I immediately felt right at home in a very pleasant house, accented by scattered pieces of the required medical equipment. We talked some more about the bike. We talked even more about life and our similar trials. So much of what Betsy and I went through in raising Megan made us feel like we were all by ourselves. It truly validates our experience to talk with other folks who has been through the same physical and emotional wringer. There is a great deal of comfort in being around with those of your own kind.
As I was making my way toward the door to leave, I happened to catch a full-on, locked-in view of Dad’s Wolverine sweater. And forty years of stupid football rivalry nonsense went right out the window. In that spot, I understood that I was more connected to that family of Michiganders than anyone in a packed house at the Horseshoe on the banks of the Olentangy.
I know Grandma and Woody would understand.