The details never changed including the shag carpet. “All In the Family” flickered across the TV. The space heater was cranked to the “sauna” setting. A service plaque from Delta Airlines hung on the wall over the exercise machine I never saw anyone use.
I’d take it all in as I carefully inched the door open. This was my grandfather’s lair, and I would find him sitting in his La-Z-Boy at the back of the room. His chair was reclined so far back I never understood how he was able to see anything on the screen. But he sat up straight when he recognized my voice.
The room was dark. All I could see was the orange glow from the space heater and the images on the TV. My grandfather would ask me to flip the light switch and take a seat on the couch where he began asking me questions about the sport I was playing at the time.
My grandfather made me feel important. He was interested in what I was doing and never made me feel like the game or Archie Bunker took priority over our chat. I think of my grandfather each time hear the theme song from “All In The Family” or the stopwatch ticking from “60 Minutes”.
When he passed away a few years ago, I asked my father for a copy of a picture of my grandfather playing football at Westminster College in Salt Lake City. The picture was housed in a small gold frame, and it become a favorite among my siblings. But it was nowhere to be found until this past week when my father stumbled across it mixed in with a stack of family photos.
The over-sized pigskin. The lace up pants and leather helmets. The two defenders struggling to make a tackle. The old jerseys, the high-top cleats and handful of fans in the stands are a few details I’ve admired many times over the years.
But it’s my grandfather’s expression that pushes it over the top for me. I’ve seen that look of determination a thousand times. He was big and strong for the times, and I imagine him running over smaller defensive backs who tried to bring him down. This was true smash-mouth football.
I wish he were still around to talk sports with me.
I have no doubt he’d remember this play and could tell me how many yards he gained.