So, tomorrow is homecoming at the University of Alabama. And I will be there, um, coming home.
We Bama alums take such things seriously. Too seriously in many cases. It is estimated that there will be some 120,000 people on campus tomorrow. 92,000 & change will be among the lucky ones who will have a ticket to the game. (yeah...I'll be part of the 92,000...). The others will chill out on the quad, eat, drink, listen to Kenny & Snake call the game on the radio, and watch whatever other games are on TV.
We'll walk around campus reminiscing. (Well, I will...) About football to be sure. But much more in my case. In many cases.
It was as an undergrad student there that I found academic redemption. My first attempt at college was...not successful. But at Bama, I hit my stride (as our fight song says) and came to love and to succeed in the classroom. It was as an undergrad there that this great econ professor and this great management science professor independently encouraged me to consider grad school. (Thanks, Dr. Bird & Dr. Charnetski, wherever you both are now...) It was as an undergrad at Bama that I caught up with some reality. To wit, as was stated in Animal House, "fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life, son." The lasting irony is that once I put away the party life, I began have faaaaaaar more fun. Still am, as a matter of fact!
It was an undergrad there that I watched the last 3 years of the reign of a childhood hero of mine in person. I even attended his funeral. Later, I taught his grandson. Thanks for the memories, Coach Bryant. I still get chill bumps reflecting back on those days and those teams and the way you conducted yourself there at the end of your career.
It was as an undergrad there that I met this young lady from the country of south Alabama. Her discernment meter was malfunctioning, & thus she began to spend time with me. (I was not much of a catch back then...perhaps not much of one now, but surely not then...) Went on some actual dates with me. Listened to my stories. And to my heart. Years ago, Felix Pappalardi penned these words: "and my Lady hears every note I play..." That's one of my favorite song lines of all time. I proposed near the end of my undergrad days after a couple of years of dating. Again, her meter malfunctioned, and she said yes. We married after my first year of grad school there, which was right after she graduated. This past June was 23 years, grad school, 6 jobs, 3 cities, a trailer, two apartments, two houses, and two kids later. She's still my best friend and she still hears every note my heart plays. Thanks, Lis. I love you!
It was as an undergrad there that I rediscovered long lost/abandoned faith from years before. I began attending church with my aunt, basically because I love my aunt. Then, I went with that same young lady. I met a bunch of folks who had a blast, and yet took their faith seriously. Prior to meeting them, I had decided that faith/fun were opposite ends of the spectrum. They demonstrated otherwise. Thanks, Aunt Daisy, for not giving up on me! And thanks, Gary, Jimmy, Cindy, Tom, David, Karen, Keith, and the rest for living your life and your faith before me, while still loving my un-love-ly self just like I was. I wanted what you had. Your lives and stories made a difference to me. Still do.
So, when I say I'm "coming home" tomorrow, yeah, sure, I plan to enjoy the living heck out of a football game. But homecoming to me is much, much more than merely an opportunity to eat unhealthy food & yell at the refs. Homecoming re-connects me with some of the deepest places in the very bedrock of my soul. Life-defining places, thoughts, emotions, & events. Sure...they could have happened elsewhere. But they didn't. For me, in God's providence, they happened on/near campus at the University of Alabama.
It's homecoming time. I'll be there. I can't wait! Roll Tide!
the beach bum