Headstones and high-fives

I was back in the classroom on Tuesday after having spent an interesting Monday in Massachusetts. My mom passed away almost three years ago, and I had yet to return to the cemetery since the funeral. My family has a large stone engraved with the names of family members, and my mom was buried in the shadow of that marker. At the time I had assumed that my mother’s name was being added to the family stone, but it turns out that it was not. So I spent Monday arranging to have a stone put in place and cutting through the necessary red tape to do so.

I was hoping that my sister would join me to help make some of the necessary decisions, but she couldn’t make it, so I brought my friend, Shep, instead. Shep and I had plans to attend the Monday night Patriots-Jets game later that day, so he agreed to accompany me to my hometown, help me make the arrangements at the cemetery, and then we would head to Foxboro together for the game.

Logistically, it made a lot of sense.

And as I said, it was an interesting day. It was the first time I had returned to my mother’s burial site, a cemetery where I was first taught to drive and where I later taught my high school girlfriend and my best friend to drive as well. It was also the place where my grandparents and great grandparents are buried, as well as several other family members. While it could have been an emotional moment for me, the absence of the marker and the presence of my Patriot-clad friend helped to make it more business and less personal.


And then we were off to Foxboro Stadium for the Monday night game. If you haven’t heard, the Patriots defeated their arch-rivals, the much despised New York Jets, in a blowout.

The final score was 45-3.

It was one of my happiest moments as a New England Patriots fan.

But not everything about the game was easy.

It was bitterly cold that night, with temperatures in the low teens and a 20-30 mile an hour wind whipping through the stadium. Light snow was falling, and though I was dressed in eight layers of clothing, causing me to resemble the Stay Puff Marshmallow man, I was cold.  Four hours in the parking lot before the game, plus the nearly four hours spent inside the stadium, can take a toll on a person no matter how much winter garb you have donned.

The game ended around midnight, and I pulled into my buddy’s driveway around 3:00 AM, only to find my car’s battery dead. After jumping the battery and driving home, I managed to crawl into my bed a little before 4:00 AM.

A little less than three hours later, I was climbing back out of bed for work.

After work, I played basketball ball with colleagues until 5:00, and I followed this up with a parent-teacher conference.

I arrived back at home around 6:00 that night, admittedly tired, and found my way back to bed a little after 11:00 PM.

Shep took Tuesday off. Smart man.

A couple of people at work shook their heads and expressed incredulity at the thought of spending hours in sub-freezing temperatures to watch a football game. They were baffled by my decision to operate on three hours of sleep when the game could have been viewed from the warm confines of my home, with network television’s superior camera angles and multiple replays enhancing the viewing experience.

At least one person who is younger than me said that he was “too old for that kind of stuff anymore.”

But I think one of my colleagues, a clearly wiser, older woman with children and grandchildren, said it best when she said, “Life is an adventure if you are willing to get off your couch.”

I survived Tuesday quite well. I had prepared my lessons beforehand and had several parent volunteers in my classroom that day. Had I asked any one of them if I seemed lethargic or off my game, I think their answer would have been no.

And I played hoop fairly well after school. I was on the winning team for all three games and handed out my share of hard fouls and flagrant elbows.

Tuesday wasn’t an easy day for me, but it wasn’t impossible either.

And three days after the game, as I sit here warm and well rested, all I have left to show for the hours spent in freezing temperatures and the lack of sleep is a pair of chapped lips (the first of my life) and the unforgettable memories of a night spent with a friend in the upper decks of Gillette Stadium, high-fiving and hugging strangers as Patriot after Patriot found the end zone. Hundreds of tiny little moments forever ingrained in my memory that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

It was one of the Patriots finest moments, and I was there to watch it.

Freezing you ass off and missing a night of sleep is sometimes necessary in order for life to be an adventure.