Just to See the Sparkle
The glory on the corona of an eclipse could never have been grander. The holy hush of awe could never have been more inspiring. I realize now that history was rapidly being rewritten or at least respoken. But for those moments, when I was five, an hour with kings could not have compared to the magical superphenomenal accomplishments of Uncle Steve.
The adventure started on an ordinary summer day when we lay on our backs in the freshly cut grass watching the cumulous clouds morph into dragons and whales and beavers and ducks. Uncle Steve was home from College and getting ready to join the army. He’d already shown me how to pick buttercups with my toes and how to tell if someone liked butter by holding the yellow petals under their chin.
When one of the clouds morphed into a football Uncle Steve told me about the greatest game he ever played. I could see the sparkle in his eyes as he relived the glory.
His team was playing for the championship of the world. The other team was bigger, stronger, faster but Uncle Steve was smarter. Uncle Steve was losing by five points with one play to go. He was on his own one yard line. There was 6 inches of snow suffocating the field and a solid white curtain blocking everyone’s view. Still they had to play. Uncle Steve was quarterback. When the ball was snapped he faked a handoff and began to create the most superphenomenal play in the history of the world. He scored a touchdown and he had the trophy to prove it.
I was sure my eyes were going to pull right out of their sockets when we lifted the carpet in the hall closet and pulled up the trap door to climb down into the crawl space. Mom was shopping and this adventure was a secret between Uncle Steve and me. Down in this forbidden land of darkness lay the Holy Grail of football stardom.
We battled the dust bunnies and waved away cobwebs with our flashlights. I knew savage wolves and monsters crouched hungrily just beyond the piercing probes of our light beams. But we were on a quest to reclaim the testimony of a forgotten hero. I knew I had to pray like I never had before and I kept praying that my heart wouldn’t beat so loud that the wolves would hear it and attack. Uncle Steve whispered “no fear” and I felt braver just being close to him.
We discovered the treasure chest buried under an old carpet and a duffle bag of forgotten hockey gear. Uncle Steve told me that one day he’d tell me about how he scored the goal to win the hockey championship of the world. But today was for football.
Uncle Steve blew the dust off the box and into my face and I sneezed. My heart nearly escaped from my chest because I was sure that the wolves had heard us. Uncle Steve didn’t seem to be afraid. He was a hero able to do anything. He laughed and rubbed my head with his hand and told me he was sorry.
The tape sealing the top of the box was pulled away and the lid lifted. Inside were dozens of trophies. The pirates of the Caribbean could never have dreamed of such a treasure. The location for the trophy to celebrate the championship of the world was kept as a secret from everyone but Uncle Steve and me.
Uncle Steve slowly pulled out one of the bigger trophies. In the dark it was hard to tell if it was really made of pure gold or covered in diamonds. It looked a little like the one Billy Kravitz got when the coach said he was the best player on our soccer team. But I knew the difference. Uncle Steve was the champion of the world.
I can’t remember how long I sat there listening to all the stories of one of the greatest players of all time in all the sports ever invented. Uncle Steve could have done anything he wanted in sports. Instead, he decided he wanted to be a doctor and to help soldiers in the army.
Yesterday his new trophies arrived. A Purple Heart , the Silver Star, Three Combat citations and medals for heroic acts on behalf of others. Just one more time I would love to see that sparkle in his eye.
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