As July turns to August, and the leaves slowly fall from the trees, it will be a bittersweet college football season. Opening Saturday for the University of Michigan football team is always a grand day for me. However, this one will be met with cheers and tears.
It started out in 1967, when my mother enrolled at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor campus. She was a young, beautiful lady, who had the world at her fingertips. She was studying the world of art and business.
As the only one from her family to don the maize and blue, she took it all in. From the mud bowl, to her sorority house, Kappa Alpha Theta, she was your typical college student.
She loved her studies and she loved her Wolverines. I don't remember when I officially became a fan of the Wolverines, but it was soon after my first birthday, when I could utter the words, "Go Blue".
My mother was not your typical mom. She loved sports. My brother and I were both sports players in our youths. We swam, played tennis, football, basketball, horseback riding, hockey, skiing, baseball, and soccer.
She loved to watch us play. She went to all my games except the ones my junior and senior year in high school when I was in Maine. She was our biggest cheerleader and always prepared the best orange slices for halftime.
In 1989, she took my brother and I to the Rose Bowl. Michigan was playing USC, and it was Bo's last game. We lost, but I shared a great moment with my mom.
In 1997, she got my brother and I into the OSU/UM game, the one where Woodson schooled Boston and the Buckeyes. She gave me another great moment, this time at the Big House.
In 2000, she was able to secure me season tickets, and from that point on, I was able to see her almost every home Saturday for years. The halftime hot dog with mom became a tradition, and I loved it. Trust me, talking first half football with your mom is awesome.
The Big House was where we'd talk school, life, and friends. We'd share moments we'd had there, we'd talk about my life and where I wasn't going. It was a great time.
In 2005, 2006, and 2007 she was unable to attend every home game as she had prior to that. My mom was diagnosed with cancer in August 2005. She missed some games, but made sure to watch them from home.
Last year, in 2008, she went to almost every home game until November. Her cancer had spread and metastasized. She was very sick, too sick to cheer her Wolverines in person.
It was a forgettable fall for most Michigan fans, but not my mom. She loved it, was disappointed in it, but overall she never wavered. She knew the QB, so there was no shaking her resolve. Steven Threet was a family friend. His mother drove my mother to her chemo treatments every three weeks. She loved watching him play, good or bad, it gave her even more rooting interest.
Rooting for a win was never sweeter for her.
Although the season didn't turn out well, my mother was looking forward to another season at the Big House.
On February 3rd, 2009, cancer made that impossible. It took her life.
This fall will be difficult. I won't see my mom at halftime. I won't talk football with her. I won't be able to call her after games to lament or to cheer.
I won't be able to discuss the upcoming week or ask her how Stevie is doing, or getting some inside news that not everyone knew. She seemed to always give me a tidbit of new news.
It will be bittersweet to have another season of UM football and not have my mom's perspective on it.
She was skeptical at best on how the new regime would run the ship. Her husband had friends in the Lloyd Carr regime, and she was close to those people. It hurt to see them lose the job, and she really wanted Les Miles as the coach.
She always kept her faith, thanks to Steven Threet. She knew it would be a long road, but thought Rich Rod would have used him differently. "Not in that spread offense," she would say. "He is not that type of QB."
I wasn't lucky enough to attend the University of Michigan. It grew in me through my Mom and I will carry that on as long as I am alive.
She was a proud University of Michigan alum. She would always give Michigan clothing to her nieces, nephews, and friends children, not caring which school the parents went to, as long as they had Michigan gear, she was pleased.
She was a huge supporter of her alma mater.
She really loved Michigan football.
So on September 5th, 2009, Michigan will play football for the first time since her death. We sang 'Hail to the Victors' to end her memorial service, and I know it will be played to begin the new season.
I will think of her and understand that she will be watching. I only hope she is watching with Bo and the rest of the Michigan fans up in heaven when the ball kicks off the rubber to start the season.
I will miss her at the games, but mostly I will miss just her. She gave me the spirit and the will and the love to follow Michigan Football, and I thank her for making me a fan of the greatest tradition in college sports.