Last night, my son took me to the UT football game. It was my first time going to the game using my power wheelchair. Things started great. We park in a garage that’s not too far from the stadium. But a lot of it is uphill.
***Over the past four or five years, I have missed a lot of games, including one whole season when I was just too sick to go.***
Anyway, we took two spaces on an upper level since all the van accessible handicapped spots were taken. Isn’t that always the case? And we were there three hours before kickoff!
My son is an attorney but he has a passion for cooking. For our tailgate he prepared homemade BBQ on a whole wheat bun, the best baked beans ever, dill potatoes and a really great sweet and sour, apple cider vinegar slaw. It was a true feast.
To put things into further perspective, this was an evening game with kickoff scheduled for a little after 7 pm.
***I am not a night person. I am best in the morning. My pain levels are lower and more manageable and the fatigue kind of explodes about 7 pm every night and I go to bed shortly thereafter. Doesn’t mean I go to sleep but I go to bed!***
Around 5:15, we packed up and started our trek to the stadium. Riding my chair into oncoming traffic in the parking garage over to the elevator was kind of a thrill ride. Wasn’t sure I had enough room or if the cars still flooding in to park would stop for me. We made it to the elevator and took it down one floor to the bridge across to the Hill (named very appropriately) and on to the stadium.
After crossing the bridge, the first part of the journey is all uphill as we wind our way around to the stadium gates.
***I noticed that my chair seemed to be having some problems keeping its power up the hills. The lights showing how much power was left kept going out.***
But when I stopped for a moment and started again, it appeared that the power came back. I would find out the next day that my chair really hadn’t been charged for days.
***The person who cleans our house on Tuesdays had unplugged the charger and we hadn’t noticed. We had plugged it in every night and it looked like it had been charging when in reality it had not.***
I am very lucky that we made it to the stadium and then back to the car after the game. I don’t know what we would’ve done if the chair had failed.
When we got to the stadium, by habit we entered Gate 22, not noticing our new tickets for accessible seating said Gate 21. So, with the chair low on power, we went up and down ramps for no reason. At the top, a friendly usher put us on the right track and led us back down to our seats. They were good seats – about the 15 yard line or so. If the people in front of me had ever sat down (they did at halftime, so I did get to see the band perform), I would have had a perfect view of the game.
***Unfortunately about 30 minutes prior to kickoff, a storm passed through dumping a lot of rain. While we headed toward the area below the stands for shelter right away, we still got soaked. But, it stopped just before kickoff and did not come back the rest of the night.***
The game was great. Tennessee has a very young team this year but the youth is very athletic and very talented. Utah State was supposed to be a challenge since they had a reputation for playing tough on the road and had won 20 games over the past two years. But it turned out to be not much of a challenge as UT won the game 38-7. The defense played great and our quarterback and receivers were on the same page.
The band did a very good job at halftime, but the show seemed unusually short. I was in the band 40 or so years ago when a student at UT so I pay close attention to the band and its role in the game. While publicly supporting the band, I think the athletic department has other ideas about the game day atmosphere that I think is negatively affecting the band – but that’s probably too long a story for now.
***After the game, we made it back to the car with the red lights flashing and the chair going slow all the way.***
My son gave me a push or two on the hills but at least most of the way back was downhill. And, going downhill made a light or two for power come back on. A very close call.
***There were a lot of times during the game that I had thoughts that I would not make it. But I kept quiet.***
I’m sure my son noticed a time or two, but I made it through the whole game. First time I’ve done that in a long time. And after a good win, it’s nice to linger in the stadium for a few minutes listening to the band and seeing the team’s joy.
Today, I am truly paying the price. I slept in until after 10 am. That is very unusual for me. I really didn’t get started until about 11 am and I don’t think I am really all the way here mentally. But I am writing this blog in my fog. Takes a lot of effort. Typing and re-typing and editing twice or thrice or more.
***But at the same time I feel all this pain, there is a sense of accomplishment. I went to the game. I overcame some hard obstacles while there. I stayed the entire time. It makes me feel like a winner. And this good feeling is helping me through what otherwise would be a very bad day.***
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***This week may turn out to be hard to get through but I would not trade that game day experience with my son for anything!***