Football and Paul
Well......today wasn't a typical football Sunday, but wet and cold enough to think about Paul and football Sundays.
When Harry was probably 6 or 7, Paul enrolled him at Little Gaddesden football club and Andrew followed shortly afterwards. The first few years were bliss for me as it meant I had a free Saturday morning when the boys were out training and I could tidy and clean the house uninterrupted. I made fresh bread every Saturday which was ready just in time for the boys to return home for lunch. The smell of fresh bread baking still takes me to those early days.
As the boys got older and started having weekly matches, life became more complicated - for me! It meant I had to get involved in ferrying one of the boys to his training and/or match. There went my blissful weekend mornings and boy, did I hate those days! It felt my one child-free morning was taken away from me.
Those who know me know how much I HATE football. It is 2-3 hours every week I'm never going to get back. I miss reading my Sunday Times. Paul and I alternated in taking each child to football so that the boys got the supportive parent every other week; when I do the run I drop the child off and either go back home or get back in the car and ready my paper. The extent of my 'support' started and ended with me dropping him off and picking him up. Paul on the other hand, come rain or shine will be there on the sideline shouting encouragements and socialising with other parents.
I must add here that Paul didn't support any football team and never watched any games on TV until a few years ago. He played 5 a-side with work colleagues and he saw that as an outdoor activity and as exercise. In the last few years when the boys started playing league matches, he would sit down with the boys and watch the odd England game and he took the boys to Luton FC to watch a home game.
In 2015, when Paul was having treatment, he would insist on going to football much to my anger. He refused to get help from others so that he could stay at home and recuperate. He wanted to be there for the boys, with the boys. I remember one day I'd taken a camping chair so that at least he can sit down and watch the boys. Boy! was he angry!! He stared daggers at me and quietly said he's capable of standing. He was too proud to show others what he thought was a sign of weakness. Despite this glaring match, he did give in and did use the camping chair.
Over the last few years, he had a good routine of cycling early Sunday morning with his buddy Doug and then do the football run. Doug and Paul met while they were both Scout leaders and hit it off straightaway. Their shared love of everything environment-related, conservation-focused and cycling meant they became good friends and cycled for miles every Sunday morning come rain or shine. I could never understand how willingly he gave up his lie-ins and slow mornings to cycle every Sunday leaving home at 7:30 in the morning. He did this after getting me breakfast, while my lazy ar$e was still in bed.
Well....these days, as with most things, I am continuing to surprise myself in how much of Paul I've absorbed in myself and how much like Paul I'm 'being'. I still hate football, but I alternate in taking the boys to their matches while one of the coaches or parents takes the other. I stand on the sideline quietly encouraging my child, watching him just like Paul watched him, supporting him just like Paul supported him. It doesn't feel like a chore to me (most of the time). While I hate the cold, the rain and the ruddy mud, I watch my son being outdoors, getting fresh air, being active and being part of a team. I'm proud of how well they are coping (outwardly at least) with not having Paul there. I catch myself, feeling just like Paul would have felt. And, I'm happy with that.