Four years ago on October 20, 2012 I was where I am many Saturdays in the fall, in The Swamp, watching the Florida Gators play football. We were playing South Carolina and it was an important conference game. The Gators were doing well. With about 3 minutes to go in the first half, I got a text from my wife. It read: “I’m going into labor, I’m headed to the hospital now.”
So, like any good dad and Gator fan, I waited until the end of the first half and I sprinted out of there as fast as I could. I had about an hour and 45 minute drive to get to the hospital. I was not obeying the speed limit. I had my ticket stub and the texts from my wife ready as proof to beg for leniency if I got pulled over for speeding. Thankfully I didn’t have to plead my case to law enforcement.
I got to the hospital with time to spare and our only daughter was born later that evening.
Fast forward 4 years. I had taken her 2 older brothers to a few Gator games but I had yet to take her. I started thinking that it might be time for her to go to her first game. As I was putting her down for bed, I asked her if she would like to go to a football game with me. Her face immediately lit up and she enthusiasticly said yes. I told her it was settled then, she and I would go to the upcoming game in The Swamp against Missouri.
It was just about all she could talk about for the next 3 days. She had all kinds of questions. Her primary concern was if I was going to hold her hand in the crowd so I didn’t lose her. I assured her I would hold her tight and never lose her.
The morning finally arrived. She put on her Gator gear that she had picked and laid out for herself the night before. My wife was working so the first stop that day was to Grandma and Granddaddy’s to drop off her brothers. Then we were off to the game.
We took in the sights and sounds of game day. We had the obligatory stop at the gator statue at the front of the stadium.
I also let her stop and pick out a bracelet from one of the street vendors.
We stopped and got her face painted “like a princess” and she was given 2 buttons. One button said 1st Gator Game and the other said Happy Birthday. Then we finally got in and took our seats.
Yes, if you look closely, I’m wearing the same shirt I had on 4 years ago on the day she was born.
At halftime we stretched our legs and got some pizza and Gatorade. She was surprisingly into the game and enjoyed screaming when we were on defense. She quickly learned that you are supposed to give everyone around you a high-five after a touchdown. She would dole out about a dozen after every score.
She also became mildly obsessed with Albert & Alberta’s every move. They are the Gator’s mascots in case you didn’t know.
The Gators had a good day and won the game by a sizable margin, if you were wondering. Afterwards we started the trek back to the car. When we were almost to the car she stopped and looked up at me and said “I had fun today.”
I just smiled back at her and said “Me too, baby. Me too.”
I’m not sure how well she’ll remember this day as she gets older, but I promise you, I’ll never forget it.
Happy Birthday sweet girl. I love you.