This is NOT an Abraham Lincoln related post, but it IS an important post for me. Thank you for your indulgence.
In the late summer of 1973, an older couple visited the University of Notre Dame. They were idle sight seers intent on absorbing the feeling of the campus.
As they neared a covered fence, they heard clapping and shouts. The woman pulled on her husband’s arm to slow him up. They were standing outside a football practice field fence. The gates suddenly opened and out ran the players, support staff, and finally, the coaching staff.
The woman, recognizing the well-known head coach, called out to Coach Parseghian. He pulled up when he heard his name and turned to see who called. Seeing the older woman and her husband standing nearby, he walked over.
My mother apologized for being so bold, and asked if he would pose for a picture to give their son – a rabid Notre Dame fan and a fledging, assistant high school football coach back in their hometown.
With the grace and respect that many have come know as part of the Ara Parseghian legend, he agreed but only if my mother was part of that photo for her son. With my dad’s encouragement, she stood next to Coach Parseghian, and they smiled at the camera.
After the photo, he said to my parents: “Tell him good luck from me and to have a good season!” And with a smile and a wave he headed toward the locker room.
A few days later, I received an excited call from Mom, telling me they were home, and to come over the next night for dinner. She said that she and Dad had a huge surprise for me, but she provided no clues.
Curious as to what it could be, I arrived following practice. After the round of hugs and kisses, I saw my Mom was SO excited for me to see their gift. Closing my eyes and holding out my hands as ordered, I opened them to find that picture of Coach and Mom smiling at me.
I followed Coach Parseghian’s Irish teams thereafter. Sometimes, I even picked up a neat wrinkle on a play to add to our offense. When he retired from football, I hoped it was temporary.
He passed last week. ESPN said of the Coach’s memorial on Sunday (August 6, 2017), “Ara Parseghian remembered for kindness, generosity and football achievements.” The world truly lost a fine person, coach, parent and grandparent. But I lost a link to my mom and dad.
Forever, I will be grateful to Coach Parseghian – not for that picture or the good luck wish – but for the pride and excitement I saw in my Mom and Dad’s eyes that night.
Thank you Coach, for a gift you never knew you gave.
Food for thought.