© 2017 by Lauren Wiatrek - Austin, TX
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So much more than a football game.

08.11.2017

Ever since I was a little girl I recall Saturday mornings like they were yesterday. My mom worked so she would bake blueberry muffins, and have them hot and ready on top of the oven for my brother and I once we woke. We’d put on Winnie the Pooh and scarf down the blueberry muffins happily. Once my dad woke up it was game day. We would all wear our maize and blue and get ready for the game. Sometimes we’d watch the game with the Curby’s (pretty much our extended family), family that may have been in town, or other friends. Being in the center of Texas we were definitely not the norm of burnt orange and white. Oh no, we were Wolverine fans. Hailing to the victors. The champions of the West.

 

As years went on, I became more and more proud of my family’s heritage and the traditions that we built. I loved Michigan, it was my happy place. We’d travel there to visit my grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins for either a white Christmas or during the most dreadful months in Texas, for a perfect summer break by the Great Lakes.

 

My brother and dad were the big Michigan fans in the family… I remember one year for Chase’s birthday my parents surprised him my getting him a flight and tickets to the Big House. We pulled up to the airport and pressed the Michigan fight song button to indicate what his weekend had in store. He was stoked (to put it mildly). Eventually, I was a pretty huge Michigan Wolverine fan myself. But I had never been to a game in the Big House…a dream was born.

 

Some may scoff at a football game being on someone’s bucket list but to me (and my family) Michigan Football represents so much more than just a game. When I see maize and blue fill my TV screen, my nostalgia kicks in and I am taken back to memories of my childhood, of laughter, unity, homemade fall foods, cuddling on the couch, camaraderie. Michigan Football represents tradition, leadership, hard work, community, a dream. And here I was…heading to a football game in the Big House. The largest stadium in the country.

 

As my chemo treatments were coming to a close my husband and I knew we wanted to get away just the two of us to celebrate. But we couldn’t figure out where to go. Colorado popped up on our list… driving up the West Coast in Northern California… we were stumped. A Michigan game popped up on our screen and I uttered, “Going to a game in the Big House is on my bucket list.” And Evan replied, “Then that is exactly what we need to do.” And our #nomochemo celebration planning had begun. With travel vouchers about to expire with Southwest Airlines, we had flights squared away. Evan being a football coach, contacted the athletic department at Michigan and told them my story, tickets were squared away (total geeking out at that point...my husband is incredible) and Evan found an adorable bed & breakfast owned by a sweet elderly couple, walkable to everything in Ann Arbor, accommodations were squared away. Thanks to CostCo and their amazingly cheap car rentals, that too was locked in. Our trip awaited us. I counted down the days to my bell ringing and the airplane taking flight with my rock, my very best friend to cross off one of my most anticipated bucket list items.

 

 

I warned my husband (not really a Wolverine fan, but a football fan nonetheless) that I would probably geek out at the game. He filmed me walking into the stadium, I was just in awe. The place was huge and people were everywhere! I was just so excited. Then as James Earl Jone’s voice boomed over the speakers (who doesn’t love his voice?) and the boys got ready to run through the tunnel tear started streaming from my eyes. This game, this team, this school represents so much for me. It represents hope… hope that I could pull through the first step of my cancer journey and get here. Michigan football represents how everyone shouldn’t wait to do the things they want to do in life. Michigan football gave me a reminder that there is SO much I want to do in this life, regardless of how long it may be. This trip inspired me to dream big. To not settle. To push myself to be the best version of myself that I can be. The best wife, best mom, best friend, best daughter, best sister, best aunt, best neighbor, best family member, best person I could be. This trip reminded me how I need to be present, how important it is to unplug and just BE with my husband, BE with my family. This trip reminded me how fast time truly goes by and to cherish every moment of it. Being without my girls for four days reminded me how much I savor being their mom, how I missed the beautiful chaos. How much I adore our family of four.

 

 

 

To all of you reading this, if you haven’t started checking off your bucket list (or created a bucket list) I am encouraging you to do so. Please let my life be a learning curve for you. Each day we have is not guaranteed. Go out there and do those things. Whatever it may be, and don’t let anyone make you feel like it is not important. You are important and truly LIVING is important. Get out of the humdrum of everyday and challenge your lives to reach bounds you had no idea were possible. That is my goal and my goal for my daughters as they age.

 

 The purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience. ~Eleanor Roosevelt

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