Saturday, October 25, 2014
This past week Honeybuns and I attended a big airplane convention/trade show in Orlando, FL. The airplane business is a network of folks that love to soar. They spend time flying, talking about flying, buying their own planes, or fixing the planes that others own. It's a type of family! And having been a part of this professional family for many years, these types of events are usually attended by the same folks. It's always interesting to see who moved to new positions, relocated across country, and joined new companies. Family news is always on the table and we've come to know these people well. It's a pleasant reunion which takes place once a year.
This time I met someone entirely different. I sat across from a NEW face at one of the business dinners and a delightful conversation began. I guessed this gal to be in her 50's, perhaps in the aviation business or married to someone that is.
AFTER speaking the general niceties, she just happened to mention that her son was a professional football player. WHAT? I asked all the right questions and she gladly shared her story. It was fascinating. ( I will not tell you her name or her son's name because I don't have her permission. If I were to share it, ALL football fans would recognize the name.)
She became a first time mom at the age of 16. The father of the new little boy disappeared from her life and she was thrown into the world of single motherhood. She and her precious child were dirt-poor! She got a job, then two and then three. Working night and day meant weary visits with her baby and then teachers and then coaches. But no matter how she felt she was ALWAYS present in the events of her child's life.
At age 8 she realized he was a gifted athlete. He stood out at sporting events, being the ONE that ran the fastest and carried the ball the farthest. He was MADE to play football. And he loved it.
From that moment she began attending EVERY practice and EVERY game! Struggling to keep her eyes open and herself upright in the stands, she was there, alone!
She pinched every nickel until the buffalo hollered and raised her son with used bicycles, hand me down clothes and TONS of love. He went off to college and she continued to go to EVERY practice and EVERY game. They struggled financially together.
THEN, the day came that he was offered a contract with the NFL! They had no idea that their world was about to enlarge 10 fold.
A wise agent told them that they were about to be handed a huge cake, and everyone they knew wanted a piece. He encouraged them to not allow that to happen or soon they would be without any cake at all. She listened naively.
He started playing professionally and he was good! The money started rolling in, millions of dollars!
Distant relatives and friends came out of the woodwork begging for hand-outs. Fans were everywhere, they couldn't go out to eat without him being recognized and interrupted for an autograph.
The government took over 40% of his income. She was given an allowance, her son was now supporting her. After all, they were IN THIS together!!
She bought a huge house and before long all 7 bedrooms were filled with people that "needed a place to stay" for a short while. She sold it!!
He moved into a lovely but modest home to begin his adult life complete with privacy shades. Prying cameras are everywhere. She purchased a simple 3 bedroom a couple of hours away. They both live simply, realizing the life of his career is short. And his body will be racked with problems once hes on the other side of professional football. She says of her boy, "he has no idea of the size of his wealth." His heart is good, he is kind and his wants are few.
We talked about the journey of going from "rags to riches" and agreed that being poor and then gaining wealth is a whole lot easier than starting out rich and losing it all. That just seems to be a very difficult adjustment.
Publishers are urging her to write a book of her life's story. I encouraged her to get at it. What a wonderful life of love, sacrifice, generosity, wisdom, pain and victory.
So why was she at an AIRPLANE convention? She has a JOB in the industry. She goes to work every day, saves her pennies and on the day we met she was trying to decide what to get her son for his birthday. He told her she could make a down-payment on some piece of equipment he'd been admiring. (Like he couldn't buy it outright himself!)
I love this woman and I wish her the best. She did a FINE job raising her son.
AND now I find myself looking for her boy when football is on the TV.
ME? A football fan? That's a miracle in itself.!