The Big Game

By Susan DeBow

It was one of those quiet days, the kind that allow you to catch up with time and life. After spending the previous week taking care of our 21-month-old grandson, and nearly three months of travel, we needed our bodies and minds to slow down and return to a slower rhythm. It was a late autumn Saturday in November. Many trees still held their golden and crimson leaves, having retained them throughout our dry, warm fall.

We had stayed at a lodge the night before, going for a hike just before dark. Deer stood beside the boardwalk that wound its way through the woods. Munching leaves, they acted as if they were simply picking up before guests arrived. One would get the drinks, the other, the eight pointer, would act as a hat rack. No quick scurry did the deer. No white tails flipped up in disapproval at our presence. No snorts. They just looked at us and chewed.

Our pace slowed to a halt as we watched the deer live their lives at their preferred pace. We responded accordingly. Instead of hastening our step due to impending darkness, we took deep breaths of the cold air and watched our visible exhales. When we did continue walking on the boardwalk, we gingerly moved the fallen leaves with our feet, causing a soft crinkle sound. Some deer looked up from their nibbling to check us out. Others didn’t care. The eats were too good.

My husband and I didn’t talk about the kids or grandkids or jobs or money or health or the state of the world or death or make jokes about what should be done with our bodies after we die.

We let nature talk to us.

The next day we drove through a cemetery looking for Simon Kenton’s grave and the largest Pin Oak tree in Ohio. We had already seen the place where Simon Kenton had run the gauntlet posed by Indians. Now we wanted to see where he rested. After my husband took a few pictures of the statue of Simon Kenton, in hopes he’d see a ghost when we downloaded the photo to my computer, we began our search for the oak tree.

We drove the narrow roads through the cemetery, thinking perhaps every large oak tree we passed would be “the one.”

We saw a group of people sitting on lawn chairs at a gravesite. A picnic, we asked ourselves? As we drove closer, we saw the people were dressed in football game attire, heavy vests, caps, scarves and jeans.

Several wore scarlet and red. Around the gravesite were OSU flags, small ones, the kind that usually show military affiliations. The breeze blew the flags to attention. There was a cooler and picnic basket.

We rolled down our window. A nosey gesture, but one that helped us get a fix on this cemetery tableaux. And that’s when we heard The Game: Ohio State versus Michigan. The people in the group were transfixed on the radio as if it were a connection to something larger than the box from which the sound came.

It was as spiritual a moment as I have ever seen in a graveyard. More powerful and poignant than a minister’s last words, more deeply felt than all of the flowers placed on the graves, real and plastic. The love for the person in the grave was palpable. Whoever it was, I could see them alive, sitting in a living room, listening and watching the Ohio State football game, wearing an Ohio State sweatshirt, drinking a Budweiser. Probably it was someone who was sitting there’s father and perhaps an Ohio State grad. Someone for whom fall meant only one thing – football.

It wasn’t that I wanted to join the group, invade their chapel they had created for the day. But I would have loved to have known about the person they were honoring. Whoever it was must have been a wonderful person, loved by many and whose testament lives on after his death. Someone, who, even in death, wouldn’t miss the Big Game.

I imagine a few tears must have been shed and tales told during timeouts and halftime. Some toes and noses no doubt became frosty. And packing up and leaving after the game ended must have been hard.

Leaving someone behind always is.

After two swings around the cemetery, with no sign of the Pin Oak, we were ready to give up, but I saw a man taking a constitutional along the path. “Excuse me, Sir,” I said. “Do you know where the largest Pin Oak is?”

“Right there,” he said, pointing to one near our car. “Someone removed the sign.”

It was right in front of us. Like many things in our lives are in front of us but for some reason we fail to see them.

We looked at the tree – grand indeed. But it didn’t capture my mind the way the people at the grave did. We were privileged to witness a family’s love. And that helped us put our hearts and feet right where they needed to be.

It would have been much easier for the people at the gravesite to sit in their warm homes and watch the game on television. No one would have had to drag out the lawn chairs or cart the cooler or fill the picnic basket. But they did. And in their doing so, they celebrated so much more than Ohio State’s victory.

They celebrated someone’s life. And they made us appreciate our own.

About this writer

  • Susan Hipkins DeBow Susan Hipkins DeBow is a writer and artist. A hobby of hers is watching Law and Order reruns and then going around telling people she wants to make a “collar on the perps,” and demands a “remand.” She got hooked on Law and Order reruns after seeing Seinfeld reruns 20 times. You can read Susan’s work and see her art, photography and miscellaneous miscellany at If you are nice, she’d like to be your friend on facebook. Go to her Facebook page, Ohio Writer Girl.

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