Over the years my wife and I have gotten into a routine of making goofy Superbowl bets with each other to be paid off during the ensuing year. Back massages, kisses, chores, themed dinners and vacation weekends have all been won on things like the coin toss, touchdowns, first beer ad brand, number of first quarter camera shots of the QB’s wife, time of the first blimp sighting, first team to have a player lose a helmet… We make the more complicated bets we have to keep track of earlier in the game because when we watch at home, there’s also sometimes a drinking game attached to things like penalties, scores, soda ads, head coach sightings…. That can sometimes get out of control very quickly like the infamous heavy penalty / high scoring game a few years ago that caused us both to take a much-needed third quarter Super-Nap.
Last year, prior to arriving at the ‘family friendly’ Superbowl party we attended, my wife and I quietly bet each other if any guests would have a hard liquor drink (stronger than beer/wine) before the third quarter. We found ourselves snooping about looking in people’s glasses and asking leading liquid questions. When an unexpected round of scotch was poured a mere two minutes before the third quarter began, I lost the bet when someone took a premature sip moments prior to the second half kick-off toast. I still say my wife rigged it!
This year the Superbowl was different; it was the first time in 17 years we did not watch the game together. She was out of town dealing with a family emergency. In a failed attempt to create some sense of normalcy in a year that has already proved to be far from routine, we texted each other a couple of goofy game bets but it was not the same. It is tough when the world is spinning out of control faster than the Tasmanian devil in a Red Bull factory.
This past month has been particularly hard for the two of us. We have had to deal with the passing of one of our mothers and the other not doing well after being pulled off a cruise ship in Belize with complications from pneumonia that got her sent on a scary two-hour ambulance ride to an extended stay in the ICU of a Mexican hospital (the inappropriate joke I can’t say out loud is ‘I wonder which was worse’). While trying to wade through the mountain of estate, funeral and hospice care paperwork, we also had to deal with two other family members wrecking their cars in winter storm accidents. Oh yeah, did I mention that water pipe that burst during a recent freeze while we were having 10 feet of damaged sewer pipe replaced under the house (neither covered by insurance) causing us to have no running water for 10 days? Add in that we now both have careers that feature being the one responsible for solving a daily barrage of emergency crises that are constantly tossed at us like mental dodge-balls, and you have a mental stress test from hell.
At this point, things are way beyond a pour, so as the obscure song goes, ‘when it rains… it snows’ and right now we are stuck in a blizzard of berserkness. Through it all we are trying to be optimistic this ugly tide is ebbing but maybe that is just because we’re not sure how many more crashing waves of craziness we can handle.
This is certainly not the first time I have felt like I was standing on the shore trying to hold back the water. I recall the last really bad snow and ice storm that shut down Dallas happened days before the locally held Superbowl in February 2011. That was the first time my wife and I thought we might not be able to watch the game together. She was in California on business and not only missed the forced vacation snow days off but between the airport closure and so many people coming to town for the game, she was not sure when she would be able to get home. Knowing how hard it would be to get my Mini down our steep driveway, every few hours during the storm I went out into the frigid quiet crunchy mess to shovel and salt. But the snow just kept falling and like trying to stop those waves from hitting the shore, eventually, the futility of my repetition became obvious. As expected, a few days later when things thawed out, all my work proved irrelevant and unnecessary.
The other night lying in bed not sleeping, I imagined myself as a little old man, the sole survivor of a society-destroying nuclear bomb, out in front of my house repeatedly trying to sweep clear the continually dropping layers of fallout dust from my front walk. Trying to create an illusion of normalcy during the uncontrollable. In a strange sort of way, that is kind of my goal right now. Amid the chaos seeking comfort in the routine. Unfortunately, as bulletproof as my wife and I sometimes see ourselves, we are forever changed by the events of the past month. Doomed to never get over it but simply charged with the task of finding a way to carry on with our little slice of the world being forever different.
I look forward to the passage of time and to next year’s Superbowl. A year can help heal a lot of wounds. A year is long enough for some good to creep back into our lives. A year is long enough to consider playing a silly Superbowl drinking game for fun versus escapism. And a year is long enough to come up with some new wacky Superbowl bets to help us laugh and smile through the game.