Priorities: Mom's 99th birthday over UND hockey
NORTHFIELD, Minn. - You can have split hairs, even a split personality. But can you split your heart and survive? That's a concept I was putting to the test as I wrote this over the weekend. For just the second time in five decades, I'm skipping ...
NORTHFIELD, Minn. - You can have split hairs, even a split personality. But can you split your heart and survive?
That's a concept I was putting to the test as I wrote this over the weekend.
For just the second time in five decades, I'm skipping a UND men's hockey home game by choice.
For those who have read of or sensed my passion for college hockey ever since I started writing about it for the Grand Forks Herald in 1969, something wonderful happened in my life recently.
Upon my retirement from full-time sportswriting in 2005, I now have choices in my life that were closed to me for so many years.
This weekend, I chose to return to what I consider to be my hometown to celebrate something even bigger than Sioux hockey, if you can imagine that.
Yesterday, my mother, Maebel Evelyn Johnson Foss Otteson, celebrated her 99th birthday, so in a way, she's the Wayne Gretzky (No. 99) of the Northfield Retirement Center.
Because demands of my job at the Herald always had me tied to that assignment at this time of the year, I can't remember the last time I was with my mother to celebrate her birthday.
Given that choice now, it's not even a choice for me to make. My heart and soul tell me this is where I need to be, with my mother, with family, as she inches ever closer to the century mark.
She told me we couldn't put 99 candles on her birthday cake, for fear we'd burn down her retirement home, or at least set off the alarms.
So we celebrated with strawberry shortcake, and a gathering of family and her new "old" friends from the retirement center.
She's understood my absence for all these years, because I long ago converted her into a big Sioux hockey fan. I didn't have to call in faith healers to convert her, either. She loves me, she knows I love Sioux hockey, ergo she became a Sioux fan.
Ah, the love of a mother.
But I have to confess I didn't exactly go cold turkey here.
I brought my laptop with me. The motel I stay at has Internet access, so I listened to Tim Hennessy's play-by-play through the wonderful technology available to us now.
So while I am here with my mother, in a sense the Sioux hockey team was as well, playing out their wonderful run through the second half of the season right over my laptop.
At the same time, I could check out running scores from other playoff games around the country, even check on the all-important PairWise rankings to see where the Sioux stand nationally.
So you can take me out of hockey for this weekend, but you can't wring the hockey out of my blood.
I was faced with a far more difficult decision to make this weekend than whether I should be at Ralph Engelstad Arena or celebrating the 99th with my mother.
That decision was what to get for a woman who has everything and wants nothing for her birthday?
Many years ago, she gave me a small coin bank that had been given to her as a small child by one of her brothers. She entrusted the care of that loving keepsake to me.
On her birthday yesterday, I gave it back to her, with a surprise inside.
She was born in 1908, the years the Boy Scouts were founded, the year the ball first dropped in Times Square in New York on New Year's Eve.
With the help of a coin dealer friend in Grand Forks, I purchased a group of coins - a penny, some dimes, quarters and half dollars, even a $20 gold piece, all dated 1908 - and put them inside the tiny bank to return to her.
Those coins were all made the year she was born, and survived the test of time nearly as well as my mother, but she's less worn than they are, remarkably.
Sioux hockey rules, always will. But my mother is the Queen of the Kingdom in my eyes, so this birthday celebration will rank with any of the five NCAA titles I've been fortunate to watch the Sioux win in my time as a journalist.
Just as the final seconds tick off the clock at the end of any hockey game, I know the last few grains of sand are not far away from dropping through the hourglass of my mother's life.
So I'm here with her, finally, on her special day. It feels so good.
Virg Foss, who retired from full-time sportswriting at the Grand Forks Herald in 2005, writes an occasional column for the Herald. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (701) 772-9272.