12 October 2009

What am I doing here?

The last time I stood on a track at a high school football field was when I was, in fact, in high school. When I was a photographer for the yearbook, actually, taking pictures of fans and football players on Friday nights.

Those days flashed through my mind for an instant this past Friday at the Vestavia High School stadium as I stood, waiting in awkward anticipation with my wife, my ex-wife, and her new husband for my eldest daughter to come walking down the track.

It was Senior Recognition Night for the band members at Vestavia, and weeks previously Katie had pleaded that Jean and I come for the evening. "No problem," I told her, and I took the night off from work to see Katie get her due for her work with the color guard. I anticipated sitting in the stands, watching proudly as my daughter's name was announced over the public address system. I do pretty well as a proud papa, especially from a distance, because that's what I've become accustomed to being since the divorce.

However, things didn't work out that way. I'm somewhat surprised they worked out at all.

Katie had been sick with a viral infection, pleuresy, and bronchitis for nearly two weeks prior to Recognition Night, so there was a question as to whether she would be able to attend. And then Friday came with heavy downpours, making it touch-and-go as to whether the event would even be held. But, as such things so often go, we learned at the last minute that everything was on. We rushed to Vestavia as soon as Jean got home from work so we could be there for the 6:30 ceremony. We got lucky with parking, and made our way into the stadium.

The skies were still threatening as we found our seats in the bleachers, and we'd been sitting for just a couple of minutes when the following announcements came over the PA system: 1) Because of the weather, senior recognition would be delayed until halftime; and 2) also because of the weather, the start of the game would be delayed for at least 45 minutes.

Jean and I exchanged glances, and came quickly to a decision: We would go have some dinner and come back for the halftime event. We were both starving, and it just made sense. We would have plenty of time to eat and get back for the ceremony. We packed up and started out of the stadium. We were almost out the gate when we heard someone calling us.

We turned, and standing in a line of parents were my ex-wife Leigh and her husband, Shane.
"Hey, we're about to get started," she said. "Y'all come get in line with us."

"Uhhhh.... okay," I said, and Jean and I fumbled our way into the group of parents. We passed pleasantries and some confused information between the two couples: Is the ceremony now, or is it at halftime? Now, we're told. Is Katie able to go? Yes, but she can't stay to march afterward. Before we knew it, we found ourselves marching down the track to a spot in front of the home team grandstand.

It wasn't long before the senior band members made their way down the track as well, with Katie stopping in front of her mom, stepdad, myself and Jean. Even though she was still ill, she was beaming. And when she was announced, the names of all four parents were called out.

It was awkward for a few minutes. Weird, even. Of all the situations I anticipated for the evening, standing on a high school track in front of several hundred people with my wife, ex-wife and her husband wasn't one of them. But we made it through. Cordial. Polite. I daresay friendly.

The important thing was that it made Katie happy. And that made all the awkward worth it.

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