Sunday, June 24, 2007

In Love


I am experiencing something new in my life that I haven't experienced in a long time. I am developing a new love, and I am more surprised than I have ever been before. Like most people I have had certain loves all my life long. Since the time I can remember, for example, I have loved to read. I am a hopeless bibliophile, as both my office and our home will attest. I love the entire reading experience, from the scent of newly printed books, to the tactile sensation of a slippery new paperback glossing my hands to the tight spine of a hardcover awaiting its initial opening. I love the feel of sitting in a quiet corner of the home to begin reading a new mystery or historical inquiry. Reading is one of my first and longest loves.

And, of course, I have a long-time gastonomic love. I enjoy the process of grocery shopping, farmer's markets, wholesale food stores, organic food stores, mail order specialty food products ... and the array of publications developed for the gastronome, from Saveur to Gourmet to Taste of Country. It's a strange realm, really, because it is largely populated by the female gender (although not exclusively), but I enjoy choosing food selections, preparing them and feeding the people I love. Cooking is not a task for me but an avocation.

I have to add that I love my dog. Since the time I was a young child I have almost always had a canine companion. There was "Goldie," a non-anxious golden retriever (and it's a good thing, too, based on what I have heard of my early childhood behavior). And my grandparents' dog Trixie, a very patient german shepherd. And Sparky, my poodle-cross dog when I was a teenager. Then I took a leave of absence from pet ownership when I was single and didn't have the time for a pet. But a few years ago Gizmo entered our lives (at Claudia's invitation, actually, surprisingly), and I have enjoyed having a dog again. We walk together nearly daily, I get up at least once a night to let him outside (not my most enjoyable task, but one I am willing to pay for the warm joy he brings to my life the other hours of the day). Gizmo's ardent desire to be by my side (almost) always makes me feel happier.

But there's a new love, and I'm almost embarrassed to mention it, because it is so out of character for me. I am developing a love for the game of soccer. And no, lest you be surprised at my confession prematurely, it isn't because I have some self-deceiving desire to be a player. I have become an observer of an excellent soccer player, and that has turned the tide in my non-sporting life.

I have never enjoyed playing, watching, reading about or doing much involving sports. I am sure there are deep-seated childhood traumas associated with this adult-like disdain for organized sports, but there it is. I have always dislike sports.

Until the past few weeks. As I watch our son Ricardo play soccer, I find myself transfixed, addicted, not able to get quite enough. Yesterday we left home early (6:15 AM) in order to be present for his 8:00 AM game start in the metro area, and I actually looked forward to the prospect. The first game was a father's delight, when after less than five minutes in the game Tico (that's my authentic Guatemalan nickname for Ricardo) kicked in the first score. His finesse, his sports grace, his team orientation, his footwork ... it makes me love something I never thought would love. Sports.

I realized yesterday how my new love has affected me when, in a weak moment, I found msyelf thinking, "Maybe we should re-think our family rule about Sunday morning worship taking precedence over Sunday morning sports events." Blasphemy! "My soul quickly corrected the reprobation of my newly emerging obsession ... you're the pastor, after all. You can't just let your own kids skip church for a sporting event." And to think I even debated it a little further shows the level of my fall. "Yeah, but what about the team you're letting down. Think of how proud those parents could be of their sons if you would only let your son play on Sunday. What if the team loses because Ricardo is sitting in church instead of playing soccer?"

Shaking my head from this spiritual assault, I listened as my wife quickly reminded me that we have a family rule for a reason, and even my new-found passion is not sufficient to change our way of life.

I am in love. And I am surprised.

Now what time is that soccer game this afternoon?

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