It was a proud moment for my niece Rachelle and her husband, David Yubeta. Their son, Josh, was drafted to play in this year’s U.S. Army All-Star Bowl at Rabobank Arena. According to the U.S. Army website, “the All-Star Bowl is the only high school arena-style football game held indoors.”
For many of Kern County’s elite and top high school players, it is their last opportunity to don a football uniform as a high school senior. Josh has continued the legacy of his many cousins who played sports at Highland High School.
It is a bittersweet moment for all parents when they know it is the “last” time for anything with their children. You embrace it more. You want to hold the moment in your arms and cuddle next to it forever. Even though you must, you just don’t want to let it go.
My twin sons, Sean and Aaron, brought immeasurable joy to their Mom, Susie, sisters Nikki and Brenna, and to the rest of our family as they progressed from playing with their older cousins in the backyard, to flag football, to their final game at Highland High School.
Each of my seven brothers and sisters has children who have also taken the sports journey with their children. We are proud of each one of them.
When I arrived at Rabobank last Friday to watch Josh play, I felt an unexpected emotional twinge of our dad, Larry, whose proudest moments were watching his children and grandchildren play sports. Our Dad has been gone for many years.
Our Dad, Larry, ran his own business. He was a carpet layer contractor. As most independent business owners know too well, vacation time earned, sick leave or time off compensation is for your employees, never for you.
I did not appreciate until much later that missing work for our Dad was costly, difficult and fairly rare. His one exception was to take time off to watch my siblings and I play organized sports. He wasn’t the parent who yelled from the stands at his kids, referees or coaches. But his presence was always felt.
I would glance up into the stands or gaze along the sideline to see if I could spot my Dad during my Jack Frost or South High football games. Even when I couldn’t see him, I sensed he was there. I can’t remember our Dad ever missing one of my or my sibling’s games.
His love of watching his children was eventually surpassed by the enjoyment he received from watching his many grandchildren play sports. His lawn chair was there early to get the best view of the baseball diamond or the best seat in the basketball or baseball stands.
David and Rachelle purchased 60 tickets for the All-Star game last Friday to watch their son play. Even that wasn’t even enough. Josh had 70-plus family members, some who traveled far, to watch him score the first game touchdown and win the Lineman Strongman award.
If you look at the picture of our family at the All-Star game, you will see Josh standing before his proud and smiling family. The picture is like a DNA sample of our family. It says so much about our family without having to say a word. And if you look really close you will see my Dad’s spirit among us all and feel how proud he is of Josh and all his cousins who played before him and who will come after him.
I know our Dad was there. You may not see him, but I could sense his proud presence. My Dad would never miss a game, especially this one.
Thank you Josh, we are so proud of you, your Mom and Dad.
P.S. Tell your mom and dad to buy a whole “Josh” section at Bakersfield College Memorial Stadium next football season.
Email contributing columnist Steve Flores at email@example.com. The views expressed are his own.