In recent Septembers, mostly since my grandfather died in 2005, I've thought about a Bears game he took me to when I was almost 10 in 1980. This might have been one of the few things we did just us. My grandfather was technically my step-grandfather, and in 1980, he and my grandmother had been married about three years. From the start of their marriage, we started calling him Grandpa, and for the next 28 years, my sisters and I were blessed he took on the grandfather role that would have otherwise been absent in our lives.
I'm not sure why he wanted to take me to a Bears game, but I think he got tickets through a local hotel or other business (tickets were easier to come by then). I'd stay overnight at my grandparents' house, and the next morning, we drove to a hotel from where the bus down to Soldier Field would depart.
The night before the game, my grandmother and I saw "Urban Cowboy" at a theater in Lombard. We got there late and ended up staying to see the first half-hour of the movie. Near our seats, someone had spilled a big container of popcorn in the aisle, and Grandma was paranoid that people were walking by and thinking we made the mess. We came home, and my grandfather had a "Saturday Night Live" rerun on with Carrie Fisher (I know it was a rerun because this was the SNL season in which the whole cast changed after Lorne Michaels was fired; this episode featured the original cast).
The next morning, Grandpa and I went to the hotel and had breakfast before the bus left. I remember us not talking too much during breakfast, or the whole day. I was admittedly a little intimidated by him back then -- he was a very stern paternal figure. I also noticed part of one his fingers was missing (to this day, I still don't know how he lost it), and I think that sort of freaked me out, too.
I don't remember the game much, unfortunately. Looking at the Bears' schedule for that season, they either defeated the Saints or lost to the Vikings. I'm assuming I enjoyed the game. My grandfather had told Grandma the reason he took me instead of his other grandson was because he knew I'd appreciate it more.
When I hear some songs from this time period ("Emotional Rescue" by the Rolling Stones and "Looking for Love" by Johnny Lee -- which was from "Urban Cowboy" spring to mindd), I usually go back to this weekend with my grandparentns. "Emotional Rescue" unfortunately brings me back to five years ago, right after he died, when a quick, tiring fever hit me at their house, and how when I was finally able to lay down, I heard that song on my iPod in a feverish daze.
Thirty years later, I just wish I had not been so intimidated of him that day and talked to him. Maybe he didn't know what to say to me, either. We started the whole grandfather/grandson thing late, and I'm thankful he made the effort to try to catch up. We did eventually, but there was a lot about him I didn't know, and I lot I wanted to thank him for but never got a chance to before he died. I wish that morning when I noticed the half-finger, I would have asked him instead of being unnerved. I'm sure I would have heard a good story about it.