SMITH COLUMN: Three generations
Published 1:46 pm Thursday, April 27, 2023
TEMPE, Ariz. – Last weekend here in the Valley of the Sun, there was a gathering of three generations — grandfather, father, and son. It was not a convention, not even a small conference but the principals met up for three days of sun splashed hospitality among saguaro cactus, desert rock and flowers, such as the Blackfoot Daisy and Desert Marigold, which are accompanied by spectacular sunrises and sunsets.
“This,” Alex, the youngest, said on the way to dinner via Uber, “is why I like it out here.” He was waving in the direction of a splendorous sunset over a craggy mountain chain, which surrounds greater Phoenix.
Our home base for a long weekend was the Mission Palms Hyatt which has a courtyard which might be a Garden of Eden look-a-like in that there are orderly rows of smashing, red gardenias, among palm, ficus, and fruit bearing orange trees. A classic saguaro stood silent sentry to this storied landscape where early morning breakfasts and late afternoon socials kept your mood and perspective in grateful and generous order.
The only thing on our collective agendas was fun, food and good times which included seats behind the Arizona Diamondbacks’ dugout. The D-Backs were hosting the San Diego Padres in near perfect weather with all the fanfare that accompanies major league baseball games today.
Our proximity to the field put us just beyond arm’s length of the playing field, which allowed for lip reading of the players along with audible expressions that made you feel you were vicariously part of the action. Being the guest of the owner who has a University of Georgia connection, allowed for an unforgettable outing. Alex had brought along his best friend, Julian Casciano, who began life in Westchester County just north of Manhattan but grew up in South Florida.
We chose Tempe as our destination, which is the collegiate home for Alex, who is halfway finished with his curriculum at Arizona State. He grew up in Dallas and vacationed throughout the West as a kid and has always had a penchant for the region’s specialness. He became a devout Bulldog fan growing up even though his mom is a Texas-Ex, and his maternal grandparents are as passionately drawn to the red of the Oklahoma Sooners as his paternal side is overtly swayed by Bulldog red.
Alex is not expecting the Sun Devils to reach the apex of the College Football Playoffs anytime soon and remains enraptured with Kirby Smart and the Bulldogs’ college football dominance. Any Internet factoid that gains cyber exposure, he is connected with and can’t wait to take in championship venues where leading a Bulldog’s life holds sway.
“Listen, GranDawg,” he said over a beer on the first day of our reunion. “I think Kirby Smart is the best football coach in the country. He has to be the best of all phases of the game — from recruiting to coaching to player development.” That brought about three energetic nods of the head from the only senior citizen in the group.
With his father and grandfather, there were countless father-son outings to take in Super Bowls, a triple overtime game between Larry Bird’s Celtics and Michael Jordan’s Bulls in the old Boston Gardens, the World Series in Boston, golf tournaments, pheasant hunts and an outing in Othello, Washington where Canada geese were as plentiful as Coors Light.
As we enjoyed a steak dinner the second day and waxed into the evening with Georgia on our minds, we also engaged in conversations about life at ASU where he enrolled for study at the Walter Cronkite College of Journalism and Mass Communications, the sports scene and his plans for the future.
Now Alex is segueing into history and business, but with plans to stay connected in some way with communications. Like most college kids, he enjoys a nice party, but is serious about accountability in the classroom, working out, learning about the history of Tempe and the Arizona desert, and keeping abreast of what is taking place in the sports world.
It was a laid back weekend with an underscoring of the basics, all happy to be engaged in a family outing fashioning memories that will be coveted with the passing of time.
As the patriarch, I take pride in a foregoing play-by-play of sorts of an emotionally soothing account of an unforgettable weekend in a time when the world often seems upside down and knowing that with some families there as much discord as there is compatibility. After all, family problems and contempt only date back to Cain and Abel. Selah!