Michele Grgas Thomas The Triplicate

Ididn't think it would bother me much, but it did. Old habits die hard, so it wasn't easy facing Super Bowl weekend without a family gathering to look forward to.

I don't recall the first time my sons and I watched a Super Bowl together, but it must have been in the mid 80s. Together we cheered the 49ers to back-to-back wins in 1989 and 1990. My youngest son, who was only 8 in 1990, got a 49ers uniform for Christmas and wore it on game days and also every day after school.

We were big Niner fans so I took the boys to Seattle twice to watch them play the Seahawks. From Grants Pass we drove to Portland's Union Station and rode the train to Seattle. It was a package that included tickets for the train and the game at the Kingdome.

We saw Steve Young and Elvis Grbac, but Joe Montana was sidelined

with injuries both times. The highlight of those games in 1990 and 1991

was seeing Jerry Rice. He was a hero in our home and his posters were

plastered on the walls.

I didn't appreciate football until my sons got me into it. I

attended an all-girls' high school-no football. Then I went to USF

where basketball was huge, but we didn't have a football team. The last

one, in 1951, was good enough to be invited to the Orange Bowl, but

only if the two black players stayed home. The team refused and as a

result funds for the program dwindled. But that's another story.

The first official Super Bowl party I ever hosted was Super Bowl

XXV, New York Giants vs. Buffalo Bills. We had just moved into a house

on the Rogue River. The big back yard was all grass, rolling down to

the river's edge.

We weren't completely unpacked yet, but we wanted to throw a

housewarming/Super Bowl bash. The boys requested all their favorite

foods: nachos with homemade bean dip, barbecued ribs, twice-baked

potatoes and L'il Smokies in the secret sauce.

I've got photos from that day showing a couple dozen boys passing a

football with the river behind them. Those boys came back often. They

grew up and graduated with my sons. They're the young men with wives

and children that I run into once in awhile who tell me with hugs and

smiles that they remember those good times.

My family has met in Salem for the Super Bowl in recent years. But

Sunday my son Matt, who lives in Portland, was the only one who made it

to watch the game with Dana, Holly and my granddaughter. It was Kayla's

first Super Bowl party and I missed it.

The phone rang at half time. "Happy Super Bowl, Mom," Dana said. I

told him I was feeling terrible about not being there with them. "Yeah,

Mom, it's like a national holiday and you're not here."

"But," he told me, "Holly made the L'il Smokies."

From this I've learned two things: nothing should keep me from my

family on important occasions like Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthdays

and the Super Bowl. And, if I'm not there, the traditions will live on

and L'il Smokies will be served.