Even from high in the bleachers
Broad shoulders and legs
strong, churning, crushing.
Eight years old
and I was hanging close to my Dad’s knee.
I knew the name. Cookie Gilchrist.
Before I knew all my prayers. Cookie Gilchrist.
Cookie ran for the Buffalo Bills
on this cold afternoon November of 64.
I sat riveted, watching my idol
steamroll over opposing linemen,
linebackers and the odd zebra or two.
Dad laughed as it was
“Cookie this”, and “Cookie that”
He knew a boy needed his heroes.
The Bills could have won without him,
but Gilchrist made it special.
“Thanks Dad” I remember saying,
“He’s my hero”
Dad smiled a smile
that continues to warm me to this day.
We grabbed our gear and headed out.
“This way, Sonny” he instructed.
And I followed in obedience.
Ramp, after tunnel, after stair
to a ramp. We found ourselves
in the lowest point in the “Rockpile”.
A swarm of screaming kids blocked the way.
Standing above the throng…
Dad leaned in and whispered to me
and I nodded in compliance.
In my loud eight year old voice
I called, “Mr. Gilchrist?”
He stopped. And glancing our way, he smiled.
Cookie pressed past the crowd
to the place where my father and I stood.
This mountain of a man
reached for my program.
He smiled even more broadly
and he plied his signature
onto the glossy crisp page.
In awe I stammered,
“Thank you very much, Mr. Gilchrist!
One last smile graced his face.
“No son, thank you!”
I came to understand
his gratitude as the years passed.
For in a simple gesture,
my father taught me a great lesson.
I learned respect.
I had the opportunity to thank my father
before he had died.
“No Sonny, thank you!” he said.
With that the lesson was completed.
A boy has to have his hero.
Carlton “Cookie” Gilchrist died today from a recurrence of Cancer. He was 75.