The idiom, “full circle,” the internet says, probably originated with Shakespeare, which might help explain why I had to wonder about its origin. (In high school, I tended to zone out when we got around to Shakespeare, relying on my good buddy, Cliff Notes, to fill me in on little things like plot details.)
But it’s speculated that Shakespeare coined the phrase in King Lear — “The wheel is come full circle” — referencing the Roman goddess of fortune, Fortuna, who turned a great…all together now…wheel of fortune.
And the phrase came to mind recently, the Friday after Thanksgiving in Fayetteville specifically.
So many of my best early memories are of the family trekking up the Pig Trail, the Arkansas Griswolds en route to their own Wally World, Razorback Stadium. Oftentimes, there was Tontitown for supper afterwards; back in those days, Razorback Stadium hosted afternoon games only. And every time we were up big early in the fourth quarter against a Tulsa or Rice, Dad had us sprinting out of the stadium to the car so we could beat the traffic. I think the fastest I ever saw him move was one of these games.
I’m more grateful for those memories than Dad probably realizes. Of course, there were more important lessons in the big picture he handed down to his boys — John 3:16; we’re all God’s children, so treat everyone with kindness and respect; be honest and loyal and dependable. Work hard. Lord knows, I’ve fallen short of his example an infinite number of times.
I suspect, however, that I exceeded his expectations when it came to Calling the Hogs.
Dad, who turned 80 this year, finally gave up his season tickets a few years ago, grandkids spread across the South taking priority, as they should. And though I often had access to his tickets as I grew into a young adult, there were just four tickets and usually way more than four sets of hands outreached for them.
So, I became a season ticket holder in my early 30s and remain one today (let’s just say 20-some-odd years later). Couldn’t afford them then and still can’t really, frugality being one of Dad’s lost lessons. But I carried on the tradition.
For my boys, the “Razorback tunnel” on what is now I-49 became their Pig Trail. And whenever we crested that last hill past Greenland — Fayetteville and the campus opening up before us like some sacred vista, Old Main standing guard — the Marching Razorbacks took over, CD cued up to the fight song.
The Friday after Thanksgiving this year was a little different, though: I drove my dad to a Razorback game in Fayetteville. And it was glorious. The outcome of the game, of course, helped. But I’m not sure even a loss — as crushing as it would’ve been — could have dampened the actual experience.
I had reminded Dad that I’m a 00:00 guy — meaning I don’t leave ‘til zeroes don the scoreboard at the end of the game. He was totally fine with that. I had warned him about the volume of the piped-in music played pre-game, in between plays… incessantly. Turns out, he enjoyed it.
My nephew, who tagged along with us, even took a video of Dad (aka Papa) “gettin’ jiggy” to a hip-hop song I couldn’t identify if my life depended on it. Watching my dad, the Baptist deacon, singing the National Anthem, eyes closed, like he was back in the choir loft and then singing along to “I’ve Got Friends in Low Places” has taken its place atop my Mount Rushmore of memories. (The fact that he knew the words to the latter hasn’t completely sunk in.)
We didn’t make it to Tontitown, but we did hit the Catfish Hole in Alma on the way back down. Us, and every other day-tripping Arkie, that is. Back in the day, when we didn’t do Tontitown, there was a good chance we’d stop to eat at the old Alamo restaurant in Alma.
It was a fitting end to a good day, indeed, a full circle day — the game, stopping to eat in Alma afterwards — and I’m so very grateful for it.
The next lesson I hope to take from my dad — stop complaining about the volume and just enjoy the moment, the best way you can.
Sure helps when the Hogs win big.