This story is by Trish Olson and was part of our 2017 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
My cousin Tyler has always felt like a brother to me.I’m sure one of the reasons is that we grew up next door to each other. We live in Cambridge,Massachusetts,and he was just offered a football scholarship from the University of North Carolina to play football for the Tarheels,where they have promised they will pay his full tuition.
Tyler and I have always loved football. Our dads started teaching us when we were four. They were both teachers, which gave us the same schedules and gave them plenty of time to practice with us. When we got to high school, my dad was the football coach for our team. Some people think it can be hard being the coach’s son, because they believe they tend to be harder on you and expect perfection from you. I guess I was lucky, because. I was never treated differently than any of my teammates,and neither was Tyler.We had to follow the same rules or we would suffer the same consequences. My dad received a lot of respect as a coach because he earned it.
He went out of his way for his players. I overheard him in the locker room with his star quarterback one afternoon. He walked in and caught him drinking straight vodka for the second time. “You have two options Tony. Join Alcoholics Anonymous or kiss your football career goodbye!” Most coaches would have made him provide some type of proof that he joined, but my dad actually attended meetings with him for six months to offer support.
We had a cabin in the white mountains, and every fall during Columbus Day weekend he invited his entire football team to the cabin.The foliage was beautiful and there were plenty of hiking trails, but his mission was to form a team bond.
For our fifth birthday Tyler and I each got a football, matching Patriots jackets, and tickets to our first live Patriots game. Our first live game ever was the 2002 Super Bowl, which turned out to be the Patriots first Super Bowl win in history! My dad looked at us and said,”This could be you some day.” I guess that was the first time I realized I loved the game, but I didn’t want to play professionally. I smiled at my dad and said, “I want to be a doctor.” He said,”Okay.” and he never tried to sway my opinion after that. He was always supportive.
Tyler has always helped people. It’s just his nature. He was ten when our neighbor, Mr. Wilson, suffered a massive heart attack and died unexpectedly at the age of sixty-four. People were already talking about how long it would be before his wife would have to move, because she wouldn’t be able to handle things like shoveling her driveway that winter. The first day it snowed, without ever being asked,Tyler got up an hour early so he could shovel her sidewalk and driveway and he has contined ever since.
Then, last spring, Tyler saw a story on our local news about a family whose home caught on fire Christmas Eve and caused them to lose not only everything they owned, but also their youngest daughter, who was one of our classmates.Two of the firefighters risked their lives trying to pull her from her second story bedroom, but she died from smoke inhalation. It had an enormous impact on our school. Emily Robbins was sort of a female version of Tyler.She was kind,talented,funny,smart, and virtually everyone she met loved her. Even though she passed away,we voted her “most popular”. A year book was signed by the entire school, including staff, and then delivered to her family by her favorite teacher.
There was also a card with a check, “Your daughter was worth millions. I’m sorry we could only raise $10,000 for her scholarship fund.Sincerely,Tyler Murphy.” He also became involved with the community project to rebuild Emily’s house for her family.
On August twenty-first, just two weeks before the house was finished, our lives changed dramatically. My uncle received a call during dinner from one of the volunteers Tyler was working with. Tyler had fallen from a ladder and suffered a severe concussion. He was rushed by ambulance to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and he had not regained consciousness. Once he did, we all knew something was wrong. His speech was slurred,and he couldn’t tell the doctors what his address or phone number was. He has had a headache ever since the accident occurred and while he was getting an A in calculus, he is now finding it difficult to perform simple addition and subtraction.
Typically concussion symptoms are healed within three months but his have already lasted nine months. The doctors are calling this post concussion syndrome and saying all we can do is wait and hope for the best. I have added praying to my list.
I find it ironic that we spent so many years playing football and neither of us ever suffered a concussion or any major injury. My worst injury the entire time I have been playing was a sprained ankle.
I received my letter from Harvard saying that I was accepted. I wasn’t sure I could handle starting but the more I thought about it, I knew that Tyler would have followed his dream and gone to play for the Tarheels if he could have,and that following my dream and studying medicine was probably one of the best things I could do to help him.
I’m still praying for Tyler’s recovery. He loves Robert Louis Stevenson’s quote, “To be what we are and to become what we are capable of becoming is the only end of life.” Tyler has a long way to go, but he is capable of a lot. I think in our own way, we all are.