January, 2017—As I watched the Super Bowl on Sunday, I kept thinking of my old friend Lily, who left us recently at the age of 95. Lilly, with everything about her growing fragile except her Tom Brady/Patriots’ fandom, had been brought by daughter Marcy from Sharon, Massachusetts, a few years before. And out here, she’d become an immigrant in a strange country filled with goyisher Bengals’ fans who, like some primitive and persecuted sect, persisted in their idolatry without any hope of salvation. Some of us speculated it caused her final decline, although in all likelihood, it was her secret trips to the deli for corned beef.
But, my gosh, she would have been so happy Sunday night that she wouldn’t have complained about her puréed supper. (Her unimaginative servers, if they weren’t watched, might have puréed her place mat.) She would have done her little wheelchair dance with her friend Annie, and she would have slept the sleep of the blessed (which included all Patriots’ fans, an entire country watched over by Brady and providence).
She was coy about her own fandom, though. It was never the unabashed deification of the ordinary fan, rather it was something more subtle, a kind of knowingness, as though she’d had Tom over to her condo for tea, and he’d told her something about upcoming strategy that no one else knew but the two of them. Sometimes, it was simply an aunt’s pleasure at her barely understood nephew’s athleticism. Whatever form it took, it elevated her in the presence of the Bengalis, who lurked about in their tattered orange-striped rags, always banished off television just after the holidays. She never gloated, though. She simply knew.
She’s back in Sharon now, at the memorial park, and close enough to the Patriots’ stadium to hear the faithful cheering on Sundays. What dedicated Brady fan could have wanted a better place?
Nice watching the game with you, Lily; sorry about the corned beef …