First let me start by saying that this post isn't really about hockey, per se. But I guess in way it is, because it's about the person from who I inherited my great love of sports.
As my readers and friends know, I recently returned from a week long vacation to Northwest Florida, near where I grew up. The trip was mostly for relaxation, but there was also a very bittersweet reason my siblings and I chose this destination. In the presence of one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen, we went to this beach to spread my mother's ashes in her final resting place - into the crystal blue Gulf of Mexico along the sugary white sands. A place she loved more than anything and a beach that holds more childhood memories than I can recount.
My mother, affectionately known as "Big Anita", died suddenly and completely unexpectedly at the young age of 64 two years ago in May. "Big Anita" wasn't dubbed "big" in reference at all to her size, but to her "big" spirit - and it was BIG and infectious.
Although she went to college in Indiana, she became one of the most rabid Florida State Seminole football fans I have ever known. Anita had season tickets for more than 10 years and sat in Doak Campbell Stadium through wind, rain or heat to see her beloved Seminoles play. If the game was televised, she painted her face with warpaint, put her Seminole flags throughout the house and answered the home phone "FSU Seminole Network!" Win or lose - her motto was always "your team is your team and you always stand behind your team." She actively served on the board of her local Seminole Booster Club, traveled to FSU Bowl games and rode around town in her red convertible VW bug with two enormous magnetic Seminole magnets on each car door every game weekend.
She was a sight to behold and when she walked into a room, everyone knew Big Anita was there, with her contagious laugh and beaming enthusiasm. Her upbeat spirit pervaded every area of her life and she never met a stranger. Her funeral service brought together FSU fans, rivals and folks from all walks of life - in fact there were two different women there who'd never even met her but had heard of her from her involvement in one of her many activities and they just felt they had to be there...it was so incredibly moving to witness.
I have come to inherit my mom's passion for sports, starting with the Seminoles and now my love for the Washington Capitals and the NHL. She was gone before my boys started playing hockey, but every game they play I think how much she would have loved this game too.
She would have gotten the biggest kick out of going to a Caps game and would have walked out of the store at Verizon Center with every Capitals car magnet, t-shirt and bobblehead ever made!
So I wanted to pay tribute to my amazing mom, who I miss terribly every day, for passing on her love of the "game" along with her incredible strength and spirit...I only hope that I can leave half the legacy that she's left behind and I hope I've made her proud.