On Dec. 30 we will pause and honor our first-born son who died in 2008. Then on Dec. 31 we will get up, dress in purple and cheer on the Dawgs with our Husky family. Thankful for surviving another year without our son, thankful for the health of our living son and thankful that we...

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Our son Ben never liked football. Perhaps it was because he was too young. Perhaps it’s because it was too loud.

Perhaps it’s because his body already was beaten down. Ben was diagnosed with Stage 4 Neuroblastoma in 2007. Treatment included chemotherapy, surgery, stem-cell transplant, radiation and more.

He spent more than 100 nights at Seattle Children’s hospital. During one stay, he began watching Wimbledon on TV, and he was hooked. Tennis was the opposite of football,  fairly quiet, soothing, full of rhythm – one man alone on each side of the court. I think it was a sport that at some deep level he could understand, even at his age. When we would try to turn it off, he would ask us to, “Put the Roger Federer movie back on.” Ben died on Dec. 30, 2008 while listening to tennis. He was 3 1/2.

Fast-forward eight years, and our other son, Ryan, really could not care less about tennis. But he loves football. He woke us up at 4:45 a.m. for “ESPN College Game Day” at UW, fully dressed in Husky gear and said, “Let’s go, Mom and Dad!” And off we went!

He starts each day before school watching the NFL Network, has multiple fantasy football teams, and his NFL cards are scattered in every corner of my house. A house that used to be filled with tubes, pumps and more medicines than you possibly could imagine.

At the end of the day, sports don’t really matter. Nothing matters when your child is dying. Nothing. I have no idea how the Huskies did in 2007-2008, nor in the years that followed. I can’t recall when we started attending games again.

But somewhere in that foggy “After Ben” timeline we did. We slowly reconnected with our Husky alumni friends and returned to cheering with three generations of our Husky family. It didn’t change our grief, certainly. But it started changing our weeks and our calendar. It gave us something to look forward to. Something to plan. Something that was concrete in the midst of emotional upheaval. And as these hard years have gone by … something that is fun. Watching the Huskies this season has been so much fun.

As we sat at the Pac-12 championship game with Ryan, I looked around and offered up some sort of thanksgiving. That life continues. That we were making it. That eight years later I could look at my living son cheering his lungs out for the Dawgs and feel genuinely happy. And mostly in this season of Ben’s death, that I could be distracted. For that is what this has been for us, a very fun distraction.

So on Dec. 30 we will pause and honor our first-born son, as we have done for the past eight years. And then on Dec. 31 we will get up, dress in purple and cheer on the Dawgs with our Husky family. Thankful for surviving another year without our son, thankful for the health of our living son and thankful that we got to chase the Huskies to the College Football Playoff. Win or lose, we are grateful for what this season has given our reduced family. Many thanks to Coach Chris Petersen and all the UW players.

Ben never liked football. But I’d like to think with time that would have changed. After all, his favorite color was purple.

Go Dawgs!

Carin Towne is a local writer, actor and proud alum of the University of Washington.

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