I promised you when last I wrote that I’d tell you about my Notre Dame trip. Trouble is, I don’t know where to start. It was the most magical visit ever and almost impossible to sum up. But I’ll try.
Daughter Meg, son Wade and I had looked forward to spending the weekend walking all over the campus, visiting the places that meant so much to my dad, Wade Sullivan, when he was a student and football player there in the early 1920s. There was an immediate hitch in our plans when Wade (named for his grandfather – but I suppose you already figured that out, dear Diary} showed up hobbling with a cane on a sprained ankle.
We drove to the campus, parked and then sat on a bench wondering where we could find a magic carpet to transport us. Well, we found something better than a magic carpet. On football weekends, a group of retirees, mostly ND alums, drive golf carts around to ferry non-walkers from place to place on campus.
I spotted one of the golf carts (they were few and far between) and hailed it. (Meg says I leaped over several bystanders to get it, but she exaggerates. I’m pretty sure.) Our driver, Fred, was intrigued that I was the daughter of a Rockne-coached player and so he drove us all around the campus to the spots we wanted to see.
We lit candles at the beautiful Grotto that my dad loved so much, then stopped at Sorin Hall, where he had lived. Meg and I even sneaked inside and found the room I’m sure he had – it was a corner room on the first floor with a window that, when my dad lived there, he and his pals used to crawl through when they missed curfew.
Then it was on to the pep rally, which was held outdoors with the coaches, team, and cheerleaders on a big bandstand. The area just in front of the bandstand was roped off for VIPs who had passes dangling around their necks. We didn’t have passes, but Meg charmed one of the ushers with tales of her grandfather’s years playing for Knute Rockne and so we were allowed into the front row.
I even caught one of the souvenir footballs the team tossed into the crowd. Okay, I didn’t really catch it. The guy behind me did, but Meg told him it was my birthday and my dad played for Rockne and – voilá! – he gave me the ball.
On to game day, Saturday, and once again, a golf cart appeared just when we needed it to get to the stadium. Notre Dame won handily. Immediately after the game, win or lose, the team gathers in a corner of the field and sings the haunting, “Notre Dame Our Mother.” I always get teary-eyed at that, and even more so that day, hearing it in person.
Following the game, I walked across campus to the beautiful Basilica for Mass. And there appeared the final proof that either God or my dad, or probably both, were orchestrating our entire weekend. The entrance hymn was Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, my favorite hymn, one I consider my very own.
And this concludes, Dear Diary, the story of my magical, heavenly Notre Dame weekend.