Ryan Thomason

Geek Dad Report: One Check on my Vision Bucket List

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Back in December I was able to scratch off something that was in my top 3 for my ‘Vision Bucket List’. Why did it take so long for me to tell you about it?

For one thing, it’s really, really hard for me to write about my diagnoses of Ushers Syndrome and the consequent effects it has on my daily life. Everyone knows what a bucket list is, it’s one of those lists of things you want to do before you die. I also keep a vision bucket list of things I want to see before this disease makes me go blind. So when my Dad called me up and told me that we were going to fly into Pittsburg and see our lifetime long favorite NFL team for a home game, I was beyond speechless. Everyone keeps asking me what the experience was like. I find it hard to put it into words. What would it be like if you were able to do something that was extremely sentimental to you?

Just being in the city was amazing, the people of Pittsburg were beyond helpful and courteous. Wearing black and gold the whole time probably helped. Just from the couple of days being there, I felt like that if I were to uproot my family and move there, I would fit right in. The river that flows through the city is beautiful and the insane amount of bridges crossing it just added to the picturesque landscape. We spent the Saturday before the game exploring, stopping into random bars, having a beer, going to the Stadium and walking around the whole thing only to spend a large sum of money in the proshop there. We…may have drank too much since my dad was looking like he was going to fall asleep at the burger place across the street from our hotel where we had dinner. We had it to go instead, and I got a nice barely touched extra burger for dinner when my dad fell asleep almost literally as he laid down to eat/watch TV.

My heart was pumping hard the whole morning before the game, I had my ticket in my coat pocket and kept checking that it was there every five seconds. As we stood at the gates with the large mass of other people waiting to get in, I just looked around. Heinz Field is an incredible stadium on the outside, with huge shock absorbers built in for when the place goes incredibly nuts. It was a cold, slightly drizzly day while we waited for the gates to open, snow was in the forecast. I didn’t care. I was just trying to hold in all the emotion of being at the one place I had always dreamed of, a place I never thought I would get to see before my vision was stripped from me. When we finally got in and got to look at the stadium proper, I was floored. Just looking at all the memorabilia I could have spent an afternoon inspecting everything that was on display around the stadium.

We were so early to our seats that were 10 rows up from the field in the curve of the horseshoe stadium that our section was pretty much empty. My dad and I just sat in the seats, immediately looked at each other and smiled. The drizzling rain didn’t let up, and the customary wind that you always hear about was picking up and blowing the rain more sideways onto us. I think I must have spent a whole 20 minutes sitting there taking everything in. I was trying to catalog everything I saw so that when I close my eyes my memory of the place was that much more vivid to me. My dad constantly elbowing me only served as a reminder that he was just as excited about the whole experience, and still makes my laugh to myself when I think about it. This trip wasn’t just a treasure for me, it was probably even more so for my dad, who’s been a Steelers fan longer than I’ve been alive. To be able to share it with him brings more emotion for me to the words I’ve been writing than you can possibly believe.

The game itself was amazing, a grinding defensive game that the Steelers are known for. Capped by two picks by Troy Polamalu with one for a touchdown, It made me proud that his jersey was the one I picked to wear. The fans at the stadium were awesome, as was expected. I loved the cranky guy sitting in front of us, snapping at everything. You know he’s the guy that screams at his TV for any perceived slight against the team. By the time everything was said and done, another victory notched for the season, I had a hard time pulling myself away. We’d taken a ton of pictures, but those can only do so much. As people started filing out, I found myself walking down to the ledge, getting as close to the field as I could.

I tried not to cry as I was standing there. I’ll admit that. After my wedding to my amazing wife, children being born, this is the next thing on my list of life experiences. Standing there with my hands on the railing, the drizzle of rain that never let up dripping off my face I said hello and goodbye to a place I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to go back to. I do know though, that I can go back there in my mind, every seat, every roar of the crowd, every quick bout of profane words against the refs from the cranky guy. It’s all there. My parents, especially my dad are incredible for setting it all up for the two of us to go, and I don’t think I’ve made it clear enough how much I appreciated it, I hope this article helps.

Finally, I want to thank the city of Pittsburg and the amazing people I met there, mostly at the bars, you guys are awesome and you gave me something to remember. I do not know if I’ll be able to see the city and team again before my eyes get worse, but I know that I’ll always have an amazing memory of being there.

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