“Mom, do you need anything brought to the cleaners?” my son asked, holding up a half- dozen dress shirts in shades of blues and red.
“What are all those for?” I asked. His eyes sparkled.
“If Jon wins,” he said gleaming, “parties.” The coming weekend, his friend, Jon Bones Jones, would defend his title as UFC Light Heavyweight Champion of the world.
As my son walked to his car, the colorful shirts fluttered in the wind, reminding me of Tibetan prayer flags. And suddenly hope was hugging me as I watched him drive off.
Jon’s fight; I had to see it. He had to win.
“So bloody. Too violent,” friends said when I canvassed to share the Pay-Per-View. To see the event I’d have to go to a bar, by myself, at ten on Saturday night. That was less likely than my son ironing shirts. But I was determined.
Googling the contender’s name, I couldn’t stop reading about his powerful blows and 20-game winning streak. Could Jon beat this guy? Memories of injuries from past fights pummeled at my hopes. I rubbed my eyes to wish on fallen lashes. I cried, imagining the dismal scene if he lost, the clean shirts put back upstairs unused. Please let Jon win.
For days I willed him to be strong and went without my daily glass of wine, to comply with his training regimen. Let Jon keep his title, I pleaded each night, looking up at the stars as I walked the dog. He has to win, I told myself all week. The last time I’d prayed this hard was near the end of my daughter’s almost three-year battle with leukemia. I needed a victory celebration.
“I’m so excited,” I emailed back to my friend Marcy when she confirmed I could watch the fight at her place. “I’m so nervous,” I told her husband and son-in-law as I plopped down on their couch during the preliminaries and quickly devoured the corn-chips.
Please win, I whispered as the match began.
Please, because I want my son to wear his dress shirts and be happy.
Win, because my daughter’s friend, Jake, an avid martial artist, had said, “Don’t let the cancer win,” before he died. And last week, Troy, one of her high school classmates, lost his fight against cancer. Because the National Cancer Institute reports survival rates for young adults with cancer have not improved like the rates for pediatric and adult cancers.
You have to win, Jon. Because I need to see more young people winning their fights and living their dreams.