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WILKINSON: Now we realize how sports builds memories, marks milestones, binds us together

The Stough children, from left, Hunter, 8; Skylar, 15, and Audrey, 12, vie for a catch while playing with their father Richard at Codorus State Park Thursday, May 14, 2020. Sports can often help families build bonds and create memories. Bill Kalina photo

Dear sports:

They say you never know how much you love something until you lose it.

And right now, we’re all learning how much you matter.

We’re stumbling around with a family member missing. The steadying presence in the background of all our memories is gone.

You were there in the blue truck and the B-deck when a kid saw his first college game with his dad.

You were there when a mom tried a mitt and a catcher’s stance when the kid needed a little more practice as a pitcher.

You were there with the brothers in the basement, building family bonds and settling sibling rivalries with the help of a makeshift basketball and an undersized hoop.

You were always there. 

At every practice and every game. 

In the huddle and in the locker room. 

On the ball field and in the bleachers, pulling teams and entire towns all together, forming friendships and fun, making morals and memories that move youth toward maturity.

You were there under the Friday night lights. And back again on the family TV on Saturday and Sunday.

You were the conversation thread we could always pull. 

For a stranger in line. A relative at Christmas. A text to a friend.

You were always there. 

Boy met girl and you made the Save the Date magnet too, a future bride and groom in rival jerseys, evidence of a love that even surpassed you. 

Then you were on the shirt when the baby showed up, when a teary new dad held his first born tightly up against it.

You were in the phone calls to grandpa. And in the questions your kid shouts to Alexa.

And you were on the TV again in the family room, completing the entire circle, tiny voices in a chorus with older ones, each of them cheering for a touchdown.

You were always there.

But then suddenly this spring, you weren’t. 

And we’re all wandering around a little empty now. 

Lost. Struggling. Sad.

But time still passes. Guidelines and seasons change. Spring swings toward summer and summer fades into fall.

You've started to return, although in a halting manner. Somewhere up ahead you are waiting for us all. 

And now we’ll always know our love.

Can’t wait to feel it again.

Nate Wilkinson is a former sports reporter for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at