Charlie Bibb has always been a fan of University of Georgia football, since Herschel Walker, but this year, for the first time, he bought season tickets. It had been a painful year and the games were a soothing distraction.
The Warner Robins native was rewarded with an outstanding season and the spectacle of seeing UGA in the playoffs.
Knowing his Dogs would go to the Rose Bowl was sweet. But what he found at the bottom of his stocking Christmas morning was so exciting he was rendered temporarily insane: Charlie was going to the Rose Bowl with them.
Unbeknownst to Charlie, his wife Connie Bibb arranged for the two of them to fly to Los Angeles, watch the Rose Parade, go to the game, and even sneak in a trip to Disneyland.
When Charlie pulled those tickets out of his stocking, his son-in-law was ready with an iPhone to record the reaction. The video, featuring Charlie screaming, laughing, crying and tackling his wife, has now been seen perhaps a million times, and the number is rising.
“I thought she was playing a trick on me,” said Bibb, a 48-year-old father of two who works in security at Robins Air Force Base. “I said, ‘Are these trick tickets?’ Then I lost it after that.”
It was a moment of happiness at the end of a rough year: Charlie and Connie lost their special-needs daughter Caitlyn exactly a year ago Friday. She was 21 and born with mitochondrial myopathy, a for of muscular dystrophy that robs the cells of energy and causes muscles to deteriorate.
Though confined to a wheelchair and blind, she charmed the world around her. “I just wish the world knew who Caitlyn was,” said Chris Clark, who is married to Caitlyn’s older sister Chaley — and is the cinematographer behind the video. “If they knew Caitlyn, they’re better for it.”
Caitlyn died a year ago, on Dec. 29, 2016, and this Christmas was the first Christmas the Bibbs celebrated without her.
“We knew Christmas was going to be hard,” said Charlie.
Connie, 48, who works as a scheduler in a high-security area of Robins Air Force Base, found a way to soften the anniversary. She also knew that, for the first time in a long time, she’d be able to go with her husband to the game.
In the past when she wasn’t working she spent much of her time taking care of Caitlyn, fixing her food, helping her with her clothes and hair. “Even though she was 21 it was like always having a 2-year-old,” said Connie. “I didn’t get to go and do a lot of the things that Charlie liked to do.”
This year that changed. She started driving to Athens with Charlie to attend UGA games. It became a year of doing things together. “It’s been a good distraction,” said Charlie, “not to pull us away from the hurt and pain, but just to get us to focus on something else.”
Then Connie discovered freshman phenomenon and fellow Warner Robins native Jake Fromm, the surprise starting quarterback this year. Her fascination with football blossomed.
“She don’t know nothing about football, not a lick,” said Charlie. “What got her interested is Jake Fromm … She’s crazy about Jake Fromm. She automatically got to be a fanatic.”
Connie won’t say whether it’s Fromm’s ability as a quarterback or his impressive eyebrows that caught her attention. But the good looks don’t hurt. “I have to be careful, she said. “My family will call me a cougar.”
A Fromm infatuation can be expensive: It means one needs good tickets. “I don’t want to go to a game to where I can’t see Jake Fromm down on the field,” she said. “I had to fork out a little extra money to where I can see Jake on the field.”
The gift was expensive, but Charlie’s reaction was worth it. “How did you pull that off?” he hollers in the video. “You’ve got to be freakin’ kidding me!”
“He’s still smiling,” Connie said Thursday.
Charlie is also still amused by the video, though he wishes he wasn’t screaming in quite such a high-pitched range. “I don’t know how my voice got up there.”
And he is impressed at Connie’s skulduggery. She got the help of Chaley, who bought plane tickets and hotel reservations on her own card so the charges wouldn’t show up on Charlie’s account. (She got paid back.) Then Connie waited until Charlie was asleep before she sprang for the Rose Bowl tickets.
He was caught unaware. “He did not know, until he got the tickets out of his stocking,” Connie said. “I’m a great a secret keeper. I could not wait to see the happy expression of excitement on his face.
“It is by far the most expensive gift I have ever given, but it’s a gift that involves both of us,” she said, “a gift from my heart to my husband to let him know how I much I love him.”