Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Letter to an Old Friend

Dear Ted,

I know I haven't seen you in probably 13 years. I estimate this based upon the fact that my oldest son, Nile, was only a bit more than one-year-old when I saw you last. We were at Ty and Tera's house in Osage Beach, Missouri. Enjoying our youth as best we could. And you didn't know how utterly terrified I was on the inside as a new dad.

And here you are, not only facing the new dad thing, but facing it quite unexpectedly alone. When I heard the news about your wife, Jocelyn, this week, I literally felt like I was kicked in the gut.

To lose the mother of your child, your first child, just after she literally labored to bring her into the world, well, that's simply something I refuse to believe God, if he exists, would let happen. But it did happen. And it makes me angry, and sad, and frustrated, and wanting to scream.

I can't possibly begin to understand, and therefore can offer you no advice, on losing the love of your life.  But I decided that the least I could do is pass on a few things I've learned about being a single dad.

First off, don't take it too seriously. Yes, you have to be the disciplinarian. But that doesn't mean you have to do it Stalin-style. Enjoy Emmerson's sassiness when she shows it. Let her freak flag fly. And applaud it. I see my sons as an extension of me. A piece of me. My blood. My mini-me's. I'm going to presume that when you look at your daughter, you're going to see your late wife. But make no mistake, my friend, she is half you, and you are her rock for the foreseeable future. So laugh. Smile. And teach her to do the same.

The second bit of advice I have is this: Take time for her. When we leave this world, that 4 p.m. conference call isn't going to weigh in more decisively than your daughter's first school concert, or ballet recital, or soccer game. She needs you more than most kids need their parents. So make sure you answer that call, and don't let the stuff that doesn't matter get in the way of that.

And unless you think I'm telling you that you need to devote your every minute to her, my third piece of advice is, take time for yourself. You'll have even more parenting demands on you than most, as you are her only parent 24/7/365. That doesn't mean you shouldn't take breaks. You do need to recharge, so rely on your family and friends to be able to do that. Because a burned out dad isn't a very effective one.

Finally, as she gets older, I strongly encourage you to take Emmerson on trips to Jocelyn's roots, and also both of your roots in Grinnell, Iowa City, Cleveland, Kenyon, and Columbus. I remember first meeting Jocelyn when she was attending law school at the University of Iowa, and you were coaching on the football staff in Grinnell. This was where your relationship first bloomed, and while it may not seem like it now, someday your daughter will love to learn about these places where you fell in love with her mother.

I am at a loss for words as I sit here trying to imagine the road you face ahead of you. This moment that was supposed to be pure bliss, the arrival of Emmerson, was marred with this unimaginable tragedy. But know that Jocelyn is looking down now and telling you it's time to buck up. Like when you tell your players there's not time for quitting. She was just as much a fierce competitor in this world as you, my friend, and she certainly wants you to keep fighting your way forward for the most precious gift she ever gave you - your daughter.

And remember that when you're missing Jocelyn, and feeling like you're lost or need to talk, you have an amazing network of friends to rely on, from your college buddies and football teammates at Grinnell, to your staff and players at Kenyon, and every other school you coached at along the way. Even guys who haven't seen in over 13 years are here for you.

You and Emmerson are in my thoughts and prayers. And a lot of other people who you haven't seen in a decade or two. And even people who you've never met. And your wife is looking down upon you with pride, knowing that if there's anyone who can do this, it's you, Ted. May she rest in peace.

God bless,


Thursday, June 7, 2012

From Russia, With No Love

There's no Perestroika goin' on here.

Tatyana and I first started talking over two years ago on a dating site.

She was a Russian immigrant, having moved here 20 years ago, and she still speaks Russian with her children, and works as an interpreter.

At the time, I lived a little further away from her, and our schedules didn't work to meet up for our first date.

Time went on, and we both ended up in relationships that lasted over a year.

Then, last week, we reconnected on the same dating site. We exchanged emails about what we had been up to, and figured out that we should probably meet up since we always got along when we were emailing or texting, both two years ago and now.

We ended up meeting for drinks and appetizers two days ago at a nice little wine bar that was less than ten minutes away from both of us. I was actually excited, but not overly optimistic, that maybe I'd have a great first date with a Minnesota woman for the first time in years.

As we met for the first time in the parking lot, I felt a little buckle in my knees. She was even more beautiful than her pictures portrayed - a rarity in the online dating world. She was tall, thin, blond, with sparkling blue eyes and a single, heart-melting dimple when she smiled hello to me.

Things started off a little awkwardly, as she insisted on lecturing me, in her thick Russian accent, about my late arrival. I had told her I would be 10 minutes later than we planned. But she still insisted on telling me off. "In my culture, you would no longer be a man, but be a boy, for not respecting me enough to show up on time." She finally gave up the lecture when I assured her (not so honestly) that I'm usually on time. 

We had a fantastic conversation about life as a single parent of boys (she has three sons), about dating as a single parent, and about the ups and downs of relationships. I respected her bluntness. "If I don't like someone, or don't want to date them, I just tell them," she said. "I don't have time to waste." Honesty. How I love that. My dating mantra has long been "I'd rather be hurt by the truth than lied to."

We were both flirty with our words and our body language, and the conversation went on comfortably for over two hours. Knowing she appreciated blunt conversation, I finally just said, "I'm really enjoying talking with you, and I think you're beautiful, and I'd like to go on a second date if you'd like to."

She replied in her thick accent, "I find you to be very attractive, and really enjoy conversing with you. I would really love another date." We said goodbye with a nice, long hug, and as she pulled away she smiled and flashed her dimple. Feeling my knees buckle again, I started high-fiving myself in my brain for FINALLY having a decent first date again.

The plan was that we'd have our second date on Monday, the next night we didn't have our kids. And in the meantime, we'd keep texting and talking on the phone to get to know more about each other. Yesterday and today we had some very good conversations that continued to make me think things were going very well.

And then tonight, in less than a 50-word text message exchange, the Cold War was rekindled in full force (see the photo above for the actual exchange). Because she had decided to leave her kids alone tonight and go out, she wanted me to meet her out of the blue. My GMan had a baseball game, and I told her I couldn't do it, unless we met sometime after 9 p.m. when his game would be over.

She would have none of that. She wanted me to meet her right then. I told her no. can read it for yourself. But the bat shit crazy came shooting out like a Yellowstone geyser. Here's a hint to any woman wanting to date me: Don't ever ask me to put my kids behind you in priority. Ever. Because you have as good of a chance of that happening as I do scoring a date with a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model.

So, I said the only thing I could think of to what I had hoped would be my next ex-wife: 

Dear Tatyana,