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,



Jestlick said...

Tears buddy. Well put.

Randee said...

tears for people i have never met...may her memory be for a blessing