Last week, just before Christian left for college, some important men in his life gathered to send him off. When he was in the eighth grade, a youth basketball league was just getting started in our little town. They were short coaches and so they asked some of the players to coach a second grade team. Since Christian had a brother in the second grade, he volunteered. It's on the sidelines of neighborhoods gyms that our boy found his gift and shone his light. Over the last 7 years, he's coached countless teams. One season, he coached Nick, Stephen, and Mary Beth, each on a different team. Or maybe he did that for two seasons; I can't remember.
What I do know with certainty is that he is the winningest coach in the league's history. More than that, I know (because I edited a paper on his player selection strategy) that he's always had a heart for the kid who needs a boost. And he has an extraordinary gift for boosting.
So, two dads who have coached with him throughout the years invited all the players who have ever played for him and they sent him off to do good in another small town. There were speeches. There was a beautiful slideshow, the gift of my friend Jenn.There was an announcement that he is the first coach ever elected to the Mercer-Lunsford Basketball Hall of Fame. And there was a tearful send off from the players he's touched the most--his brothers.
I've clipped just the end of the Stephen's speech (given on behalf of Stephen and Nick) because he sure summed up this moment for all of us.
This is my husband Mike, with our friend,Brian. We all went to high school together. Brian was the best man in our wedding. He's Nicholas' godfather. He's the kind of friend who sticks closer than a brother.
Mike and Brian were on the USS Ronald Reagan this week for this moment:
This is Chris, taking command of an aircraft carrier. Chris went to high school with us, too. And I'm blessed to call Chris' high school sweetheart (now his wife), Shelley, my dear friend. Chris was in our wedding, too and Mike was in his. That was the first wedding Michael, a tiny infant, ever attended.
So there they were, all of them in San Diego celebrating something that seems so surreal to me. I had hoped to go, to make another California trip like last year's, but it was not to be. Instead, Mike went and took pictures and told me all about it. While they all heralded the milestone, I moved through my daily round, remembering. I remembered being about 15 on a rowboat on Lake Accotink with these guys (and I remember getting perilously close to the waterfall--ahem). I remembered my father drilling Chris at my dining room table before his Naval Academy admissions interviews. I remember when Chris and Brian heard they were "in" at the Naval Academy. And I remembered all the moments we've treasured in the last thirty years. These are moments you can't imagine when all your friends are scattering from your small town high school to colleges far and wide. You think it's all over forever.
But it's not.
Genuine friendship? Endures and grows.
Moment by moment.
The father of a daughter is nothing but a high-class hostage. A father turns a stony face to his sons, berates them, shakes his antlers, paws the ground, snorts, runs them off into the underbrush, but when his daughter puts her arm over his shoulder and says, 'Daddy, I need to ask you something,' he is a pat of butter in a hot frying pan. ~Garrison Keillor