Tag Archives: Dallas Cowboys

Of Socks and Birthdays

I swept through the classroom, closing binders with one hand, even as I precariously aimed my foot at the reading rug and pillows scattered across the floor, trying to straighten them out in front of the fireplace.

“Beary! You got socks on? Time to roll!” I called down the hallway.

“I’m ready!” She emerged from her room with a stuffed cat and pointed a foot at me.

I glanced down and saw the solid blue star on the white background of her sock. A sock that didn’t begin to remotely match the outfit she’d put together, but totally made sense for the day. I looked at her and nodded. She nodded back and smiled. We didn’t have to say a word.

Dallas Cowboys socks on her birthday.

Of course.

It’s the day I miss Kevin most. Of all the beautiful things we created together – memories, traditions, a happy marriage, an incredible friendship – our little Bear is the most beautiful. And we made her. We made her. It still is such an awesome, gives-me-chills, mind-boggling realization. She is part of me and part of him, and all of God’s amazing plan. Infertility was our first struggle and I like to think it made us strong enough to face the fight with cancer that would come our way just two years later. In so many ways, our little miracle baby girl completed us, bringing more faith and love and happiness into our life than you could imagine six pounds and 12 ounces would be capable of holding.

And Kevin loved his Little Bear. Oh, how he loved her. Loves her still, as she reminded me not long after he died. He was fascinated by her and marveled at her tiny fingers and tiny toes and not-so-tiny baby cries. From the moment he walked in the door after work, he held her, hardly even putting her down to eat his supper. I always went to bed a little early, leaving her and Daddy sitting together in the front room, watching ESPN or reading a book. He’d feed her the nighttime bottle, then rock her to sleep. Sometimes I wonder what he whispered to her, as he cradled her in his arms, holding her close, his voice a soothing deep timbre in the dark. Did he tell her he’d always be with her? That she’d always be his little baby girl? That he’d love her forever…no matter what? Even if she wanted to date a Washington Redskins fan someday?

Yes, her birthday is the hardest day for me. I know life isn’t fair, but it seems so incredibly unfair that I get to be here, watching our little girl grow up, sparkling with magic and whimsy, and Kevin can’t share that joy with me. I feel guilt for celebrating this day that brought me so much joy, and I ache for what the two of them will never get to share, and I grieve because I want him here with us so badly. He’s supposed to be here – we’re supposed to do this part together. She’s so much like him – more every day, it seems. Her handwriting, her wry jokes; he would get such a kick out of her spot-on observations of the absurdities of life. She is the best thing I’ve ever done and I still can’t believe she belongs to me. How did I get so lucky? She’s nine now, going on twenty-nine it seems, and every day with her brings more delight – even the hard days.

And on that hardest of days, she surprised and delighted me again. I woke with a heavy heart, thinking of Kevin, memories of the night she was born chasing through my dreams. But her exuberant smile and birthday excitement were contagious. She ripped open her gifts and asked for leftover ice cream cake for breakfast – just like her Daddy. She chased the cats, made her bed, and read a book.

Then, to make sure Daddy was with her every step of the day, she pulled on her Dallas Cowboys socks – never minding the fact that sports socks don’t go with black Mary Janes.

She’s ready, all right. Ready to show me that he’s still here, still with us, still loving us, still part of this birthday celebration.

Somehow, over the last nine years, that tiny baby I snuggled close at the hospital turned into an amazing, smart, and brave girl. A girl confident in love and secure in knowing her Daddy is still with her.

I nodded again. It’s still a hard day, but it’s going to be okay. Our little girl is still bringing more faith, love, and happiness into my life than I could imagine. Thank you, God, for the gift of her. It’s her birthday, but she’s the gift.

“Okay, then,” I said. “Let’s go, birthday girl!”

And we were off.

The ‘Boys

In the years before Kevin, I was vaguely aware of football.

In my years with Kevin, it became such a part of my life that I automatically checked with him — and the Cowboys team schedule — before making plans during football season.

In the years that I am in now — the years without my love — I am in a weird holding pattern. I know it’s football season, but I can’t bring myself to watch the games without Kevin. I miss the sounds of the raucous crowd and confident announcers blaring from the television; Sunday afternoons seem so bleak and quiet now. I miss hearing him yell, “Yeah, ‘Boys!” after a spectacular play. I miss a part of autumn that had been such a big part of my life, but has now fallen away, like the leaves from my sweet gum tree.

I miss Kevin.

I miss football.

I miss…so much.

Now it’s the second football season I’m living through without Kevin, and I’m feeling as lost and sad as I did last year, when I wrote this:

How ‘Bout Them Cowboys?

I asked Kevin one time why there was a hole in the roof of the old Texas Stadium. Like a true Dallas Cowboys fan, he replied, “So God can watch His favorite team play.” And he wasn’t joking.

I’m sure Kevin didn’t watch much football the year he was born, but he always found it exciting to recount that it was during that 1970 season that the Cowboys went to their first Super Bowl. He was less excited to admit that they lost in the final seconds to the Baltimore Colts. I teased him that if his first words had been “Go, Cowboys!” instead of “Mama” maybe the outcome would’ve been different.

We started dating in August, and by the time football season started in September, we were in love and planning our future together. That’s when I learned our future would include football every Sunday…and occasionally Monday nights and Thursday nights, not to mention Thanksgiving Day. Go, Cowboys.

I sometimes play a game with myself, trying to decide what day I would pick if I were offered the chance to spend one more day with him. Obvious contenders are our wedding day, the night our daughter was born, the night he proposed, and of course, those were all extraordinary moments of love, but I can’t discount the ordinary days of quiet joy.

Like a cold winter Sunday afternoon. Home from church. Lounging on the couch in sweatpants and a Cowboys t-shirt. Listening to the announcers on the TV; their voices became as familiar to me as Kevin’s. I’d make it through the first quarter, a little longer, then around halftime, I’d lay over on the arm of the couch and let the roaring cheering crowd lull me to sleep. When Kev noticed, he’d get up and tuck a star-emblazoned team throw around me and kiss my forehead.

“Take a nap, baby doll,” he’d whisper. “I’ll let you know how it turns out.”

And so we passed the lazy afternoon. Him watching the game with chips and a Dr. Pepper, and me dozing on the couch. Particularly great plays would rouse me briefly and I’d glance at him grinning broadly as the ‘Boys celebrated on the screen.

“You look happy,” I’d murmur from the couch.

“Hey, I’ve got a Cowboys game and my girl…I’m doing great, baby doll!” he’d exult from the recliner.

I loved those days.

Gradually, I picked up football terminology and the rules and names of coaches and players and the odd smattering of Cowboys history and fan lore and I understood the joke when someone would ask for one good reason he was a Cowboys fan and Kevin would hold up his hand, wiggle his fingers, and say with a twinkle in his eyes, “I’ve got five reasons!”

When the little Bear joined our team, one of the first things he purchased for her was a Dallas Cowboys onesie, bib, and team logo baby bottle. When football season rolled around that year, a new family tradition was born: the Dallas Cowboys opening game day family portrait. I’d set up the tripod, we’d deck out in our team gear and pose on the front porch. Go, Cowboys!

It snuck up on me this year. I’ve never had to look up the football schedule before; that was Kevin’s job. I watched some leaves drift lazily to the ground one afternoon and it struck me that fall was coming and I panicked. What if I’d already missed the opening day? I cried, thinking that I might’ve blown it, that I might’ve let a family tradition die and how could I do that to Kevin?

This past Sunday, we came home from church. She changed into her favorite team shirt and we set up the tripod and posed on the front porch. And it was sad and I was wistful and she remembered making silly faces on the “outtake” photos with Daddy last year, my two goofballs in front of the camera.

And later that evening, I tucked her into bed, then hauled a basket of laundry to the front room and turned on the TV, the game already underway with the Cowboys leading the Giants. I folded some towels, some washcloths, and watched a few plays, but then suddenly I couldn’t listen to the commentators or the roaring crowds anymore because it was all so alive…

And Kevin isn’t.

I doubled over, rocking with grief and tears rolled down my cheeks, soaking into the laundry, and some of the numbness that’s been protecting me since April wore off and the pain of missing him was sharp and gut-wrenching. I couldn’t move; I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t imagine a football season without Kevin here to watch it with me. And you wouldn’t think one more hole in the fabric of my life, which is already torn to shreds, would make a difference now but oh, it really does.

The game played on and I cried, then quieted, letting the familiar sounds surround me and comfort me. The Cowboys beat the Giants and I roused myself enough to go whisper in my sleeping daughter’s ear “Hey, little Bear, the Cowboys won!” because that’s what her Daddy liked to do.

And even though I know it’s only a whimsical fancy and not at all what happens in heaven, I stopped outside her room in the dark hallway and smiled to myself, thinking that if God had peered through the hole in the stadium and watched His team play, Kevin probably sat right beside Him, recounting stats and fist-bumping the angels with each touchdown:

“How ‘bout them Cowboys!”

DSC_0034

In 2010, Kevin took a little break from chemo and we took a road trip with his family to Dallas for Thanksgiving. The Cowboys lost to the Saints that night, but Kevin was just thrilled to have been at the game.

How ’bout them Cowboys

I asked Kevin one time why there was a hole in the roof of the old Texas Stadium. Like a true Dallas Cowboys fan, he replied, “So God can watch His favorite team play.” And he wasn’t joking.

I’m sure Kevin didn’t watch much football the year he was born, but he always found it exciting to recount that it was during that 1970 season that the Cowboys went to their first Super Bowl. He was less excited to admit that they lost in the final seconds to the Baltimore Colts. I teased him that if his first words had been “Go, Cowboys!” instead of “Mama” maybe the outcome would’ve been different.

We started dating in August, and by the time football season started in September, we were in love and planning our future together. That’s when I learned our future would include football every Sunday…and occasionally Monday nights and Thursday nights, not to mention Thanksgiving Day. Go, Cowboys.

I sometimes play a game with myself, trying to decide what day I would pick if I were offered the chance to spend one more day with him. Obvious contenders are our wedding day, the night our daughter was born, the night he proposed, and of course, those were all extraordinary moments of love, but I can’t discount the ordinary days of quiet joy.

Like a cold winter Sunday afternoon. Home from church. Lounging on the couch in sweatpants and a Cowboys t-shirt. Listening to the announcers on the TV; their voices became as familiar to me as Kevin’s. I’d make it through the first quarter, a little longer, then around halftime, I’d lay over on the arm of the couch and let the roaring cheering crowd lull me to sleep. When Kev noticed, he’d get up and tuck a star-emblazoned team throw around me and kiss my forehead.

“Take a nap, baby doll,” he’d whisper. “I’ll let you know how it turns out.”

And so we passed the lazy afternoon. Him watching the game with chips and a Dr. Pepper, and me dozing on the couch. Particularly great plays would rouse me briefly and I’d glance at him grinning broadly as the ‘Boys celebrated on the screen.

“You look happy,” I’d murmur from the couch.

“Hey, I’ve got a Cowboys game and my girl…I’m doing great, baby doll!” he’d exult from the recliner.

I loved those days.

Gradually, I picked up football terminology and the rules and names of coaches and players and the odd smattering of Cowboys history and fan lore and I understood the joke when someone would ask for one good reason he was a Cowboys fan and Kevin would hold up his hand, wiggle his fingers, and say with a twinkle in his eyes, “I’ve got five reasons!”

When the little Bear joined our team, one of the first things he purchased for her was a Dallas Cowboys onesie, bib, and team logo baby bottle. When football season rolled around that year, a new family tradition was born: the Dallas Cowboys opening game day family portrait. I’d set up the tripod, we’d deck out in our team gear and pose on the front porch. Go, Cowboys!

It snuck up on me this year. I’ve never had to look up the football schedule before; that was Kevin’s job. I watched some leaves drift lazily to the ground one afternoon and it struck me that fall was coming and I panicked. What if I’d already missed the opening day? I cried, thinking that I might’ve blown it, that I might’ve let a family tradition die and how could I do that to Kevin?

This past Sunday, we came home from church. She changed into her favorite team shirt and we set up the tripod and posed on the front porch. And it was sad and I was wistful and she remembered making silly faces on the “outtake” photos with Daddy last year, my two goofballs in front of the camera.

And later that evening, I tucked her into bed, then hauled a basket of laundry to the front room and turned on the TV, the game already underway with the Cowboys leading the Giants. I folded some towels, some washcloths, and watched a few plays, but then suddenly I couldn’t listen to the commentators or the roaring crowds anymore because it was all so alive…

And Kevin isn’t.

I doubled over, rocking with grief and tears rolled down my cheeks, soaking into the laundry, and some of the numbness that’s been protecting me since April wore off and the pain of missing him was sharp and gut-wrenching. I couldn’t move; I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t imagine a football season without Kevin here to watch it with me. And you wouldn’t think one more hole in the fabric of my life, which is already torn to shreds, would make a difference now but oh, it really does.

The game played on and I cried, then quieted, letting the familiar sounds surround me and comfort me. The Cowboys beat the Giants and I roused myself enough to go whisper in my sleeping daughter’s ear “Hey, little Bear, the Cowboys won!” because that’s what her Daddy liked to do.

And even though I know it’s only a whimsical fancy and not at all what happens in heaven, I stopped outside her room in the dark hallway and smiled to myself, thinking that if God had peered through the hole in the stadium and watched His team play, Kevin probably sat right beside Him, recounting stats and fist-bumping the angels with each touchdown:

“How ‘bout them Cowboys!”