My husband Joe is many things....an amazing athlete, a leader at work, a friend to many, a caring coach, a supportive husband, and a dad.
Joe has two incredible children. Two incredibly different children. In 2004, Joe and I became parents to a beautiful, healthy, stubborn, little girl, Molly.
Molly was a true combination of Joe and I, from the day she was born. She is a picture perfect mix of us. A little bit of Joe, a little bit of me, a little Youngblood and a little Ronayne. She has grown into a young girl with athleticism like her father and a love for school-and a little drama-like her mother. She has been all we had hoped for, wished for and dreamed a child of ours would be.
We have challenges with her, but they are the type of challenges all parents face with their children. They are the type of challenges, you are suppose to experience with your children. Life with Molly is pretty typical. Spectacular - as Molly would say - but typical.
Life with our other child, Brady, is anything but "typical." In 2007, Joe and I talked about having a second child. Molly was 3 and it felt like it was time. I am a type 1 diabetic-so pregnancy is a challenge. It basically becomes a full-time job and we, as a family, have to commit 100% to pregnancy. We knew that a second pregnancy would be the last for our family.
When I found out I was pregnant with our second child-my husband said over and over-he didn't care if we had a son or a daughter-he only wanted a healthy child. I know most people say that. We kind of take for granted that our babies will be healthy. That they will be "normal." I knew in my heart my husband meant what he said-but there was a little piece of him, that was praying-just a little bit-that he would have a son. As much as Joe loved being adored by his little girl-every father wants a little boy of their own.
In 2008, Joe had his little boy. A little boy he had big dreams for. Teaching his son to spiral a football, cheering him on under the fall lights at Swinehart field, teaching him how to swing level as the baseball crosses the plate, shooting "hoops" with his son, going jogging, going fishing, laughing at the Simpsons with him, drafting a fantasy football team together, sharing special jokes...talking. I am sure these were my husbands dreams. I am sure they are still my husband's dreams.
But right now-they are just dreams. My heart breaks for my husband. My heart breaks for the dreams he has for his son and the dreams he has for that typical father/son relationship. My husband is not a person who worries. He doesn't sweat the little things-he has me for that. His life has been pretty charmed and blessed. But he knows what a blessing his life has been and he has never taken that for granted.
He is a kind person who cares about people whose lives have been more challenging than his own-he has always been like that. It is what drew me to him.I met my husband when he was coaching my sister Robin's Special Olympics baseball team. I watched him treat my sister and all her teammates like they were his own teammates, like they were his equals-because in Joe's eyes, each person was his equal. He has been an active part of our local Special Olympics program for years-he has even been honored on a state level for his committment.
He knows all too well,what it means to be a family member, friend, and coach of a person with special needs. Now, he knows what it is like to be a parent of a child with special needs. It is hitting him hard. Harder than even I expected. My husband does not worry. My husband does not cry. My husband is the one who tells me that "everything will be fine." The other day, my husband cried. He cried for all that his son will not do. He cried for all the things he will not do with his son. He cried for all the challenges his son will face in school, in the community and in his day-to-day life. He cried for all the frustrations our family is experiencing each and every day. He cried because it's getting harder-not easier with Brady. He cried because he is worried and scared for his son and he is not used to those feelings.
Last Wednesday night, my husband had his high school jersey retired at our alma mater, Eisenhower H.S. It was an incredible night. Joe's longtime coach spoke of all Joe's accomplishments. Molly, Joe's parents and I sat in the huge crowd of young men being honored at their football banquet and listened as his former coach spoke of the athlete Joe was, of the records he set, of the leadership he provided and of the young man he became on that football field. I know it was a little bittersweet for my husband to sit amongst all those high school boys, so full of promise and pride for their accomplishments in the sport he loves so much and know that his son will never be one of those young men.
Brady will not play football, he will never be the starting QB for Eisenhower and he will never wear "17." He will not do those things because that is not the path he is destined to take. But....then again, with a coach like his dad behind him, guiding him, supporting him, loving him unconditionally, loving him like he is an all star-in this game of life-Brady may be able to accomplish anything. After Joe's jersey retiring ceremony-we were talking about the night, about high school, about the future. Joe looked at me-with hope filled eyes, and said" in 14 years- I am going to ask the coaches at Ike to allow one special kid to wear my number again...my son." It is our dream, that if Brady can play football someday-it will truly be a miracle and miracles deserve special celebrations. The game of football would mean much more to our family than just touchdowns and hard hits, it would be about something other than wins and losses, if our little boy, with his wobbly walk, was out there someday with the Ike "17" on his back. It would mean all the prayers, all the belief and the hard work would have paid off and our little boy would have made the progress in his life we hope for each day.
I believe with my whole heart, that Brady can accomplish whatever he wants, whatever he can, whatever his body and mind allows him-because nobody has a dad that believes in their little boy like Brady's dad does.