The Most Wonderful Time of Year
August 1st is celebrated in our household by Rusty singing "It's The Most Wonderful Time of The Year" while reading his college football forecast magazines, and surfing the sports channels for interviews and shots of the players in their first practice of the season. " Yes, he took an early "retirement" from coaching, but his heart will always yearn for the practice field on the first legal day to suit up.
I can't help but share some of his excitement... we started dating 21 years ago this month, and spent our first dates cheering on his beloved Big Reds, and then celebrating the win at Pizza Place (and they always won - even when playing my own high school!). It was a hard autumn for him, his first not playing for his beloved team, as a recent graduate, still figuring his way in the real world. This time of year always takes me back to being a 16 year old with a cute boyfriend and a letterman jacket to throw around my shoulders as we walked to the car, kicking the fallen leaves and celebrating life.
Later, I would find myself in the bleachers of a small mountain college, cheering for my hero despite the fact that the team lost every game, every season. OK, maybe not every game, but close enough for most of my memories to be tainted with his disappointment. Finally, after a shoulder surgery and then a knee, his playing days were officially over. But I still had many years in the bleachers ahead of me, first as the girlfriend, and later as the wife of the coach.
He was a gifted coach, with a love for the sport, and a God given gift at being able to spot talent and shape it into something bigger than it should have been. He loved the kids, and could get them to perform at levels higher than they believed they could. He molded their hearts and character, and taught them to never give up, the success was in the effort, not necessarily the win.
My babies were given showers by teams and parents, and our nanny was the parent of a wrestler, who wanted to give love back to the family of the man who had cared for her son when he was lonely and floundering. When we were in the hospital after delivery his students brought balloons and sat on the floor, beaming with pride at the "team baby". As I entered the stadium or gymnasium (depending on fall or winter, football or wrestling season) I never pushed a stroller or carried a diaper bag, because our "family" was always there to help me; pitching in for my husband, who was preoccupied helping their children. The greatest feeling though, was that no matter what was going on, every time I enetered Rusty would look up and wink, acknowledging that we were there and he was glad. We were loved and loved our life.
Gradually though, Rusty's love for the game was being overshadowed by his desire to provide more time and financial resources for his girls, and so a new course of life was determined. He would go to grad school and become a principal. Leaving coaching was probably the hardest thing he ever did; he gave up his personal dream for the greater dream of being a father to his own precious children. Instead of raising other people's children he opted for the ones under his own roof. I am glad and so thankful... most men wouldn't make that choice, and we are grateful for his love. So when football season rolls around, I don't mind him spending a few extra hours watching the games or eagerly looking for Sports Center. His sports career gave us a wonderful start to this life we share, and I have to agree that in many ways, it truly is the most wonderful time of the year!