You may have been wondering at the beginning of this post why I call her Junior? She may look like her Mom on the outside. But she's all me on the inside!
One early Saturday morning in 1989 I was lying in my bed waiting nervously. Suddenly, Deanna came racing out of the bathroom with a look of terror in her eyes as she dove into bed next to me. She was shaking and smiling and terrified all at the same time. She then showed me the pregnancy test thingy. I look at it "What does it say?" I ask. "I'm pregnant!" She screams! We then held each other trembling and full of joy. We had been trying to get pregnant for only a short time and did not expect to have it happen so quickly. As I held my lovely wife I laid there trying to comprehend what our future family would be like. Almost immediately we decided not to find out the baby's sex until it was born. So we heard from the experts. The experts being every woman who had ever had a boy that is. "She's carrying low, it's a boy", "She's carrying high, it's a going to be a boy!" "She's carrying in the front, she's having a boy!" What? You can carry a baby somewhere else? I was going to be a doctor and didn't know that. Well, I was sold on the whole "We are having a boy argument
So by the time Dee went into labor I was mentally prepared for my little man. Dee' is a little woman and when it was time to deliver the baby its head couldn't pass through her pelvis and became stuck resulting in an emergency C Section. I was standing behind Dee when the doctor lifted the baby up and all I could see were "The Balls!" I was so excited that we had a boy! Now I would like to emphasize that the following event took place over one to two seconds. Excited and loudly I say to Dee "It's a bo...!???" I pause, something isn't right here, I think to myself. I look closer and something is missing. A bit quieter I say to Dee "It's a girl." Then as overwhelming joy hit me. I yelled "IT'S AGIRL! Honey we have a BABY GIRL!" and I kissed her forehead. She smiled, laying there basking in the joy of motherhood. Actually she just really high from the drugs the epidural was supplying her. A bit later, in recovery, I had to tell her it all over again. Anyway, since Dee was still technically in surgery, the nurse handed me the baby and I carried her to the neonatal unit for the rest of the post birth process. I spent the next half hour holding and whispering to her and letting her get to know her daddy before I went to the waiting room to tell the relatives. "Would you like to come meet Jacqueline?" I said. Everyone sat there for a moment stunned that I said a girl's name and then jumped up and hugged me and I took them to show her off. Once again I got all of the glory for all of Dee's hard work. The next day I was mostly over being stunned and I was happy that I had a little girl. Dee was thrilled that we had a one though. "I can't wait to dress her up in pretty dresses and put bows in her hair." Me, "Yeah, yeah, I guess I'll take the football back to the sporting goods store now." Dee was in the hospital for four days and a funny thing happened, the more I held her or watched her with Dee the less I missed not having a boy. By the time we went home she had me wrapped around her little finger. She was so beautiful with her cute face and single dimple over her eye that became more pronounced when she cried. Even her crying was sweet and demure (at least it was until her lungs grew stronger then the crying wasn't so adorable anymore). That dimple came in very handy when the hospital photographer lost the ID's for all of the baby pictures taken that week. We went into his office and about fifty pictures were on a table and we were told to find ours. You know how parents think there newborn baby is so unique? Well, that was a lesson in how most babies are un-unique and actually look alike. We needed the only unique part of her, her dimple, to ID her. That doesn't mean she wasn't special, particularly to her parents. This post is about my wonderful, joyous and pride filled relationship with my daughter Jackie and how special she's made my life.
I made my share of fatherhood mistakes starting with the drive home from the hospital. It all started out well enough. I did all the right things. In the room I put her in her carrier and belted her in then we all went down to the car. Deanna was still recovering from surgery so I was very concerned with her comfort and I made sure she was settled in. Then I put Jackie in the backseat and checked her carrier belts. Then we headed for home. I was very stressed and I kept running through my internal checklist." Baby in her carrier, check. Carrier belts fastened, check! Carrier belted to car seat, che... OH CRAP! I say to myself (not the actual word I used). I forgot to belt my first born to the car! Fortunately we had not made it to the freeway yet and I was able to safety pull over and remedy the problem. "Why are we pulling over?" Dee asked. I'm gonna check something" I say. Sure enough, no seat belt on the carrier. Dee and her mother, who was riding in the backseat just glared at me as the buckle clicked. Getting back in the car I smile at Dee and say "Lucky I remembered to double check the seat belt" and nothing but silence the whole way home. Strike One! In Dee's mind. Flash forward about four months and Jackie is still alive! Dee's fears about parenting have lessened enough to leave me alone with the baby. She, like most momma bears was extremely protective of her cub and didn't trust anyone with her. The whole seat belt incident didn't exactly make me the perfect dad in her eyes. Though, I must defend myself and say I never missed buckling my children in thoroughly after that first time. I even pestered Dee about it when she would handle those duties. She never screwed up.
Alright, onto my next hiccup. In the following months I had been left alone with Jackie a few times and Dee was feeling less apprehensive about it. One night it was the kid and I hanging out doing father daughter stuff. Well, actually it was father staring at his infant do nothing. She was laying on her back on our ottoman, right in front of me, when out of the blue she rolled over for the very first time. It was a momentous milestone and I was the one who was lucky enough to be there for it. It would have been much better if she had not rolled off the ottoman and onto the floor falling 18" onto the carpet. I immediately jumped up to see the damage. She was laying on her back and looked up at me. She then did her very first "Boo boo" lip.(another momentous occasion) and then she cried which was not so momentous. I picked her up, held her and soon the crying subsided. I checked her for injuries and, luckily, there were none. "Should I tell Dee? She wouldn't know it had happened otherwise." I ended up telling her because I couldn't resist informing her about Jackie's rolling over for the first time. Steeerike TWO! Fortunately, strike three hasn't happened yet but I have fouled a bunch off!
Not long after rolling off a cliff Jackie started crawling. One day I was on all fours with my head at the level of hers when she crawled up to me and put her forehead against mine and began to push. It was so cute how she tried to push her daddy back. She was pushing so hard that I was worried she would hurt her head and I didn't want strike three and I would give ground until she backed me up to the wall. Then I'd get up and move to the middle of the room and she'd "Charged" me again. This went on all afternoon until she fell asleep. It began again when she woke up and didn't end until her mid teens. It didn't matter where I was, she would charge me like a bull and the game "Bulls" was invented. As she grew older the game became rougher so I added an ending to the game. If I wanted to end the game I would lay on my back with my arms and legs straight up in the air like a dead cartoon animal. This maneuver became very handy as she grew older and quicker and discovered that ramming my ribcage was fun! Bulls continued until she was about 16 and I refused to play with her since she was too rough, too quick and she was mean. Besides, I had her little brother to play it with also and I liked my ribs in one piece. As a matter of fact, I made her play Bulls with her brother too. We always played made up games like Indoor Soccer where the ball was dog toy. We would put the ball in the middle of the room and run at it from opposite sides. Kicking each others bare feet as we tried to score a goal. Not one broken toe I must say. Then there was the game she invented in which all I had to do was hit her with a small football as she ran back and forth. She became so quick I rarely could hit her. I always played very rough with her. All these games helped her to develop into an exceptional athlete.
She had her soft side also, Early on, she loved to lay next the window with my head on her belly and enjoy the warmth. She always ran out to greet me after a long day at work yelling "Daddy, Daddy, Daddy until she jumped into my arms. Then she would plant a big kiss on me. When I would fall asleep on the on the couch she would crawl on top of me and fall asleep. This activity continued into her teens and no matter how big she was, she's been light as a feather to me!
You may recall how excited Dee was to have a girl to dress up. Well, that didn't exactly work out the way she had hoped. For as long as she could, Dee dressed her up but it was not easy to do. Jackie didn't like dresses and early on, she showed it. She would cry and fight when Dee would put a dress on her. When Dee and Jackie's godmother dressed her in her baptism dress she screamed and cried the whole time. I had to hold her for at least a half hour before she calmed down. It became so bad that as soon as Jackie figured out how to take off the dress she did. She eventually was able to take any article of clothing off to her diapers. Once potty trained we had a full blown nudist in the family. Thank you Grandma and Grandpa Young (both were nudists and no I wasn't). Fortunately she was only a house nudist and didn't flaunt her goods outside. Unfortunately, that is where her modesty ended because it didn't matter how much we told her she would strip down to her birthday suit even if we had guests over. Her nudist ways peaked at the age of four when a group of families in the neighborhood were hosting a group of foreign exchange students, mostly all 15-17 year old girls, from Scandinavia. She was lounging on the couch in all of her glory when about four of the girls walked in and were not phased by the naked little girl on the couch. She looked a bit embarrassed and went in her room and got dressed (pants and a t-shirt, no dress). She has been very modest ever since. To this day, I laugh about how embarrassed she was in front of these particular girls. I doubt that they had a bra between them and they were prone to sunbathing topless. Which I found out when I when I went to drop off something at another of the host families homes (good thing I was a doctor at the time it was all very clinical).
As she grew bigger we began to notice that she wasn't like your average girl other than the dress thing. She preferred playing rough and was fearless. Earlier, I described how the two of us played rough together and she just continued it with others. She was always making little boys cry on the playground (the girls rarely played with her because she was too rough). She scared her mother and I when, at the age of two and a half, she would climb the ladder on the tallest slides on the playground When I would stand behind her in case she fell she would turn around and push me away while she was half way up. The coolest example of her fearlessness was the time I brought a truckload of snow to her Daisy Scout meeting. The girls began to throw snowballs and a few boys joined in. They were all throwing snowballs at each other until the boys realized that it was more fun io throw at the screaming girls. Jackie kept throwing at everyone when a boy ran up to her and raised his arm to throw at her. She just stood there and didn't scream or flinch at all. The boy stood there startled and then ran after another girl. At that moment, Jackie spun on the boy and drilled him in the neck so hard he cried. I know it's not nice to laugh at a kid getting hurt but that was funny. Anyway some of the moms found it amusing too.
Around the age of eight we signed Jackie up for soccer. Little did we know, at the time, that this move would take up most of our weekends for the next decade. She fell in love with the sport immediately and , I believe, it will be difficult but not impossible for someone to knock it out of the top spot.. I believe that Jackie was one of the smaller players but she made up for it with speed and aggressiveness. She was born to be a defender. That's been her philosophy to this day. Early on, when she would be put on offense, we would realize that she wasn't with the forwards but back with the goal keeper we would have to remind her to stay up front. During her first season she actually scored a goal and then ran back to play defense. She had no interest in scoring anymore. Most kids want to score but she relished in denying a player from scoring. Those little indoor soccer games that we played made her a very physical player. She realized early that her physical play gave her a big advantage against her opponents. I have said it before and I will say it again: soccer is a very physical game throughout the world but in the United States we don't teach it that way. Particularly in the recreation leagues. A player can be very physical and play within the rules. There are physical players who throw elbows, kick wildly and push who are violating the rules. Those players are fundamentally weak players. Defenders who are both physical and fundamentally sound will win most of the time. I taught Jackie the basics of defending but she took her skills to a level I didn't expect her to. Her skill combined with her physical play and intelligence made her an important component in several championship teams. When she was fourteen we sent her to a Complete Athlete Program camp for one week at Chapman University. She stayed in the dorms for the week and was the youngest kid at the camp but she held her own. We chose this particular camp because it had as much time teaching in the classroom as it did on the field. They taught her the coaching aspects of skill and strategy of the game along with the skills for being a strong student athlete as well. It should have been called the College Athlete Program because that is what it prepared her for. After this camp she was a completely different player. The camp had honed her skills and, more importantly, taught her tactics of the game. She once told me that by five minutes into a game she could see the game plan the other team and pick out the best way to disrupt it. When I would coach her she was in charge of the defense and as long as those players followed her direction we were successful! She played very well at the club and high school levels too. She was a co- Captain on her club team and the defensive MVP on her high school team. The one drawback at the higher levels for her was her size. Unfortunately, for her, was the fact that I married a short woman. Sorry, Junior, but I would do it again and again. Jackie would sometimes be 5 to 10 inches shorter than other players. If she was as tall as these other girls she may have had the opportunity to play division one soccer in college. She received a few offers to play division two and NAIA but she chose not to pursue them (more on that later). Even with the size difference she would be physical and fearless to the point of disaster which occurred two times. The first time was when she was twelve. Our rec league had an odd number of teams in both the boys and girls divisions so the powers that be decided each team would play a boys team twice. These were "Fun" games but they weren't played that way by the girls. Unfortunately, late in a game, Jackie was defending a boy when they made hard contact and fell to the ground. The boy got up but she stayed down. She had broken her collar bone when she hit the ground. It was all because of her style of play and could have happened if she were playing against a girl. She came back after five weeks and helped her team win the championship. The next time was two years later. I was taking a break from coaching that season. She was playing against a couple of girls who made up for their lack of technical skills with dangerous physical play. I was a sideline referee and I had flagged and warned these girls multiple times about their dangerous play. I told the center referee at halftime that someone was going to get hurt if he didn't put a stop to it. Unfortunately he dismissed me since my daughter was playing in the game. Midway thru the second half, Jackie and one of those girls were going for the ball when the girl raised her knee as she slid into Jackie. As I was raising my flag I heard a crack and a blood curdling scream. It was Jackie and she was clutching her knee. I ran to her and when I got there she said "Don't touch me daddy! Just get me to the hospital!" I could tell that it was a bad injury by the deformation of her knee. We got her to the car and Dee drove her to the hospital. I remained behind to referee but first I gathered both teams and explained to them what happened and what the other player had done that lead to her injury. It turned out the coach had taught them this technique as a way to protect themselves during a slide tackle, When I asked him if that was true he said he thought it was how a tackle was supposed to be executed. He was wrong because the bent leg is on the ground not up at opposing players knee and when a player decides to do a tackle they have made a decision to expose themselves to possible injury if they don't perform the maneuver correctly. I saw that team play again and they were tackling correctly that time. At least something positive came out of Jackie's injury. I was worried she had torn ligaments in her knee but it turned out she had fractured her thigh bone clean through her growth plate and the upper portion had been displaced. A horrendous injury but one that would heal completely after six months in a cast with no lasting effects. I went into such details because that injury was completely avoidable. If that coach had taught his players proper technique the play wouldn't have been a memorable one. If the center referee had listened to my input the players would have been warned and the play may not have happened as it did. By the way, the coach filed a complaint against that referee and he wasn't allowed to officiate another game since he allowed dangerous play when it was brought to his attention. Jackie returned to the game six months later and played in club soccer until she was eighteen, injury free. What a huge difference quality coaching makes. She continues to play adult coed soccer to this day. She is still a dominant defender particularly against the men. When I watch her play I love it when I see her mark up against one of the men on the other team. It's even sweeter when his teammates yell "Take her, beat her!" I, and the others around me that know her, giggle and whisper good luck. I rarely watch the encounter since I am busy checking up field for the counter attack she is about to start. I was able to play goalkeeper, for one of her games, and recorded a shut out in no small part because of her. She is a good player but I think she is a better coach. For one season she helped me coach her brother' s team and I have never seen players improve so much. The skills she learned at that camp which she continually has employed will serve her well when she coaches her kids. It makes me sad that I won't live to see her teach her children the game but I know they'll have a better coach than she did. That makes me happy!
As proud as I am of her athletic endeavors, I am even prouder her academic accomplishments. Through middle and high school she was always among the top students in her class. The only time her grades dipped (only slightly) was in her freshman year after she broke her femur and spent six months in a cast which cost her Valedictorian status. I rarely noticed her doing homework and when I inquired about that she told me she did it at school during break. What? All I did was hang around with Dee during my breaks at school. She maintained her grades while being a multiple sport athlete which made me so proud. I know, what a surprise, a father that is proud of his child but wait it gets better. My proudest moment was when she told me she wouldn't be trying out for her college soccer team so that she could focus on her education. I knew what the sport meant to her but she didn't give a second thought to quit. That decision paid off for her this last spring when she graduated from Cal State University at San Marcos with honors and degree in Kinesiology. She plans on attending grad school to get her doctorate in physical therapy. She has put those plans on hold, temporarily to spend more time with me. It saddens me that she is doing this but, once again, it was an "easy decision" for her. She is presently working as an aide in a physical therapy office near our home.
Speaking of home, Junior moved out of ours about a year ago. When she was a a little girl she once told me that when she grew up she was going to move across the street from us. How sweet I thought the idea was. Obviously knowing it would never happen. Well, She was right once again. She and her roommates rent a four bedroom house down the street about 200 feet from our front door. She comes over every morning to help Dee get me out of bed and get me dressed. Has breakfast with us before heading off to work. She often comes back after work with her boyfriend, Vince, to hang out with us. Vince has started us on a weekly movie night that we have nicknamed "Ragin' Cage-in'!" where we watch a different Nicholas Cage movie every week and enjoy the thespian talents that only "The Cage" is capable of displaying. I use to imagine the day that she would move out and picture myself sitting in the middle of her empty room crying. She saved me from that sad day that I wish would have come to pass. She hasn't cut the apron strings but has stretched them enough to get her freedom.
So yeah, I'm a proud daddy of my beautiful little girl. She me made it easy on me. We once had someone comment on how hard it must be to have a teenage girl. Dee and I looked at each other and said "No! It's been a piece of cake actually!" It's been that great to be her parents.
You may have been wondering at the beginning of this post why I call her Junior? She may look like her Mom on the outside. But she's all me on the inside!
The hard part of being her dad is now. Knowing that I won't get to see her get her graduate degree and watch her career blossom. It pains me that I won't see her become a wonderful mother (and coach). It's painful but I know she will succeed in life because we've taught her that she is worthy of all the love, success and joy that will come to her in life. She's more than worthy, she's deserving of it!
I am Santa in every one of these pictures. She only knew it was me in one of them...
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