During my senior year in high school, I hit a shot at the buzzer to win a basketball game. In the frenzy that followed, teammates and students stormed the court. I was immediately surrounded by hundreds of celebrating students and parents. I tried to make my way to the sideline where my mother was sitting.
Eventually, I noticed my dad, who was our head coach, speaking to a reporter. I tried to make my way over to him. He noticed me about the same time. He left the reporter in his tracks and ran over, picked me up and hugged me.
I was 18-years old at the time.
As I’ve thought back on that experience, I understand how excited I was to hit a shot that won a game for our team. But it’s the love and emotion my father showered down on me that evening that made a long-term impression.
My grandfather did not show a lot of emotion which I’m sure rubbed off on my father. His example of a father was one that provided for his family which he always did. But I don’t believe my grandfather provided a lot of emotional support to his family. My father improved upon that although the role of a ‘shoulder to cry on’ fell to my mother. My mother was more demonstrative. It was impossible to leave the house without a kiss to the forehead.
I recall riding bikes with a friend whose father was a few year older than my father. As we rode our bikes onto her parent’s driveway, her father was there to greet us. My friend jumped off her bike and made a beeline to her father before jumping into his open arms.
I couldn’t have been older than ten at the time. It felt strange watching my friend hug her dad. It felt too personal. Maybe a little uncomfortable. But the part of me that didn’t feel strange felt envy. I couldn’t imagine running up to my father to hug him. Certainly not in front of friends.
Over the years we’ve both changed.
It didn’t take some life-altering experience between us. We began sharing details about our interests. One of my fondest memories was the time we spent 25 hours together driving from Washington to Utah taking the scenic route down the Washington coast. I learned a lot about my father on that trip. I like to think he learned something about me as well.
This afternoon, I dropped my father off at the airport. He spent the last four days with our family. My kids have been counting down the days until he arrived, and now, he was heading back to Salt Lake City. I stood a few feet away as my dad pulled his luggage from the van. He said goodbye to each of the kids. Eyes were red. Cheeks were covered in tears.
When my father reached out to hug me, he leaned over and told me he loved me.
I thought about that moment in time when I was 18. As the rain poured down from the dark Seattle sky I couldn’t help but think he is still my coach in many ways.