Late in the summer of 1993, I walked along the bleachers of the Moore football stadium waiting for my husband to look up and search the stands for me. Intently, he watched his wide receivers run their routes. I handed a small card with a yellow duck to one of the Midwest City football managers and asked her to run it out to Joey. The card said, "She'll be here in December." He looked up and put one index finger in the air - just like he did every time the offense scored. That's how he discovered our firstborn would be a girl. We played with names like Chandler and Micah, but he feared she would be teased. Finally, Joey asked me what I thought about the name "Taylor". We never looked back.
Joey seldom says no to us - only when he has to. He prides himself on being the fun parent and as well he should. Always ready with a one-liner or a movie quote, my husband could make a good living just stirring the pot. Sarcasm and a sharp, teasing tongue create a unique love language; thus our children did not grow up sensitive. Just about the time one of them would swell up with hurt feelings from the incessant teasing, he would wrap them up or chase them down and make them laugh with yet another swift tease from the left. Try as they may, their frowns always broke into laughter
Second only to rampant teasing at our house is a good wrestling match. Taylor never got a break just because she was a girl. Often we have questioned whether he has unrequited dreams of being a part of the World Wrestling Federation. Both kids have found themselves begging for mercy as he held them in a full-nelson, or the figure four leg lock, the claw, a Boston-crab, or even the pile driver. Their moans and pleas for help muffled by the couch pillows fill the crevices of this house as does the laughter that would follow as soon as they were released.
My children's daddy has created elaborate memories at Disney World, simple memories like family poker night and dreams-come-true - like that black VW bug sitting in the driveway the morning his girl turned 16. We cherish glorious sun-filled days on the beach, classic competition on the golf course, and of course, several Yankee baseball games. He has held their hands through sickness and surgery and as we pray as a family. His is the voice that reads Luke 2 every Christmas, and the whistle that can catch our attention above all else in any arena. Joey is the big, unashamed jerk that met every boy that ever thought about walking through our front door, and the hug that waits for any friend who comes over for no-bakes. He is the strength we all lean on, his son's definition of manhood and his daughter's first love.
Today I fed him one of his favorite meals, made his favorite chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, let him take a nap, watch the U.S. Open - and if my first attempt goes well - he'll have a key lime pie for dessert. In a few moments, I will take him a beer, kiss the cheek that has been mine for more than a quarter of a decade, and interrupt the incessant U. S. Open banter and subsequent laughter he has shared with his son for the last hour.
I wish I could bring him the hug that he craves, the sassy wit that would make fun of his age, the small little body that would curl up next to him resting her red head next to his shoulder - marking her territory as the only girl who ever owned him. That little girl knew her daddy belonged wrapped around her little finger; he willingly acquiesced, comfortable in her love and admiration. We have a pain that we share, and then he has his pain that only a daddy like Joey can have.
Out of the many accomplishments, this man has, of the many championships he has, of the many goals he has surpassed - none will be as impacting as the two lives he brought into this old world and raised. I wanted to have six children with this daddy, and I guess you can see why.
Your children adore you, respect you, and embody the best parts of you, Big Joe. We love you so.