Saturday, September 29, 2007

Why does it have to be so hard?

It's the classic, age-old question of life, the universe, and everything. (42!) It's just damn difficult.

Like today.

I got up early on a Saturday. I drove an hour to a beautiful little mountain town's middle school to see New Fella coach their football team. They're undefeated, and in the last three games of the season. For the football fans out there, the team is still undefeated, but New Fella was nervous about it being such a close game -- 16-0. It's the closest point spread of the season. He's a good coach, and it's obvious the kids love him. You see their faces light up when he talks to them, even past players. But let's get back to the details of Game Day.

It was windy. Wind and my hair are not a flattering combination. This is why I don't own a blow-dryer. It didn't take long for me to be rummaging around for my ponytail holder. This is a look he hasn't seen on me yet, but it seemed to go over just fine, but I had to wait until later to figure that out.

At first, I thought he might be pissed at me for something. This was my introduction to the Coach Zone. He's in game mode. He's focused. "Hi, how are you?" is the best I can get, and I don't think he's listening to the answer unless it involves the playbook. On the sidelines, I found his daughter.I grabbed some ground by her, and we chatted happily throughout the game. I watched the critical action and reacted appropriately. He came over by us a couple of times, to get water, and was literally growling at the same time. How very primal of him.

So, while he was less than communicative, his daughter was not. We talked about a lot of things, mostly about our families. It was good to get to know her a little better. She even showed me his classroom in the school. When the game was over, we helped pick up the yard markers, cones, etc. This is where I started to get pissed myself.

Another guy was helping, too. I later figured out that this guy is considered a friend to New Fella. New Fella introduced his daughter to him. He did not introduce me.

Now, I'd been wondering if this situation would happen. And I'd wondered how he would refer to me. I did not expect to not be referred to at all. I was a little pissed. Okay, a LOT pissed.

I waited with his daughter while he finished talking to a player. I figured I would say "Nice game," and "Bye," and be done with the day. Pissed, I tell you. Drove an effing hour, to be ignored. Pissed.

He walks up to us and says, "Let's eat! Mexican or Chinese?" He looks at me for an answer. I'm a little speechless. His plan includes me joining them for lunch. He's suddenly as bright and friendly as ever. WTF?

It's about a 7-mile drive to the restaurant. I follow them. He wants me to sit beside him. I was probably a little quiet during the meal. My head was buzzing a little, as I was trying to figure this out, put things in place. Then, we leave and he starts asking me about the rest of my day. He wants me to spend the rest of the day with him. All day, into the evening. As he's talking to me, the affection is in his look again.

We're standing by his car, figuring out the when and what of things. His daughter was interjecting her two cents, three cents, quarter's worth.... He's standing close to me, saying to her, "Get in the car. Go away. Get IN the car!" It's obvious, he wants to talk to me....and just me. She doesn't get in the car. So, we just arrange to just meet at his house.

On the way home, I start getting calls from my family. There's trouble. My mother is freaking out...way over-stressed by many things that didn't go as planned today. My son has made plans with his friends, and I should be the one to handle it, but I'm an hour away. My simple day just got complicated. I'll have to accompany them for the rest of the afternoon. I call and break the news to New Fella and he's understanding. Turns out, he needed a nap, anyhow. His daughter told me that later.

When I take my son and his friends, I get more wind-blown, rained on, and tired. I do get to spend some good time with my daughter. It's so sweet to me how she still holds my hand when we're out, and she's almost as tall as me now. I just love that.

I finally make it back to New Fella's house...just in time for him to leave to get his son from work. Keep in mind, this is the son we had the tense scene with last weekend.

Before he goes, though, some interesting things happen. First, his daughter informs me that I really don't have to be so formal as to ring the doorbell anymore; I should just come in and make myself at home. Then, as he's leaving, he does something he's never done before. As he walks behind me, he reaches over and strokes my back for a prolonged moment. It's an obvious, deliberate, and very affectionate gesture, which he's never shown in front of his children before. "I'll be right back," he says to me, smiling.

He's gone for a long time. Too long. His daughter and I start the baked potatoes for dinner. Fire up the grill. He's going to make steaks when he gets home. She and I chat a lot, and she tells me a lot of personal details about her past. I think she's glad to have another woman to talk to. This is what we're doing when the thunderstorm rolls in. The indoor thunderstorm.

The son comes in first, slamming the door hard. We freeze. The tension in the air is palpable again, the air growing heavy with the anger he's exuding. He rumbles through the house. He won't make eye contact with anyone. He doesn't say a word. Daughter and I exchange looks. She finally asks what's going on. "Ask him," he snaps. "I didn't do a fucking thing." He goes to his room and slams the door.

Then New Fella rumbles in. His jaw is set and there's a look in his eyes that I don't like. I've seen it before, on my parents when they were having such trouble with my sister. It's a mixture of anger, frustration, and mostly heartache. It pains me to see him have that look.

He starts working on things in the kitchen. I watch for a moment. "Anything I can help with?" I offer.

"Not a thing," he says. He won't look up.

I stand a little closer, talking quieter. "Are you okay?" I know he's not. He's a walking ball of tension.

"I'm fine," he says, too short. Still not looking at me, he walks away. To his son's room. And closes the door.

I look at his daughter and think, I should go. I should step out of this and let it be, not complicating it with my presence.

When he comes back, the look is still there. "I think we're going to have to postpone this," he says quietly to me. I know. I understand, and I say so. He promises to call tomorrow. Maybe we can try again then. Okay, that's fine. He apologizes. No, I really do understand.

He walks me to my car. He apologizes again. I reassure him that I really do understand. "He just said the wrong thing at the wrong time," he offers. I know, things happen. It happened to me earlier in the day. He gives me a brief kiss, and heads back to the house.

I'm worried about him. It hurts me to see the heartache he's going through, over his son. All I can do is be there for him, as much as he'll let me. Later tonight, I sent him a text. "Worried for you and hoping you're okay. Feel free to call anytime, if you need anything." I hope it's well-received.

Shit. In the words of Scarlet O'Hara: "Tomorrow is another day!"

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