When I look at my eldest daughter, my second wife stares back at me. I see it now in my daughter’s dark, almond-shaped eyes and the way her nose pulls down slightly when she smiles. I see it now in that look she gets when I begin to speak. Like she’s typing all the words out in her head, so that she can go back over the conversation later to read between the lines.
But then my youngest bounds up. Dirty blonde hair mixes with curly brown; hazel eyes connect with my eldest’s, brown like chocolate. Bittersweet chocolate, not milk – deeper, richer, more mature. My youngest mirrors my third wife in both face and body. She has long toned limbs just like her mother. But my eldest has inherited my ability to build and keep muscle. She’s the kind of strong that could beat you in a deadlift but not, probably, in a sprint.
My stepdaughter stands in the corner, watching the other two girls chatter. I can never tell if she is surly because she’s a teenager or if it is for another reason. Maybe it’s because she is the newest to this assemblage. She only comes down from her room when called and slinks away after the plates have been cleared. But, even though it’s technically called ‘family dinner’, the time is supposed to extend to either side of the actual meal.
At points, I truly believed that each of my three daughter’s mothers was the woman I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.
Each was, as I see it, a coach, training my family – my team – to their fullest potential.
The second coach, my first wife – with her I saw my first Rookie of the Year, cradled in my arms. That player, man, she became the best safety I’d ever seen. She was strong. As tough as nails and she could commit.
The third coach – together, we drafted another newbie. This rookie, she was born a quarterback. Light on her feet, much smaller than the rest of us. She was fresh; she was our new hope. And we took to her like no other: my team would have broken their backs defending her. She was risky and she ventured off-book. The team struggled to protect her but personally, I think it was good for her to fall, for her to learn how to get back up again on her own. But the economy was rough that year. It was hard to put butts in seats. Coach 3 ended up leaving for a better contract elsewhere.
Coach 4 – well, she already had a star player when she signed onto my team. We’re still figuring out what position that player excels in. I’m thinking wide receiver: she’s got a talent for finding that weak spot, just exploiting the hell out of it. As for the coach though… this one, this coach… she is my latest and greatest. The one who is going to take my team all the way to the Superbowl.
Some of the seasons my team has endured have been difficult. We’ve been called a failure, broken, for not being able to keep a coach. We’ve had to change coaching styles, more than most, it’s true. But teams, like families, don’t break; they bend. Contracts don’t last: does that mean they’re any less successful, any less loving?
There’s still hope. And ambition.
It’s been a good run.