A harsh reality was driven home for me last night. With each passing day, week, month, year, etc., this whole “adulting” thing becomes less and less appetizing. I had just sat down after supper, prepared to mindlessly watch some TV for a while when I unconsciously checked Facebook on my phone. Funny how that move can now be described as “unconscious.” This can’t be a good thing, right? Anyway, I hadn’t scrolled through two or three posts on my feed when what my eyes saw caused my heart to come to a complete stop.
I’ve learned as a parent that other people’s kids, because of your involvement with them as classmates, teammates, etc., become your own. What I didn’t realize until last night is how much that door swings both ways. Growing up where I did in Houston, sports was a big deal. And my friends played them all. Football and soccer season(s) led into basketball that led into baseball that led into summer where we might play every sport we knew in a day of fun with friends. Up until one is legally able to drive oneself, your mode of transportation is the “parental uber.” As kids, 99% of the time, we all got carted around by our moms. And often, it was about more than just getting from point a to point b. It wasn’t unusual at all to have these moms make a meal for you or let you sleep over. One such mom in my life was my friend, Kevin’s mom, Pam, aka “Mrs. McDougald.” It hurts to write this next sentence. I used the word “was” because last night I learned Mrs. McDougald (now, Pam Jones Dees) had died suddenly from a massive and unexpected stroke.
I’ve lost Dads of my friends and for some reason these have never affected me in the moment like this. I have no explanation other than whereas those gentlemen “coached” or “mentored” me, Kevin’s mom was one who nurtured me. Perhaps that touched my soul more. Who knows? One thing I can guarantee you is that I am not alone in feeling this grief today. I was only one of A SLEW of kids who were Kevin’s friends and teammates who had his mom “look after them.” Each of us is having to take deep breaths to choke back tears over this loss (admittedly, I’ve been unsuccessful at this).
The above picture was taken in the last couple of years, but I assure you this is the way Mrs. McDougald-sorry, Mrs. Dees (old habit <g>), ALWAYS looked. Whatever her secret was, pour me a double. I can still see her smile, hear her laugh, and feel her hug (which was an always thing when you saw her).
I don’t know why this memory popped in my head last night when thinking of her, but she was constantly singing along with the radio when she was driving us from practice or games or whatever. On one such occasion, this song was playing and she was doing her thing.
When the song ended, she said out-loud to no one in particular, “That’s my song. I want to know what love is.” At the time, she and Kevin’s dad had separated and were going through a divorce. I didn’t understand all the nuance of this statement and sentiment as a kid, like I do now. At this remembrance, it pleased me to realize that later in life, she did indeed know that love she was looking for. I’ve never met her husband, Ronnie Dees, but by all accounts he adored her and made sure her life was full of love and affection.
Mrs. Dees and I were able to re-connect on Facebook a few years ago and every exchange made my heart glad. She was always the same sweet, loving, person I remembered as a boy. Maybe that’s why this stings so much. I’ve now been gone from my home state of Texas longer than I lived there. And all of the people from my youth are frozen in my mind’s eye. To my twisted distortion of time, Kevin’s mom JUST picked us up from basketball practice. However, I know that’s not the case. And I also know, I’ll never get the chance to tell her, “Thank you for all you did for me and all Kevin’s friends.” And that’s on me.
I have a friend who seems to instinctively know when I need to hear from someone. Last night, while I was still processing all of this, she called out of the blue. She reminded me that this is where we are now. More and more, these losses will be happening, so don’t hesitate to reach out and let all the people in your life know how much they mean every chance you get. She’s right. She always is. So let me be that friend to you. None of us is promised tomorrow, so reach out today. There’s never a bad time to tell someone, “Thank you and I love you.”
Godspeed Mrs. Dees. You were one great lady who was loved greatly.