“Correct home address?”
The text came in at 8:43am on Monday as the workday got rolling.
He dropped our address below his question and I responded right away with…
I had this fleeting question about why he wanted it.
Too late for Christmas cards.
Maybe a note or gift card of some sort.
I had no idea.
It flew away quick though and I was back to the normal Monday fire drills.
At 10:58am in the family group chat, a picture of a beautiful bouquet of tulips got dropped in from Brooke.
With a text that said, “This just came for you Addi…”
Within 90 seconds the following all happened, but I knew instantly.
“Who’s it from”
“Do you want me to open the card?”
“They were from god”
“Bro who are they from”
Picture from Brooke of the opened card, on top of the tulips.
The handwritten card said, “Have a great senior night! Love – Eric, Mandy, Ally, and Ava”
“I’m bawling my face off.”
“We have to go to hers if we can”
“He’s the greatest” (their whole family is to be clear, but my brain closed that 8:43am text open loop in that moment)
A guy we kinda knew of and about several years ago.
And a guy we know-know now.
Because of our two daughters finding themselves on the same summer team the past few years.
The first real conversation I had with him, I’ll never forget.
Spring of 2021, Addi was wrapping up her sophomore year and was playing in a tournament in Ames, Iowa.
And her older sister was going to prom as a senior.
Senior prom isn’t something you divide and conquer on, like you might a normal Tuesday night with a practice for one kid and a school commitment for another.
We sent Addi up north with another family who have become good friends through hoops.
And then as soon as prom pics were done, I headed north myself to catch Sunday’s games.
I rolled in pretty late to the hotel.
Backpack on, pillow in hand (old men travel with pillows I’ve learned), and a gallon jug of water from Casey’s.
I checked in, dropped down the card for “incidentals”.
Side note, I always thought this word meant accidental, and judging by the water and snack and booze prices, I was sure to not accidentally screw that up.
I got my room key.
And started heading past the double doors and towards the elevator on the left.
But, Michael, the dad who took Addi up north hollered at me and caught me off guard.
I didn’t see him, the hotel lobby was empty except for these two dudes kind of tucked behind a pillar.
It was Michael.
“Come hang out with us,” one of them invited.
I didn’t have shit else to do, Addi was hanging with her teammates.
So I dropped my stuff at the table and did what dads of daughters at basketball tournaments do.
Shot the shit.
I was newly into my no drinking days so I declined the beer offer, but accepted the conversation one.
We talked until well after midnight.
Addi came down at some point and got the key and went to bed.
And the dads talked.
About their own daughters.
About each other’s daughters.
About the coach.
About who they played tomorrow.
About the high school teams.
About the teams they played on before this one.
And so on.
I’d already known, respected, had coached with, and loved Michael.
And I could tell Eric was cut from the same cloth.
He knew about Addi.
How she played.
What kind of teammate she was.
How she loved the game.
And what her not elite size, skill, and athleticism could do to help this little club team.
Full of not elite, but incredible players, and more importantly, girls.
This past Wednesday night, a text thread with Addi and Brooke was blowing up all three of our phones.
I was the cause of most of it.
Addi asked for basketball pictures she could print from throughout the years.
To hang on her Senior Night board.
My God did I underestimate the emotional impact of the assignment.
We started Apple iCloud storage in 2013, so I sorted the albums by her face only, and scrolled all the way back.
It didn’t catch her super early parks and rec, guard the girl with the same color wristband as you, but it got close.
And for an hour or so, I just fired picture after picture of her to the two of them.
Mostly basketball related, because that was the homework.
But also other incredible memories that this digital device kept locked inside like a treasure just for moments like this.
We shared little moments.
We remembered stories.
We retraced the footsteps.
Footsteps that had many others’ right there with them.
Feet like John’s and Rob’s who coached her for years when she didn’t know how to use her left hand.
Feet like Bre’s who pushed her well beyond her comfort in the best of ways.
Feet like Matt’s who let her play up with her older sister even when he knew she wouldn’t help the team win, but he encouraged her anyway.
Feet like Shelly’s and Ben’s and Michael’s who believed in her and saturated positivity and particular skills into her soil.
Feet like Bree’s who celebrated effort and hustle and grit.
Feet like Darren’s who put the ball in her hands and asked her to be a leader.
Feet like Derrick’s and Amanda’s who put her on big stages with big time athletes and didn’t allow her to shrink.
Feet like Stan’s who welcomed her to high school and challenged her to be consistent.
Feet like Joe’s who let her hit two meaningless (to the team) free throws in a district game loss as a freshman, showing her she had what it takes.
Feet like Sam’s who remind her that her character for life after hoops is far more important than her free throw percentage.
Feet like Zach’s who see the whole parts of her and call out the good in meaningful, specific ways that will last longer than the temporary joys or pain of each hot or cold shooting night and win or loss.
Feet like her older sister, Kamden, who played basketball through 8th grade and who shared a court together many times in Florida and Kansas City as they grew. But much more importantly, who walked ahead of her with courage through each hard, messy, beautiful life stage and gave Addi clear footprints in the snow to follow.
Feet like her oldest younger sister, Rowan, whose bravery and beauty are always on full display, and who we will all lose our shit when Coach subs Rowan in to replace Addi with a few seconds or few minutes left whenever this journey comes to its complete and final stop in a few weeks.
Feet like her only brother, Silas, whose pickup games in the driveway often left one or both of them bloodied, bruised, battered, and hella mad. But whose kindred hoops spirit has formed a connection that will carry well beyond a hardwood floor (or concrete driveway).
Feet like her youngest younger sister, Henley, who has gotten the benefit of watching how Addi goes about her business by fiercely protecting, advocating for, and fighting for those who share her last name. And who now looks eye to eye with, yet with deep respect and lowkey heroism in her eyes.
Feet like her Nana’s whose lifetime game attendance has only been surpassed by Addi’s own parents. Her relentless support, encouragement, and not giving a rip how many baskets she scored but who she is becoming carries a steady, loving presence.
Feet like her Oma’s and Papa’s who champion Addi, see her clearly, cheer loudly, and remind her that her biggest fire is burning brightly inside her beautiful soul.
Feet like her Grandpa’s and Grammy’s whose retirement funds have been spent on fan gear shirts, ticket entry prices, and enough photographs to fill the ocean with captured moments of time gone by but a story well lived.
Feet like her Mom’s whose consistent, never-changing, never-ending, unfailing drumbeat and focus on the true, meaningful, deep, real, and important parts of this journey for Addi has weathered and buoyed so many tough moments that don’t see the light of the social media day or highlight reels. But it’s where the best parts of our humanity are formed.
Feet like mine who grew up loving baseball above all sports, but as Kamden and Addi got into basketball, that love quickly changed.
My own basketball journey was marked by missed right handed layups and loads of hustle, energy, and the occasional 8 point game.
But, damn, as a dad, when you see your kid love something, it doesn’t matter what it is, you love it too.
And weirdly, maybe more than they do.
Because your love is deeper than the high school version of you could ever imagine or explain.
You just know when you know.
The trips to Chipotle after a tournament way out south.
The dad coach for 8 years.
Then just the dad for 4 who resists the coach part from the stands as much as possible.
The late nights in random gyms waiting for her to come out from practice and sitting in my truck or a shitty set of bleachers.
The in between game runs to QuikTrip for a Gatorade for her and another cup of coffee for me.
The road trips to random Midwestern cities, and knowing for certain that as soon as we hit the highway home on Sunday evening, she’d be asleep in the front seat with that teddy bear she always brings. The one her boyfriend got her. And you’re good with it.
The texted videos she loves seeing of the steals and assists more than the ones where she scores. And her old man’s voice behind it yelling, “good look.”
The hotel nights where it’s normal to eat In N’ Out at 11pm or make an Andy’s run about the same time.
The talk of Jordan, and Kobe, and Gianna, and Caitlin.
The team and family dinners at pizza shops, and burger joints, and pasta places.
The thousands of dollars of overpriced entry fees and hand stamps and concessions and lame medals and sneaking in a 30 minute walk in between games.
The bracket comparisons and Sunday schedule possibilities.
The hugs after a big loss.
The hugs after a big win.
The questions if year round is stupid or smart or the only option.
The awareness that none of it really matters, it’s just a sport, and the messy weird reality that somehow it all matters.
The scoreboard and book guy times.
The “look up”s and “box out”s and “come on ref”s and “you’re good, next play”s.
The no brainer, leave work early, weeknight trips to Maryville, and Lee’s Summit, and St. Joe Central.
The two concussions.
The twisted ankles.
The endless next best water bottles.
The smelly ass basketball bags.
The teammates, coaches, opponents, families, refs, workouts, shooting coaches, camps, and practices.
When you spend the time to type it all out, you realize how much time it’s been.
Time we’ll never get back. But time we may not have spent together had we not had it.
On Monday afternoon, I picked up this giant, 3’ tall Show Me Logos-made fathead of Addi’s senior hoops media day picture.
As the CEO of the family, Chief Embarassment Officer, it’s my duty to creatively and consistently humiliate them.
The best $19 ever spent.
I propped her cutout up in the backseat of my truck and sent it to everyone in the family but Addi.
We got a good laugh.
Addi and Brooke got to the gym an hour before the JV game started.
To get the senior table looking like Joanna Gaines rolled through.
And it did.
I had ‘buy the candy’ duty, which I crushed.
As I rolled into the gym, Izzy and her mom let me in the side door, which the head coach just opened.
“Doing my best to embarrass her tonight, Coach. Good luck. Special night.”
He laughed as he let us in and saw the ridiculousness.
We hid the fathead face down on the row we usually sit. Four or five rows up, mid court.
We took the obligatory parent and daughter pic by the senior table.
And then off she went to get her hair and mind right for the game.
Nana was there by that point. About 15 minutes before the JV tipoff.
We watched Rowan warm up and talked and said what’s up to a few other senior parents who were there nice and early.
Then, all of a sudden, I was by myself somehow.
Nana had left the senior program on the bleacher by me.
I hadn’t even thought of it by that point.
So I grabbed it.
And felt 13 years of substance start showing up.
Each of the seven seniors we’ve known for years.
Watched their journey.
Watched them play.
Sat with their parents.
Cheered them on.
That little damn booklet stirred up my soul and the stories of each girl progressively got more intense.
And for whatever reason, Addi’s was last.
She got the curse of allergies, a deviated septum, and longwinded writing from me.
And as I made my way through her favorite memories, future plans, and I’d like to thanks, I was a hot ass mess.
The full tears, shit I forgot I’m in public type cry.
Addi was a section over, with her teammates.
“Hey, Addi,” I half-yelled.
She looked over.
Then said “OMG I’m so sorry”.
Those tears were what needed to come out.
A good pre senior night cleansing.
The rest of the night was tear free.
Well our field goal percentage as a team wasn’t but it was a beautiful night, but we hit enough from the line.
The seniors all got introduced and got to start.
The team got, in the scheme of their lives to come, a meaningless yet very meaningful, win.
The senior parents all got to say versions of “wow, can you believe it went so fast?”
The grandparents all got to watch and support and sing the 8th grade band’s rendition of “Sweet Caroline.”
And the 7 of us could be together and walk out on that hardwood together.
One family in the midst of many families.
Who have walked this weird youth sports road together all these years.
None of them WNBA bound most likely.
But all of them bound for beautiful, brave lives of their own.
Shaped in part by the game of basketball.
And the time, lessons, and stories it’s given us.
A story represented by Eric.
And the text Brooke and I got to send him and Mandy that night.
“The tulips look perfect on Addi’s table.”
And his response.
“The journey and the people along the path are always the best part. Enjoy the night. ❤️”
We sure did.