We’ve been living the coach's wife life a while, twenty years in fact if you count dating and marriage. So, I guess it shouldn’t have surprised me when we were lying in bed a few weeks ago and I heard those familiar, quiet sniffles.
It’s always him who starts first and, it’s always over something small. The kids have come in for another hug. We’re talking about a memory from the summer. Or, there’s a silence when we would be talking. It’s at this point that I know what I’m going to find when I look over.
His eyes filled with tears—and then, of course, mine do too.
Him: “It’s going to be hard.”
Me: “I know.”
Him: “Tell me it’s going to be okay.”
Me: “It always is.”
Him: “I’m going to miss you guys.”
Me: “I know. I hope we always miss each other.”
Shoot. It’s hard to even type that, such an intimate moment that marks each football season in our marriage. But, even though there are so many coaching families who are pumped and ready for the season when it starts, there are also marriages like ours. Coaching marriages who know-that-they-know-that-they-know that this is their calling. And yet, it hurts every time you make the transition.
In the twenty years we’ve been coaching, those tears have come for different reasons. In the early days, they were “honeymoon tears.” We were newly married, in love, wanting to hang out and, we missed each other. There were years later where we knew we had a shot at state and our time apart would be at least a month longer than other seasons. Then, there were the brutal years where we knew our job was in jeopardy if we didn’t win. And, of course, just normal years where we were not talented or terrible, but we knew the usual ups and downs, highs and lows of coaching were ahead.
Two decades into coaching, I would say that our yearly tears are now “seasoned.” They aren’t the fresh tears of a new marriage. We have grown in the confidence, rhythm, and routine of a coaching family. And, they aren’t the panicked tears of the unknown because, well, we’ve taken “a few trips around the stadium.” Instead, they are the seasoned tears of a couple who knows that no matter how wonderful the season is, it means time apart, kids who miss their Daddy, possible injuries and criticisms, and aching over that field full of boys who are our mission.
It’s a strange thing to feel grief over something you love so much. It seems like it should be the opposite. But, just like we experience in parenting all the time, feeling grief and love at the same time is pretty normal.
So yes, twenty years in, Coach and I started this season like we have begun every other season. With tears. Tears of gratitude. Tears of grief. Tears of missing each other. Tears of hope for the months ahead. Tears of acknowledgment that we know just exactly what the other one’s tears are about.
And, so it goes...
Him: “Tell me it’s worth it.”
Me: “It’s worth it every time.”
Him: “So let’s do it again?”
Me: “Let’s do it again.”
Here’s to another season.