Gridiron Golden Hot Air Balloon Dreams



Daddy QB wordsWhen Daddy left, he took with him so much more than just his physical self–that steadfast, quirky, impatient, soothing self–as if that wasn’t enough.

He took away so much more.

He took away my child’s favorite human being on the planet.

The damage his leaving did to my own heart is irreparable, but what he did to Mac’s is unforgivable.

And Mac won’t cry.

He has told some of my best friends, “My mama doesn’t smile anymore.”

He doesn’t cry, because he doesn’t want to see me cry.

There are no words.


Mac rarely mentions his Charles, and I know why.

He doesn’t want to see me be The Destroyed.

And I can’t help but cry every time Daddy’s name is mentioned. Every time I think about him. Every time I look for him. Every time I almost call him and then remember I can’t. Every time I think I see his truck and then realize I didn’t.

Every time I think about what his leaving has–and will–do to my little boy.

I can’t even let myself dwell on all of the things I love about my Daddy, because it just makes me sadder….because we all should be still loving those things. Here. With him. Not in our memories. In real life. We should be. WE. SHOULD. BE.

So I’ve explained to Mac that every thing makes me cry, and I can’t promise him I won’t cry if he talks about his Charles. But at the same time, I encourage him to talk about his Charles, even if it makes me cry.

Because that cry will be a good cry.

But he’s afraid. And I know why.

I hate seeing my mama cry, too.

There are no words.


This weekend, he has seemed more defiant than usual. More stoic. Tougher. Madder.

Mac Stacey doesn’t ever want anyone to know they have gotten to him. I could beat him with a tree branch, and he would tell me it didn’t hurt. This weekend, he was double dog daring me.

Tonight, he talked back one too many times, and louder than I wanted, I yelled at him to come outside. He came.

I knew he thought I was fixing to either spank him or give him the tongue lashing of his life. But I didn’t.

Instead, I put my hands on his shoulders and stooped down to his height…not too far for me…and I looked him right in the eyes and I said,

“I know why you are so angry.”

He stared back–his big brown eyes, dark as night–into mine–blue as the sky, same as my Daddy’s. He was double dog daring me with defiant eyes.

“Why?” he asked.

I know he wasn’t expecting it, but I took the dare.

I said, “Because your heart hurts so badly, and you don’t know what to do with it.”

And those big, deep, dark, defiant eyes filled up with tears.

And finally, he cried.

And he let me cry with him.

There are no words. 


Facing the Giants was on tonight. It has been a special movie to us. I wrote a Facebook post this time last year about watching that movie with Mac for the first time. The leader of the football team in that movie wore number 54. Mac’s daddy’s number.

But he got quiet at the end of the movie, and I asked him to come back outside. He did.

I asked him what he was thinking about.

And he softly said, “Charles.”

I nodded.

He said, “You know we start football practice this week.”

I nodded again.

I knew what he meant.

There are no words.


But I managed to ask, “Would you like to maybe put something on your helmet that would remind you of Charles? So you can take him on the field with you?”

I totally expected him to say, in that you-can’t-hurt-me-voice, “Nah. That’s okay.”

But he didn’t.

He said yes.

And then he suggested maybe a picture of the two of them, which I assured him I could make happen.

Then he tapped the top of his head, as if the picture was already there, underneath his helmet, and he was saying…..well… know.

There are no words.


I’ll watch for the head taps this season. I’ll watch for them every season after.

Because they will be there.

After every sack.

After every block.

After every interception.

After every win.

He may get his ability from #54. He may not be a linebacker or a defensive end. Or he may be. He probably will be. But there is the chance he could be a tight end or a wide receiver or a safety. We really don’t know. We don’t know what number he will wear. We will wait on the coaches and see where he lands when he takes the field.

Most likely, he won’t be a quarterback like his Charles. Daddy knew that.

But for the rest of his life, he will play for little #10, knowing before, during, and after every single game that #10 should be standing at the fence, waiting for that second, that second after he has gotten so mad that he throws his helmet to the ground, or after he makes the big sack or the big block or the big interception, to motion Mac over and say something even his coach can’t say.

He will know that, and he will ache because it won’t happen.

Instead, he will face the giant across the line from him. I pity the giant.

Instead, he will face the giant inside of him.

And he may never play his position, but he will play with little #10’s heart, because #10 gave it to him, unabashedly, tenderly, graciously, unconditionally.

Instead, he will tap his helmet, right on top.

There are no words.


I will never, ever, ever for as long as I live, understand why in the name of Zeus Daddy left us. I especially will never understand why he left us when things for which he had waited his entire life were about to happen.

And one of those was to see Mac all suited up to play Panther football, walking onto the field with that Mac-swagger, chest puffed out, ready. More than ready.

One of those things was to see Mac make the big sack or the big block or the big interception.

One of those things was to see Mac become the Mac he knew he would be.

And he left anyway.

It is impossible for me to imagine that if, just before leaving, he imagined Mac’s face and thought, “I’m going anyway.”

Or maybe he did.

I don’t know. I’m never going to know.

Mac is never going to know.

And he already wonders.

He may not say it out loud, but he says it in plenty of other ways that lets me know he doesn’t understand, can’t understand, will never understand why his favorite person in the whole, big, wide, uncertain, scary world took himself away from him.

He already wonders how he is going to face the giant of living without his Charles.

And I can’t explain it to him.

Because I don’t understand, either.

There are no words.


When Daddy left, he took so much away, so much more than just him, though taking just him was plenty.

But he gave Mac something.

He came to see Mac in his dreams.

The dreams he had are more than dreams. They are what I call visits.

And though they will never be enough, they are something.

He gave Mac a new memory, even after he was gone. And Mac knows that it isn’t enough, but he also knows it is something special.

Because he is special.

Because he was the very most special to his Charles.


He’s the only one who has received that kind of gift.

No one is surprised.


There are no words.

Not mine, anyway. But you can have Mac’s.

Because his are the ones that count.



3 thoughts on “Gridiron Golden Hot Air Balloon Dreams

  1. Pingback: What Are You Doing???? | uglyreal

  2. Pingback: What Are You Doing? | uglyreal

  3. Pingback: Golden Hot Air Balloon Dream, Part 2: Mac remembers more… | uglyreal

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