Sunday, May 31, 2009

Boston Breakers Help Escalator Dad and Escalator Daughter Find a Common Bond

In the summer of 1996, my 'til death do us part became my ex-wife. I hated that piece of my life for so many reasons. For one, I had never really failed at anything before and failing at a marriage was devastating to me. When I took off my wedding band as the door hit her where the good Lord split her, I felt as if I had emblazoned the scarlet letter on my chest at the very same time.

With the loss of the other half of Mr. and Mrs. I also said "see you later, sweetie" to my beautiful daughters, Erika and Julia. They were age seven and five at the time. As they turned and waved to me with one hand, while holding Mom's hand with the other, I knew I'd see them soon, but knew that our relationship was forever altered.

I saw them every Wednesday and every weekend, an arrangement I knew was much better than many Dad's are allowed, but that simply wasn't enough. Each time I'd drop them off, the hurt was a little bit more. We'd drive from Milford, NH to Worcester, MA singing.

Their little angelic voices brought me to tears from Milford to Worcester and back again as the sang "Butterfly Kisses" and P-Diddy's "I'll Be Watching You". Just to make their old man cry a little bit more, they changed Sean John's lyrics to "I'll Be Missing You."

Weekend upon weekend passed and the hurt never went away. I love those two little gals and no one will ever take their place in my heart.

Fast forward five or so years and I've picked up most of my pieces and met "Ms. Right" yet again. Kate had two children, Kaitlyn, age 7, and Dakota, age 3. They welcomed me into their lives, sort of.

Though Mom was happy again, I represented the official end of any hopes that "Dad might come home." It's a crummy world we live in when Mommy's and Daddy's can't figure their stuff out enough to prevent Daddy from going away.

I knew I'd never replace Dad and didn't even try. I listened to advice from anyone who had ever walked a mile in these Hush Puppies and got more and more confused with each theory. "Be their Uncle." "Be their friend." "Just Be." I tried them all and none of them seemed to hold the key of how to get close to the two little squirts who hated me so.

They tried to like me and me them, but we were failing miserably. As Mom and I spent more and more time together, Kaitlyn and DJ, hated me more and more. I sense Kaitlyn had a voodoo doll hiding beneath her pillow and jabbed my eyes like a pin cushion every time I showed up at the door.

Dating turned to marriage and my girlfriend's two little urchins became my step children. I'd tuck them in to bed sometimes, if they let me in their room, but truthfully I longed for them to be Erika and Julia and not Kaitlyn and Dakota.

Kate and I tried everything. Game night. Family time. "Stay away from each other time" and even "really stay away from each other time". We changed our respective names from Step Dad and Step Kids to Escalator Dad and Escalator Kids, as step seemed so ugly and evil.

Dakota seemed to come around eventually, but Kaitlyn was a tough sell. One day it seemed as if we were making progress and the next day her head would spin around and she'd spit green venom in my direction. I knew part of it was the fact that she was a teenage girl and part was just she plain old didn't like me.

And then tonight came.

Sometimes things happen and you can feel the magic. Tonight was magic.

Kaitlyn and I left for the Boston Breakers game around 3:30. We drove through McDonald's Drive Thru and I placed her order correctly for the first time ever. "Two BBQ chicken chipotle snack wraps, crispy, no lettuce, a medium fry and a medium diet coke."

I looked over at Kaitlyn as the clerk hollered $5.14 through the muffled intercom and she smiled at me. Not lovingly, as we won't go there, but liking-ly.

I turned the Radio to Kiss 108, her favorite station and cranked it loud. We had gone on Winchendon to Boston car rides before and if Kaitlyn doesn't have her I-pod and head phones, she's text messaging to the world. I just blast a little Matty Sigel and we drive silently.

Today, however, Kaitlyn turned the music down softer than normal and smiled.

Kaitlyn smiled.

I was taking her to her first Breaker's game and she seemed to genuinely appreciate it. Kaitlyn had played soccer this fall for her high school and I had made a game here and there when I could.

I always hoped she'd thank me after the game, but I don't think she did. Maybe once or twice, but I really sensed it was out of obligation instead of appreciation.

We drove a bit longer, still not really saying anything to each other, like two guys being left in a room together. The silence was uncomfortable to me and I assume to her, but I really couldn't come up with anything to say.

We hit Rte. 2 heading to Boston and Kaitlyn broke the uncomfortable silence. "Thanks for taking me to see the Breakers, Todd. I'm really excited."

I felt a warmth in her voice that matched the warmth in my chest. We had bonded. At long last, I had found something that made Kaitlyn tick. Soccer. Women's Soccer to boot.

I suddenly felt the same as I did the first time I took my son, Corey, to Fenway to see our beloved Sox. Corey is as passionate about the Sox as I am and he and I chat for hours on end about the hometown team.

Taking him to the Fen for the first time was the greatest gift I could ever give the little squirt. Kaitlyn is equally passionate about soccer and I quickly realized that we were experiencing something really special.

I started to talk to Kaitlyn about Kristine Lilly and Kelly Smith and how my job with the Bleacher Report was going to allow me to go to all of the home games. Kaitlyn seemed impressed and asked me if she could take pictures of the team, while I wrote. "Absolutely, girlfriend", I said. "Anything you want."

We got to beautiful Harvard Stadium and Kaitlyn's eyes sprang from her beautiful little face. She's 15 now, going on 18, but had the expression of a wide eyed little girl. I sense she thought the game was going to be in Foxborough, which would have been cool, but playing at The Coliseum was "way cool."

Kaitlyn seemed especially impressed when I was waved by the parking attendant simply by saying, "Hi, I'm Todd Civin. I'm with The Bleacher Report."

"WE don't have to pay, Todd?" she said.

"That's right, WE don't have to pay." I laughed not expecting her to chip in anyhow.

We got to the Will-Call window and picked up our credentials. Mine was for the season and Kaitlyn's a one day pass, so she could take pictures for her Escalator Dad.

She put it around her neck, careful not to mess her hair of course, and glanced down at it as she walked.

As we walked by the security guard on to the field, simply by flashing our "golden ticket" Kaitlyn was flying higher than the Woody Woodpecker Balloon at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

"Look at the turf, Todd. And the players. Look how close we are. Look how fast they shoot," she continued, never taking a breath in between sentences.

I asked Kaitlyn if she wanted to go to the Press Box and quite unexpectedly she declined. "Let's sit in the stands with everyone else."

We walked into the stands, which were filled with Daddy's and Daughters everywhere we looked. I sense Kaitlyn thought the same thing, though who knows what goes on in the mind of a 15 year-old gal?

We sat at the 50-yard line about half way up the majestic stone seats at Harvard and cheered non stop for ninety plus minutes of play. Kaitlyn pointed out the nuances of the sport that a rook like me has yet to pick up and compared the play of the Breakers team to her Monty Tech team.

"Their passes are crisp and they dribble far less than we do" she taught me. "And the game is about 75 percent faster" she said, using the wildly inaccurate math skills that garnered her a borderline C.

As the final whistle blew and the PA blasted Breakers 2, Sol 1, I screamed to Kaitlyn in my horse little squeal. "We won." Kaitlyn looked at me and nodded as if she didn't even really care about the final tally.

"Yup, we won, Todd. WE won."

We filed out with the rest of the exuberant crowd and I bought Kaitlyn a cute Breakers Blue and white T-shirt. She thanked me several times on the way to the car, in between an endless banter about Marta and Kelly.

She asked me if we can do it again the next game and if she can bring her friend Abbey. I answered in the affirmative and she thanked me yet again.

I expected her to fall asleep in the car like she usually does but she and I chatted for most of the ride home. "I wish I played Spring soccer" she said. "That game was awesome."

We arrived in Winchendon and Kaitlyn bounded up the stairs to show Mom her T-shirt and tell her about the game. Kate looked at me and smiled.

I said good night to my little Escalator Princess as she left the room and hit the hay.

I don't think she'll be singing Butterfly Kisses to me any time soon and definitely not any "I'll Be Msiing You."

Tonight, I'll settle for Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole.....Ole...Ole!

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