“J” and I have been friends for over 20 years. A kinder, stronger, gentler and more generous soul is almost impossible to imagine. He’s also tough, resolute and can take on anyone and anything. The fact that’s he’s usually armed and an excellent shot helps (he’s a former cop), but it’s mostly because he’s mentally and emotionally armored against life’s weapons of personal destruction.
He’s been a de facto single parent for a long time, due to lack of presence and caring by his estranged wife, and he will soon legally assume that role when his divorce is final. His daughter is beautiful, athletic, accomplished and smart. She has her daddy’s heartstrings neatly tied around her little finger, but he clearly keeps discipline and control front and center, even if he admits to spoiling his girl. They are a tight duo, a family unit between them that speaks to strength against emotional odds.
I am proud that “J” is a friend. His life’s list contains a fair measure of mistakes and crazy moves, but we all have those. And to decide to divorce and single-parent a teenage girl takes more than chutzpah. It requires the saints’ patience, plus athletic-level endurance and the steely fortitude to say “No” and mean it when the begging, crying, pleading and tantrums threaten to implode the relationship between father and child.
Seeing “J” with his daughter recently showed me a side of him I’d never known before. He was always the funny, high-energy guy we depended on to show up in times of trouble and get the job done. He’s still that person. But now he’s a deeper, more thoughtful man. Experiencing personal pain and working through it does that. Having a child does that, too. I’ve told him that I’m there for him, no matter how his current situation turns out. You don’t give up on the good ones.