I know someone who’s way more Mom than most. In fact I’m married to her.
Way back in time – long enough ago so I don’t remember specifically when – my Debbie started taking care of kids. Lots of kids. Our friends’ kids. Kids from church. Kids from school. Kids from Little League. Kids.
There’s a cadre of kids – not all of them are kids any more – who have been lucky enough to have spent sizeable percentages of their childhoods in the company of my Debbie. She’s changed more diapers than a maternity nurse and wiped more tears than a mortician.
And it’s not just that she loves kids – which she does. If you have a kid and a job and you see my Debbie with kids you want her taking care of yours when you can’t. Many a parent has worked many a full day confident that their kids were in the very best of hands – my Debbie’s. They were at the library or at the park or at the church or at some other wholesome event she’d somehow found somewhere, but they were with Debbie.
We have four of our own, (one of ‘mine’ who’s always been hers too and three of ‘ours’) so our home has always been full. It’s even more so now, with Debbie nanny-ing for two lucky families and our daughter now carrying on Mom’s tradition. I believe either of Debbie’s current families would be thrilled to build a spare room and have her move in. They can’t have her. We need her here. I need her here.
Thank you Debbie for the full house. Thank you from all of ‘your’ kids over all of the years. Thank you from the many parents who could comfortably drop them and dash off to work. Thank you from the kids who really are yours, who like their father forget to appreciate.
A lot of people know Dan Haley who never knew him.
I have been coaching kids in one sport or another for most of my adult life. Somewhere out there are hundreds of kids – many of whom aren’t kids any more – who have learned football, basketball, baseball or softball from me.
I like to think they’ve learned something about life as well. If they did it came from a deep well, drilled and tended in large part by Coach Haley.
I was very lucky as a young man. I was a jock, and had the good fortune to have been coached by some fine men. Coach Haley was the head football coach at Paducah Tilghman, my high school. He was as good a man as I ever knew.
Now history will tell you that Coach Haley won two Kentucky state championships during his time at Tilghman. It lists his 253-79-3 record and his inclusion in the Kentucky High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame in 2007.
And that was Coach Haley.
But there was so much more.
At Tilghman football players had a curfew of 9:25 p.m. It wasn’t 9:30. It wasn’t 9:26. It was 9:25. Somehow we knew that Coach Haley would know if you got inside at 9:26 instead of 9:25.
It taught me to be punctual. It taught me that if practice – or a meeting, or a date, or anything else – starts at 5 p.m. you arrive at 4:45. It is respectful of other people. Of the team. Of the coach. Of yourself.
Many of the stories so many kids have heard from me over the years are not mine – they’re Coach Haley’s. I’ll spare you the one about the nut-cutting.
The ‘Hark, I thought I heard a canon roar’ story is his. Hundreds of kids have heard it from me. It speaks of preparation, and of proper preparation. Here it is:
A boy got a small part in the school play. His single line was ‘Hark! thought I heard a canon roar’.
Everywhere the boy went he repeated the line. ‘Hark! I thought I heard a canon roar,” he would say to anyone who’d listen. ‘Hark! I thought I heard a canon roar.’ His friends, his teachers and his parents all got tired of hearing it.
But it was only one line. He skipped the dress rehearsal, because he knew his line.
Then came the night of the show. The boy was confident. He knew his line. He was ready.
His cue came and the boy strode confidently onto the stage. He gathered himself to deliver his line.
Suddenly, offstage there was a huge ‘BOOM!’
The boy said ‘What in the Hell was that?!’
That’s a Coach Haley story. Another one I made up, and I try to tell it to all young coaches before they begin their seasons.
‘Kids will call you ‘Coach’ and it will mean something. You will influence them. Twenty years from now some young stranger will walk up to you and he (or she) will call you ‘Coach’. You may or may not remember them, but they will remember you. They will tell you that what you taught them, what you said to them and showed them, changed their life. You do not know now which kid and you do not know when. You do not know what day, what statement, what lesson or moment they will remember. It is an honor to be called ‘Coach’. It is a privilege.’
Coach Dan Haley passed away this week. A great coach and a fine man gone at 73. His legacy lives on. In a 50-some year career Coach Haley touched thousands of lives. He made them better. A man can ask for no more.
So Coach, when you come before the Great Scorer stand proud. I and thousands like me are continuing your good work.
‘For when the One Great Scorer comes to write against your name, he marks not that you won or lost but how you played the game.’
In my morning paper today I read quotes from a Hall donor and supporter who described her as a good person, somehow led astray because of her association with high rollers.
Hall, in case you’ve been living in Siberia or under a rock, has entered into a plea agreement with the Feds admitting she misappropriated (stole) around $34,000 from her re-election campaign account in 2010. Her transgression was not only a violation of the trust county voters had placed in her since 2004, when she was first elected a Lee County commissioner, it was a direct slap in the face for every county resident who struggles – honestly – to make ends meet.
You see it seems poor Tammy was only trying to live the lifestyle to which she wished to become accustomed. See she ran in circles with millionaires, and the poor thing could not be expected to make ends meet on the miserly few dollars the taxpayers paid her.
Well folks how about a dose of reality?
In 2010, the year Hall dipped into campaign funds, the average household income in Lee County was $43,936 – just over half the salary those same people paid Hall.
That’s for a household. Including those with moms and dads and kids. Hall is a household of one.
Granted the number is skewed a little by retirees with fixed incomes, but you get the drift. Lee County can be a very hard place.
The per capita income by the way – that average a Lee County individual had coming in in 2010 – was $24,669.
Those numbers come directly from Lee County’s own web site.
That Hall’s millionaire circle of acquaintances has a limited grasp of what living in the ‘real’ Lee County is like, and that Hall decided she wanted to live a Maserati and lobster lifestyle when the Chevy and hamburger taxpayers were paying ‘only’ for a steak and Cadillac existence are not excuses for what she did.
In fact it may say a lot about the disconnect between government and those who pay for it. County commissioners make not quite double what the average county household gets by on. They make well over three times what the average county wage earner gets.
So cancel the pity party.
While it is true that freshman Radel has stayed true to his Tea Party roots it is difficult to imagine he and his compatriots backing up their tow trucks to hook up and haul the agenda forward.
Maybe that’s because the appropriate turn of phrase is ‘toe the line’. It refers, as those who understand the language and its use know, to runners getting as close to the starting line as they can without going over. Modern use has it meaning to rigidly adhere to ideological precepts.
It’s no surprise to see the local daily continue to contribute to the dumbing-down of its readership.
But it is disappointing.
Remember folks, this is the same bunch who recently told its readers it would improve the quality of its news coverage by including more content from USA Today.
That Gannett national flagship is known far and wide – again, among those who can still read and understand – as the McNews. It is to news coverage what McDonald’s is to fine dining – a pale and poor substitute.
The media world today is crowded with coverage that is shallow and meaningless. “Flyover journalism” some call it. It produces news stories that are but a few inches deep, as if produced by someone who merely stole a furtive glance at a complex issue. There is no context. There is no history.
USA Today specializes in it.
So now we can look forward to even more of it. Those charged with informing the people of southwest Florida will now provide still more shallow, meaningless space-filler.
Guess they’re towing the Gannett party line.
For most of the last decade Lee County commissioners Ray Judah and Tammy Hall played good cop/bad cop with the South Florida Water Management District, the Corps of Engineers and Big Sugar. Judah took every opportunity to poke the moneyed and the bureaucrats in the eye. Hall caught flies with sugar, not a sledgehammer. It worked, after a fashion.
But when Big Sugar spread campaign cash on the troubled, polluted waters of local electoral politics Bad Cop Ray was washed out of office. Yesterday Good Cop Tammy quit facing federal fraud charges related to stealing from her own campaign account.
So now what?
At a time of absolute crisis, with a polluted soup of toxic sludge flowing down the Caloosahatchee, who will step into the breach? Which of the current commissioners has the skill and the inclination to fight for the life of the local waters?
This week Commissioner Larry Kiker is off to Washington, D.C. to meet with Rep. Trey Radel and others to talk about Lake Okeechobee releases.
Let’s hope Kiker can be the new cop. We need one.