Wide left. Nick Folk just missed a game-winning field goal against the Pats. Bob Wischusen has the call. But, there’s a penalty. The first one ever called in an NFL game. Ever. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against New England for pushing a teammate into the opponent’s (New York) formation. Give the Jets a retry and 15 yards. Nick Folk splits it. Jets win. ESPN New York 98.7 FM’s Bob Wischusen with the call. My dad and I celebrate. I’m standing outside his drivers side window as we listen to the end of the game. Where am I standing? My lawn. Well, my mom’s lawn. And my stepdads lawn. Not mine, I don’t pay the bills.
I’m 16, a month into my first ever relationship that isn’t just meeting after school to hold hands before the busses come. I see my friends every single day. Kids at school can tell when our “squad” (we called ourselves ‘The Crew’) was around because at least 15 bicycles would flood my mom’s sidewalk. It sounds so cliché, but everything in my life was changing as a 16 year-old. I’d developed self-awareness, my own views of things and realizing aspects of life that may be too early to be visualizing.
Oct. 20, 2013 was full of “firsts.” Maybe just two, but it’s more than one, so I’m going to say it was full of them. Along with that penalty being the first ever called in football, it was the first time I really realized what I wanted. And it makes me tear up just thinking this, but that want became a tangible item almost exactly a year later.
Everyone has their own stories and struggles, weaknesses and beliefs on every aspect of life. I was feeling everything that day in 2013. I remember the Jets call, my dad pulling away that day and the conversation we had. It’s not the first time it’s come up. The clothes I was wearing (Jets jersey, shorts and carrying my football to play with my brothers in the yard when I got home), the wind blowing the almost-leafless giant tree that stuck right in the middle of my moms front yard. I remember it all.
If you haven’t been able to tell yet, read the first and fourth paragraph’s again. Alright, I’ll just tell you. Growing up, and finally at the age of 16, I realized I was the only one out of all my friends to have to differentiate who I was with. “I’m with my mom,” “I’m with my dad,” get it? Yeah, none of them had split parents. And I had realized that I was pretty damn good about it all. I thought (and I know) I have a better relationship with my parents than them all. I’ll be selfish about that, because I know it’s the truth. But I was going to make a change, and those relationships got weird. Maybe just a bit more than that. A lot more than that.
I moved out. I had enough of my stepdad a year later, 2014. I went downstairs into my room, texted my dad to pick me up, and that was it. At least I wish it was. My mom starts yelling from upstairs, saying I’m unbelievable, all this, all that, basically everything you’d think a mother who’s heart is breaking in front of you would say. Crying again. My stepdad comes downstairs soft-toned, asking me if I really wanted to leave, telling me this will tear my mother apart. I know it will. And it will rip me into pieces. My dad and I though, we are inseparable. He’s gone through the ringer. We’ve moved more times than I can count, either in basements of family member’s houses, or the top level of 95 East Granada Drive. That’s Brick NJ, 08723, if you wanted to look yourself. I just did, and you won’t find pictures of just the upstairs that the staircase leads to. I’ve seen my dad do whatever it takes, sacrifice everything just to make me happy. Today, I was going to be as unhappy as I ever could be.
Some background information: My stepfather and I never had the best of relationships, let’s keep it at that. But my mother and I, just like my father and I, are strapped at the hip. She is my other half. It’s not just because she birthed me. It’s because she’s the most amazing and beautiful woman this world will ever see in my eyes and anyone who encounters her (sorry Jess). But she knew I needed a change, and I also knew I’m still her little baby boy who will always come running to her with my hypochondriac episodes, like if I’m going to die from a paper cut. I know that’s what hurt her the most. Me letting go. And I saw her cry and scream for me out the front door as I got in my dad’s truck after the three parents had a conversation.
I believe, and I know, that this is a road that is “less traveled.” It’s a road that nobody else will ever come close to in their lives, because everyone is unique in their situations. I didn’t have to go to my dads. I didn’t have to see my friends after school everyday now because it’s no longer a two minute drive, it’s now a 25 minute one. I didn’t have to not push myself to be better academically and strive to be the first to go to college on my dad’s side. But I did, and look at everything now. My relationships with both my parents are at an all-time high, my dad and I bought our first house (again, not mine, but you get it). My mom has Josie, our new dog, as well as her first daughter keeping her company when my three brothers and stepdad are driving her off the walls at home until I come home. Men, right? But seriously, there’s nothing wrong with my stepdad and me now. There’s no tension anywhere. Life is as good as it’s ever been.
The Jets are 28-45 since Nick Folk hit that game-winning field goal. He’s also been out of a job since Week 5 of this season. Funny how much bad has happened since that day.
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