By Clinton Pawlick
Clinton Pawlick, 44 (or, as he puts it, 11, four times), and his wife, Jen, live in North Seattle. They love the Hawks, good friends, Washington reds, and their two cats, Malcolm and Ink Pot Pie. Jen wants to add a Great Dane to the mix and often cites Russell Wilson as an example of large dog ownership.
This isn’t just any season. To me it is the beauty of hope, the somber pang of loss, recognition of other possibilities, and a chance to live fully.
My wife and I met on an airplane heading from Seattle to Copenhagen, Denmark, in the winter of 2007. It was one of those chance encounters that redefined our lives. Two seats, side-by-side and an eight-hour conversation. Real, implausible, beautiful from the start.
We parted in Copenhagen. Jen to Rome. I went to Helsinki. Yes, in the middle of winter.
But we took a chance on each other. I had been divorced. And Jen had given up hope that the right guy would appear. When we met in person again once back in Seattle, I saw in her the rest of my life.
She was radiant, funny, and full of life.
We dated, and she asked me to be patient with her. Her dad, the man she admired most, was about to have brain surgery to implant a pacemaker that would hold off the debilitating effects of his Parkinson’s disease.
I was amazed. How could she handle the pursuit of a new relationship while this weight of concern for her father pressed down upon her?
Still, she did it like she does most things. With grace, beauty and fallible courage.
Her dad made it through the surgery. And we married. The night of our wedding, you should have seen her dance with him. It was like a miracle. He glided across the dance floor at Ray’s (I picked the location after viewing 14 other places while Jen traveled in Africa) like he was floating. My heart still breaks each time I think of the moment.
We have that memory. And I’ll never forget it.
Her dad passed away. Two years ago in April. I watched as she lost her father much too young.
Incredible stress bore down upon her. The man she loved, her advocate in a family with already many challenges, was gone.
Her mother broke down. Jen tried to move forward. But it’s hard to balance a family when someone you had leaned on is no longer there.
But through the tough times, Jen and I had the Hawks.
I had put down a deposit when I first moved to Seattle. When Jen and I married, she said “no” the first year to season tickets. “Too much money,” she said. Then the Hawks called again the next year. I could still get seats. After an impassioned plea, she agreed.
And then we went to our first game. I couldn’t believe how loud she cheered. And all this when I thought I couldn’t love her more. It turns out, Jen comes from a long history of football fans. Her mother’s mother, who lived with the family toward the end of her life when she had cancer, would yell at the television “Get, ‘em! Get ‘em!” and the knitting needles would fly forward, only to be collected again after the big play was over.
The Hawks gave us outlet. We could put our hope and frustration into the games and cope with changes.
Jen and her mom had a falling out as they both tried to find a new way in the world. Jen and I tried to have a child together. But after a miscarriage and several failed in vitro fertilization attempts, it was clear it wouldn’t work. We set down a dream and decided to live more fully. We would see the world.
And that we did.
Jen, who by this time had become guardian of her developmentally disabled sister (also a rabid Hawks’ fan), took us into enemy territory to attend her cousin’s wedding in San Francisco with her sister, who had never before had her own hotel room. Beth loved being there with us as we huddled around a television set to watch the Hawks play the Colts.
Beth, her sister, looked at me and said, “Oh, I need to put on my lucky bracelet,” a twist of blue and green that one of her housemates had made for her. As she slid it onto her arm, the Colts blocked the Seattle field goal. I joked that Beth could never wear that again.
Time and distance worked in tandem to set things right. Jen and her mom used football as a way to connect. It was neutral, but also a common bond. The two would chat before big games, with Anne, her mother, often filling us in with injury reports and activation status.
When we played the Saints, Anne found herself without television or Internet, and she and I conspired. I would need to text her updates from the stands. The game was special. As Earl Thomas walked an honorary captain off the field, Jen and I looked at one another. This fierce player showed a tenderness toward someone with disability. We looked at each other. Didn’t say a word. Moved by this simple act, and touched by how close it struck in our own lives. During the game, Jen saw me madly tapping away into my phone before she intervened to improve the process. I call her that. Process Improvement Woman.
“Mom, turn on the radio,” she wrote. And Steve Raible saved the day.
Before Christmas, Jen and I traveled to Rome. We sold the Cardinals’ game because we thought we’d be too tired to fully appreciate it. What a mistake. The Hawks lost without us there. In Rome, first stop on a rest-of-life world tour, we saw the pope. He passed within four feet of us and kissed a baby on the head. Unbeknownst to him, he also blessed our 12th man flag, which I have been wearing as a papal-endorsed cape to our playoff games. It’s working, you see.
Sunday, after a frenzied night of loving how the Hawks won, we decided to go to New York. We don’t have tickets to the big game, but we have hope that things work out. And by placing ourselves in the right position. Side-by-side and close to a miracle. It just might happen.
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