You’ve probably heard someone say something like, “Live every day like it’s your last, because you never know.” My family had one of those “you never know” incidents two years ago. My husband had just picked up our kids from school when he was involved in a road rage shooting. He was shot twice, once in the chest and once in the side. It was one of those guardian angel kind of things; the doctors, the attorneys, the witnesses, everyone has said that he should be dead. Being shot at point-blank range is not something that many people survive. We are beyond grateful to have him with us.
Something like that changes you. When you are faced with your own mortality, you look at your life in an entirely different manner. He appreciates things in a way that he didn’t before. He feels so blessed to be married with four children, all of whom love him so much. And because he has been given this second chance, he makes sure to let all of us know how much he loves us every day. He’ll bring home flowers just because. He’ll send a silly meme to our kids just to make them laugh. I’ve even been in the car when he’s paid for the person’s meal behind him just to do it. He is a man who is thankful to be alive and he shows it every chance that he can.
There were certainly thoughts about leaving me a widow that made him sad. But when he thought about our kids not having their dad, it wrecked him. He has a great relationship with his own dad and he wants that with his kids. He plans to be there for them as long as he possibly can. And he shows them that he loves them all the time, and it’s really impactful.
Each of our kids get to be with him one-on-one regularly. Our daughter admittedly is the most spoiled. She is in pre-k, so he is able to pick her up from school at noon once a week and they go to “Cheeseburger Thursday.” This started off small, a trip through the drive thru for a quick meal, but it has evolved into his most beloved day of the week. The two of them have been to some of the best restaurants in the city. She has tasted every flavor shake St. Louis has to offer. They have their favorite places where the servers know their names and their orders before they even sit down. He always starts the conversation asking about her day and he lets her take the lead from there. He sends me selfies of the two of them having the best time. When she starts kindergarten in the fall, I know that his heart will be broken. She’ll have to settle for every fourth Saturday as he rotates the others with her brothers.
My sons are teens and tweens, but they haven’t become too cool to be with their dad just yet. They even let him snap a quick pic to send to me. He has introduced them to amazing cuisine and they have become adventurous eaters. The oldest son is now a sushi aficionado and will gladly tell you about everything he has tried. Our middle boy is into Asian cuisine and has become a master with chopsticks. The youngest, he is more of a breakfast kind of guy. He loves a diner and some hotcakes with his pop. They each look forward to their Saturdays together and planning a fun time, just the two of them.
It’s not just about the meal, though. It is about getting to know his kids on a whole new level. He often learns things about them that I never knew. They will share things with him about friends and school and what is going on in their lives at the moment that they don’t want to share with their mom. They talk to him with honesty and trust. And he shares stories with them about his own childhood. They will often come back home laughing about a joke that he has taught them or something funny that happened on their adventure. Sometimes those are inside jokes for just the two of them. And I am 100% OK with that. I want their relationships with their dad to be strong.
It doesn’t stop at a quick meal. He has taken them to baseball and football games. One son got to take a flight to Atlanta for a weekend, just the two of them. They are the luckiest kids alive. They realize how fortunate they are to have their dad, and they are thankful.
Sometimes, if I am not home, and after their sister goes to bed, they have “guy night.” Guy night means shirts off, steaks on the grill, root beer out of a bottle and an action flick on the big screen. He has taught them the proper way to season meat and how to check the temperature of their steak. They are working on creating the perfect crosshatch of beautiful grill marks – their dad is known as The Grillin’ Fool, so this is super important stuff. My boys will ask when I am going to be gone so that they can have these special nights at home.
My husband is a changed man since that day. Every minute is about enjoying his family while he can. He gave up drinking so that he could be present for his kids all of the time. If there is a chance to watch them play in a game, or hit some golf balls at the range, or just run to the grocery store with one of them as his helper, he is all over it. I am so impressed with the man that he has become. I loved him before that horrific day, but I have fallen completely in love with the person that he is now.
But it’s not about me. It is about our kids. They were in that car. They heard the shots. They will never forget it. Their dad is their hero; he literally took a bullet for them. That kind of love is profound. I don’t wish this heartache and fear on anyone. However, this fateful day has been a game changer for our family. Because we were faced with death, we have gotten a second chance at a really happy life. My kids and I will never take that, or him, for granted again. I can tell you without hesitation, you truly never know.