Archive for Ella

Ella hits Tiger Town

Posted in Family, Sports with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 3, 2020 by macmystery
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Ella shows off her Tiger Rag commemorating Clemson’s 2016 National Championship. The Tiger Rags were handed out to all fans in attendance of the 2017 home opener vs. Kent State, when the Tigers celebrated the national title.

Three years ago today (Sept. 2, 2020 since this post will go up after midnight), I took Dylan and Ella, along with my nephew Brayson, to the season-opening Clemson football game against Kent State in Death Valley.

For Ella, it was her first Clemson game. And she ate it up.

The Tigers won 56-3 that day over the Golden Flashes. Since Dylan has been the focus of a lot of the photos I’ve put out there, this is Ella’s turn to shine.

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Left to right, Brayson, Ella and Dylan pose at the top of the hill in Death Valley late in the 4th quarter against Kent State.

 

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Ella gives the Tiger Cub a high five.

 

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A good photo of Ella and Dylan, though I feel like something is missing. (Note my Deshaun Watson G.O.A.T shirt.)

 

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It took a lot of work to get Ella to pose with this Clemson cheerleader on the field after the game. She is beautiful. The cheerleader’s not bad, either, I guess. If you’re into that.

 

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Ella was much more thrilled to be posing with a member of the Rally Cats, or as Ella called them, the sparkly cheerleaders.

 

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Clemson backup quarterback Zerrick Cooper pauses for a photo while signing autographs for the kids on the field after the game.

 

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The Tiger Band throws shade at Ohio State during the halftime show by spelling out the score of Clemson’s 2016 playoff win over the Buckeyes, who have never beaten the Tigers.

 

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Tiger Band gives the Clemson head coach some love.

I can’t help but look back and be disappointed

Posted in Family, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 26, 2020 by macmystery

Two years ago last night, I, along with my kids, spent the night in my new-to-me house for the first time.

That, in and of itself, was quite an accomplishment. It was already almost two months after we closed, which was also delayed. Both bathrooms were torn out at the time of closing. Finally, by Aug, 24, there was one functioning, finished bathroom.

The delay in being able to move into the house played a part in the decision not to file for custody of Dylan and Ella. That was a tough decision then and I still go back and forth about what was the best thing to do.’ (I’ve since filed for custody.)

I had closed early in July. I had hoped Linda and I might “rough it” in the house on the first night. But circumstance had other ideas, and I didn’t see her until after midnight in what would be a pretty crappy week before a really crappy week, which I now know was even crappier than I was aware at the time.

Despite the circumstances at the time, I was hopeful. I finally felt like I was going in the right direction and there were good things ahead. I was in love, I was hopeful, I was optimistic. And a couple months later it all came crashing down.

And I tried hard to save it and thought we had, for a while at least. But a couple of bone-headed weeks for me were the last straws for Linda another couple months later and that was it. Though, to be fair, I believe now it simply wouldn’t have mattered. I think she intended to do what she did for a while and I just served it up for her.

And I’ve been in a hole ever since.

I’m well. My kids are well, happy and thriving, actually. I’ve taken a second job editing a weekly newspaper and I love it despite the stress.

But if I told you I was doing more than surviving, … getting by, … I’d be lying.

I penned a Facebook message two years ago tonight (Aug. 25, 2018) thanking my dad and Linda and friends who had helped me get to where I was after the hole I was in a couple years before.

You can’t tell the people you care about that you love them too often. You should do it at every opportunity. You never know when you won’t get another chance.

I must have read that note 15 times today. But I couldn’t share it. Though I still mean every word in that note, I can’t put it out there.

Looking back at that day and that note, it’s hard not to be disappointed at how things turned out. And I haven’t been able to just get over it.

I know all of this sounds cryptic. But I just needed to get it out. It’s for me, not you.

Despite the disappointment and all the other emotions I’m dealing with on a daily basis, I want to repeat the sentiment of what I wrote that day.

I want to thank my father, William McCombs, without whom I would be lost. Without fail, he has always been there for me. Everything I know about being a man, I learned from him.

Despite how things went and where they are now, I am grateful to Linda. More than I can express.

And I’m grateful to Dawn and Bryan and Ken and Fran and Erin and even Mike, though I’d be lying if I said that relationship wasn’t strained, as well.

At some point, I’ll get out of the hole. It’ll happen. I know it will. But until then, I’ll be here at the house, getting by.

Sweet Caroline!

Posted in Family, Sports with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 19, 2020 by macmystery

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My niece Caroline is ready to step to the free-throw line.

Bah bah nah. That’s what come’s after Sweet Caroline, no?

If there’s any confusion, this  is most assuredly not about that popular Neil Diamond ditty. While I’ll admit it’s catchy, when you listen to the words, the song is actually quite creepy.

It is even more so when you consider it was allegedly written about a quite underage — barely even teenage — Caroline Kennedy. Think about that next time you’re singing along during the seventh-inning stretch at a shitty Boston Red Sox game.

Nope. This epic blog post is about Caroline, my niece, named after my mother, Carole.

Caroline is my sister Michele’s only child, born roughly a half a year after my own daughter, Ella. Unlike Ella, who is quite small, Caroline is big. Quite big.

I don’t mean this in a bad way. But she takes after her father in the fact that she’s tall. Quite tall. And getting taller.

At the ripe age of 11, she has already surpassed her mother in shoe size. I’m sure Michele welcomes this. It means she’ll no longer worry about Caroline stealing her shoes.

Problem is, it means she’ll be buying a lot more shoes. And the growing is far from over.

Caroline isn’t just big in stature, she has a big voice and it’s impossible not to notice she’s in the room. And issues with her ear she’s had since birth mean she’s sometimes unintentionally loud.

And my nickname for her? Lovingly, it’s Big Head.

But her size betrays her. When you’re with her, you feel like you’re in the room with another adult. It’s easy to forget, she’s only 11. Sometimes it’s tough to not be hard on her. Her size, unfairly, honestly changes your expectations.

But she’s a good kid. And something else she has that’s big — her heart.

Caroline has been playing church league basketball for a couple years now. I’ve managed to attend several games when in town.

Her coaches have tried to take advantage of her size — who wouldn’t. They want her to go to a spot, turn, and ask for the ball. When she gets it, they want her to turn and shoot. No dribble. Simply post up. There’s no one in her league who can contest her.

All this makes sense. The results? A few points — the games are low-scoring and her shooting has been suspect. And a lot of rebounds.

But not so many wins.

In fact, until last week … zero wins. Some close calls, but no bananas.

Basketball-wise, Caroline has some things to work on. I have told her a couple of times, the best thing she could do to improve is play as much basketball as possible.

There is a conflict, unfortunately. The things her coach asks her to do aren’t wrong. They are the things that give the team the best chance to win.

But she needs to improve her shooting, dribbling, passing, … and the mental aspects. And she won’t get better at those things if all she does is post up, catch the ball, turn and shoot. She can only get better at those things by doing them. She needs to play ball, a lot of it, and against kids her size, where she’s forced to do those things.

During this offseason, she made a decision to get more serious about basketball. A huge Clemson fan, she has made it her goal to play for the Tigers.

A realistic goal? Who knows. But she’s playing with a purpose.

She has actually gone and talked to the people who would be her coaches at the junior high and high school level about what she can best do to be ready to play for them.

Last week, I got the texts from my sister that I usually get during Caroline’s games. Except this time, they ended differently.

Trailing 5-4 late in the 4th quarter — with both buckets belonging to Caroline — a late score from the coach’s daughter gave her team a long-elusive 6-5 win.

Caroline finished with 4 points on 2-for-3 shooting with 11 rebounds and zero fouls.

“It feels good,” she texted me after her first win. “I played like I had a goal in life.”

I reminded her that her goal was good, but to be careful to enjoy the moment and have fun, even if the goal doesn’t work out.

“I know and I did but I still want to work on my goal.”

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This week, Caroline and her team did it again. She scored 6 points — all on putbacks —  and her team won 8-4.

A winning streak. Who’d have thought it?

There’s really no point to all of this except that I love her. And some things seem to be breaking her way.

And there is no one happier for her than me. She, and her mama, deserve it.

 

Gaining even more respect for my father

Posted in Family with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 16, 2019 by macmystery

A week or so ago, after picking my kids up for the weekend on Friday evening in Columbia, we stopped for dinner at Lizard’s Thicket near the airport.

For the unfamiliar, Lizard’s Thicket is a small chain of meat-and-three style restaurants in the Columbia area. Like Cracker Barrel, Dylan and Ella are fond of their food.

As we entered, I noticed and elderly man and his wife – I assumed – sitting opposite one another in a booth near the front of the restaurant. There was a walker stationed at the end of the table, and the woman looked quite frail, leading me to believe it was her walker rather than his.

I took notice because he looked tired, like a caregiver. I recognize this from watching my father descend over the years as he cared for my mother. By the time my mother passed in 2012, my father was a shell of the man I knew growing up. He had aged 50 years in 15.

Though he tried, the smile wasn’t the same. He dealt with blood pressure issues and depression, and my mother’s situation, and stubborn streak born out of fear, contributed to the accelerated demise of my father’s professional and military careers.

But he soldiered on. I heard my grandmother tell my mother once that she was lucky. Most men would have left and my father did not.

Statistically speaking, she was right. Noted and bloated TV psychologist/talking head Dr. Phil says 100 percent of relationships where one partner is a caregiver end in failure. I don’t think that’s 100 percent accurate, but I’ve no doubt it’s close.

As I watched my father, the best man I’ve ever known, struggle, I was not much help. I just hoped the strain and stress wouldn’t win. Once when my mother was being particularly difficult about something, I told her that if she killed him before she lost her battle to the myriad illnesses that were slowly taking her, I would never forgive her.

I haven’t endured what my father did, but my divorce several years ago and, more recently, the end of a serious relationship have hit me hard. I deal with anxiety, struggle to sleep, and quite frankly, I’m admittedly depressed.

Almost seven years ago, a freak occurrence – my mother banged her leg on the pole under a table at a restaurant – led to a heart attack and, eventually, my mother’s passing.

In the seven years since, my father is again the man I knew when I – and he – was younger. He smiles more, talks more, and his wonderful, dry, sometimes dark sense of humor is back. Despite a knee replacement several years ago, he is more active than he was 10 years ago.

He was lucky. My sister and I are lucky. If my mother had lived another 5 years, there is no doubt in my mind that my father would not have. I’m not sure if that would make him among Dr. Phil’s 100 percent or not.

Back to the couple at the Lizard’s Thicket. Though their interactions went unnoticed to my kids, I watched. I do this often in public.

The woman was lost. She could barely feed herself and appeared on the verge of tears the entire meal.

He did things for her. But he was not kind. It troubled him. It was like he had somewhere else to be, something else to do and she was keeping him from it. He was annoyed. He once yelled at her that the potatoes were not hot.

Then, when it came time to leave, he stood and waited for her to get up, while holding her walker at the ready. When it took more time than he anticipated, he banged her walker on the floor repeatedly in frustration.

I wanted to cry.

As bad as a look as it was for him, I don’t blame him. I don’t know that he’s a bad person. It’s quite possible that he’s just tired. Beyond all human limits. He’s at his end, and the fact that’s he’s still going is in itself an accomplishment.

That didn’t make it better for her. You could tell she was struggling emotionally, not just physically. She just couldn’t “do” anymore. And like most people in this country, they likely don’t have the means to make things any better for themselves, to get care for her above what he can provide himself.

All of this makes me even more grateful for my father. I’ve never told him that enough.

He never bailed on my mother, though at this point in my life, I can’t say I would blame him if he had. He could have tried to make his life better. He instead tried to make my mother’s better. And is still trying to do the same for my sister and me.

If I live to be half the man my father has been, it will be an accomplishment.

Dylan and Danny

Posted in Family, Sports with tags , , , , , , on October 19, 2009 by macmystery

Two of my favorite people -- Dylan and Danny Ford.

Two of my favorite people -- Dylan and Danny Ford.

I went to the Spartanburg Touchdown Club meeting on Friday at Wild Wing Cafe in downtown Spartanburg to hear former Clemson football coach Danny Ford speak.

Dylan loves Wild Wing, and since he had a big program at school (that his grade wasn’t even allowed to attend) and then early dismissal, I took him along.

He was excited to wear his Clemson jersey and take his clemson football to have Coach Ford autograph it, even though he has no real idea who Coach Ford is. Coach of the 1981 national champions somehow doesn’t mean as much to him as to me.

He got to eat chicken fingers, hang out with the grown-ups (the thrill of missing school played a role, as well) and get his picture made with someone who his daddy liked a lot. And he loved it, especially since Mommy and Ella didn’t get to come along.

The picture doesn’t mean a lot to him, but hopefully one day he’ll understand why it does for me.