“One Sunday morning, before my three-year-old son came running into our room, like he does every morning, my wife and I were lying in bed. She was in a particularly good mood as our son had finally slept through the night and neither one of us had to get up and tuck him back in during the early AM hours. She rolled over, looked at me and smiled. I said, ‘why are you so cheerful this morning?’ Is it because you get to wake up next to your best friend?’ She replied, ‘Yeah, something like that,’ while giving a super cute smirk that she does so well. I looked at her and said, ‘I wonder what that feels like, my best friend lives in Seattle.’
Taylor Fry, my best friend since sixth grade, lives in Seattle, Washington. Actually, just outside of Seattle in this small town where they filmed the soap opera, Twin Peaks, but that’s beside the point. We grew up in southern Ohio. Chillicothe to be exact. Inseparable throughout junior high and high school. Went through a lot together, too much to mention, but needless to say, we got each other through everything. In school, we were referred to as Jaylor. By the way, my first name is Jay. My own mother was convinced we were gay together. I know this because she told me so… to my face… at a Max and Erma’s restaurant. It made for an uncomfortable lunch for several people in the area of my voice shouting ‘I’M NOT GAY, MOM!’
After high school, he moved to Florida and I stayed in Ohio and went to college to play baseball. Life is the same for everyone, it continues to move forward whether you like it or not. Things change, but our friendship remained the same, just a few hundred miles between us. My parents had also moved to the Sunshine State and after a few years I joined them both in Florida. Taylor had met a wonderful girl named Hannah, and they made a life decision to move to Seattle to better their careers. I had just gotten my best friend back and now he is going to be as far away as possible in the continental United States. I knew we would be fine. I mean we’d already done the long distance thing and made it through. Wow, ok, maybe my mom had some reason to think we were gay together.
In the meantime, I had also met someone, Candace. This girl was different; more so than anyone I had ever met. See, I’m colorblind (Pun unintended). Meeting Candace is how I can only imagine waking up and seeing colors would feel. She changed my entire outlook on everything. Taylor still had a part of my heart, but my life was never going to be the same.
Taylor and Hannah got married in a small ceremony up in Seattle. Candace and I ended up getting married in 2012, before moving to Missouri to finish college. We were the best man at each other’s wedding. At my wedding, Taylor told an amazing story about two people who loved each other and were the best for one another in every way. It was about us, not my wife. Ok, mom, I get it, you had your reasons.
When Candace and I moved to Missouri, we had been married for less than a month, bought an SUV and loaded up a U-haul and headed off on an adventure where the only person I knew or could rely on was her. I was in grad school and she was completing her B.S. and playing softball. I remember I got a D on my first grad school test and I was embarrassed and trying to think of how I was going to explain it to my family that I failed out of grad school. Candace was there to pick me up and be that tough love person I needed. She told me it was going to be ok and I was fine, but complaining about it isn’t going to fix anything and to get my nose in the books before the next test. She was holding me accountable while telling me she loved me. She knew my Master’s degree wasn’t just for me, it was for us and our family. Then I realized, there was no longer a ‘me’ it was an ‘us’ from here on out. This woman put her faith in me to be her partner for life and in life there are going to be much worse things that happen than a D on a test. It was my first swift kick in the ass as a married man. In 2014, I graduated with a Master’s Degree in Applied Health and Sports Sciences. I got one B in two years and finished with a 3.8 GPA. I can still feel that kick in the ass.
We took our degrees and moved back to Florida. We’d been married for two years by now and I had just accepted a job as a Sports Information Director at a small college. It was my first real job out of college and it was miserable. My boss made my life hell. Things happened that I didn’t think were normal, but it was my first job and maybe this was just how it was. Candace would comfort me at home in our little one bedroom 900 square foot apartment. There were days when I would throw up before going to work because I was dreading it so much. I knew I had to go for us, for her.
One day in February, she told me we’d be adding another player to our roster. We were going to have a baby. After the shock wore off I took a long hard look at myself. I was working almost 70 hours a week, getting yelled at and it was impossible to get away from the job. My boss and I met and agreed to give it a couple weeks and then meet again and discuss if I wanted to come back. The very next day, I am at the airport about to fly out with our women’s basketball team and he has his secretary email me asking for my resignation. What happened to a couple weeks? That very moment I decided to trust my faith and turned in my resignation, effective July 1. Now, how do I tell my pregnant wife that in a few months I won’t have a job?
It was a Sunday, about a month after I had sent in my letter of resignation after basically being bullied out of my job. I took her to the beach and spilled my guts during the drive over. She cried and was upset because it should have been a family decision. I had explained I felt like I did it to benefit the family. It was the first time I had made my wife cry tears that were not tears of joy and it rocked me to my very core. It was a few days and several phone calls between my wife and mother-in-law before she started talking to me normally again. We sat down together and she said, ‘now what? What is next for us?’
July 1 came and went. I had submitted 30 applications and had five phone interviews. No job. My health insurance ran out, but my dog was still covered by his own plan, go figure. Candace’s grandparents had a small house they rented out next to them. The previous tenant had trashed the place and they agreed to let us live there rent free if I would spend my days cleaning it. So, let’s recap. I moved my six month pregnant wife to a trashed rental with no job in sight and her working part time at a grocery store. Yeah, seems about right. Looking back, I still do not know how she kept her cool. She never let me feel like I was less of a man or I was less of a husband. This woman was amazing at the lowest point of my life.
Every morning I woke up and told myself I was going to be positive. All I could do between applications was fix the house. My wife deserved a place we could bring our son home from the hospital. In two days, I had hauled 2,500 lbs of trash to the dump from the previous tenant. The yard was a disaster with left over wooden doors everywhere, along with broken dressers and glass throughout the area. Candace would come home and I’d have a project completed and she’d tell me how great it looked and how proud she was of me. I was at the lowest point in my life and she was still proud of me…how!?
In August, Candace was almost eight months pregnant, I had another interview. This was actually my second interview at Lake-Sumter State College for their head softball coaching position. It was truly my dream job. The school was located just 45 minutes from my family and my wife’s family. Mind you, I had put in applications all over the country. My on-campus interview was on a Friday morning and when I got home I told Candace I thought it went very well and she again told me how happy she was for me and how proud she was. That night the AD called me and told me he was going to offer me the job. He said a bunch of other stuff too, but I was crying and didn’t hear a word he said. I held my wife with a waterfall of tears streaming down my face. Later that night, I made sure Candace was asleep, I checked my bank account and saw I had just $125 left to my name.
The morning of October 1st, my son’s due date, started very early. At 2 am I woke up to my wife yelling for me from the shower. Maybe she had gotten sick or something, I didn’t know. Then she explained something was happening and I needed to get up. I grabbed my phone because I had downloaded an app that keeps track of contraction times. An idea I had gotten from Taylor of all people. First one was 5:30, second was 4:47 and the third one was 2:35. ‘GET IN THE CAR NOW!’ is what came out of my mouth. Driving 85 mph down the road, it was still a 15 minute trip to the ER, but I had ‘call ahead seating’ waiting for her.
This is where life is funny and I always think of Mike Tyson. We had done the birthing classes and were prepared for a labor somewhere between 12-24 hours. Something was different though. I noticed they took her straight back to the delivery room and a nurse was getting dressed to deliver the baby. My head was racing! ‘Why are these nurses freaking out, where is the doctor, why is my wife in so much pain right now?’ Then the doctor walked in and a nurse said ‘she’s fully dilated and her water has broken,’ to which the doctor said, ‘Alright Candace, a few pushes and your baby will be here.’ Whoa, hat’s not what we were told, that’s not in the book. Then I thought about Mike Tyson. He once said, ‘Everyone has plan until they get punched in the mouth.’
Currently, it felt like I was getting punched in the mouth. Not because of the pain, I knew Candace had it worse than I could ever imagine, but in the sense of, I couldn’t do anything to fix it. The doctor told her ‘Candace, your stats are falling and so is the baby’s. You have to push now or we are going to have to do something else.’ I got as close to her ear and just told her ‘I know you’re scared, but you gotta do this for our son. I know you can do this. This is why you are going to be an amazing mom. You are the strongest person I know.’ As I am saying this, she’s pushing and pushing and then I hear someone say ‘look at all that red hair!’ He had arrived. Beckett William Miller, 8.3 lbs and 20 inches to go along with his bright red hair. I didn’t look at him right away. My first thought was to get right next to my wife and tell her how proud I was of her and how amazing she did and I just remember saying ‘You gave us our boy, you gave me a son!’ We were face to face and I was kissing her cheek and realized she had tears streaming down each side. This woman is the most amazing person. It was 61 minutes from the time she walked into the ER and our son arrived. No epidural, no pain meds, just enough time for an IV for fluids. She was incredible, she was a super hero, she was my wife. I was so overcome with emotion when the doctor said, ‘dad, do you want to cut the cord?’ I turned, saw my son and headed straight to the floor. Yep, I passed out. I didn’t hit the ground though, I latched onto the bed while a nurse got me a chair.
After watching Candace bring our son into the world, I went from loving her, to worshiping her every step. She was able to breast feed our son and also provide milk for another family so they didn’t have to use formula. Right in front of me, I watched my amazing wife became an amazing mother. It was so natural for her. I was afraid to move or do something wrong. I begged the hospital for a manual or receipt or anything before we left. Candace just knew and she taught me along the way as well.
Right before Beckett turned one, we bought a house a half mile from her parents. My birthday is nine days after Beckett’s and I was turning 30. She kept telling me how excited she was for the gift she got me. Now y’all, I love my wife, but she is not the best gift giver and that’s ok. So, I was really intrigued. Turns out she threw me a surprise party and her gift was my best friend Taylor flying in from Seattle! I turned 30 in 2016, I hadn’t seen him but for a few hours one Thanksgiving since my wedding in 2012. I cried in his arms. Love that guy.
So, let’s get back to that Sunday morning when I told my wife my best friend lives in Seattle. She looked at me dead in the eyes. That smile gone from her face. Then I tried to poke the bear a little bit and said, ‘you get to wake up next to your best friend every. Single. Day. Do you know how lucky you are!? My best friend lives a 1,000 miles away.’ Now she’s got this look like she is racking her brain with all the ways she can kill me from watching CSI all these years. Then I explained.
‘See babe, Taylor was here long before you were and we’ve been through so much. He is clearly my best friend. If something would happen to him, I would be devastated. My life would be shaken. It would take me a while, but I would eventually learn to go on. Now, if something would happened to you, my world would cease to exist from that moment on. There would not be any possibility of moving on because I wouldn’t know how. See honey, you aren’t my best friend because you are more than that. You are the singular most important person in the entire world to me. You are the greatest thing that has ever happened to me. You are my world.’
The smile had come back to her face. Slightly wider than before. Her eyes a little watery, but they had not spilled over into tears. Just then, we heard the pitter patter of our son’s feet coming down the hallway to jump in our bed. Right before he burst through the door I was able to slip my wife a quick peck on the lips.
So, now, when we are out and couples talk about being best friends, I’ll look at my wife and say ‘My best friend lives in Seattle,’ and give her a little wink.”
Read more powerful stories:
‘Oh, are you babysitting?’ ‘They’re mine.’ I’m a 30-year-old single black woman with 3 white kids. Love has no color in my home.’: Woman adopts 1 boy, 2 siblings from foster care, ‘love is love, no matter the color’