I’m fond of saying, “You never stop being a parent.” This week personifies that statement. Wednesday was Lindsey’s birthday. Friday is James’ birthday. Sunday is Father’s Day. You never forget that moment or the feeling of pride with the birth of each child. John Eunice was our first. My namesake. The first grandchild. An amazing moment. Lindsey Quinn was our second. The daughter Tammy Allbritton Eunice always wanted. I’ll never forget the look on Tammy’s face when I told her, “It’s a girl.” James David Eunice was our third. Our surprise child. We delayed leaving Athens to move to Boston to wait for him to be born. That’s the only time we ever waited on him. We chased him from that point forward.
James never slowed down. He escaped one Saturday when we lived in Boston. He was two. Tammy went for a walk with a friend that morning. James was still in a baby bed. I heard the door close a little while later. I got up a few minutes later, checked on James, and couldn’t find him anywhere. He had wandered out the front door and found a cat to play with. Two young men on their way to play golf saw him sitting on the sidewalk with the cat, and took him to the nearest house, one block over from ours. It was a frantic 30 minute search before I found him at the house, still playing with the cat. I coached John in baseball when we lived in Boston, and Tammy watched James. She chased him up and down the fenceline, and would usually come home dirtier than any of the players. We moved to Ohio, and Lindsey would chase him up and down the backyard. He ran in the house, and lost a tooth early because of it. It would be four years until his permanent tooth came in. James sat behind the backstop at John’s baseball games and would yell to his brother, “Give him the heater!”. I chased him at these ballgames. But I let him wander off to a playground at one of Lindsey’s games to play with a friend. He decided he didn’t want to play on the teeter-totter and jumped off and stood up. I heard the yell, and saw the blood. Thank God for friends who watched Lindsey while we rushed James to the emergency room. The little scar under his eye was our reminder of that one.
We moved to Guam. Everybody knew James. He was the one wearing a swimsuit with cowboy boots. We moved to Georgia from there. James’ second grade teacher wanted to put James on Ritalin. Tammy picked up the prescription. I flushed it down the toilet that night. It works and is needed for some, but we knew it was not for us. I would chase him, not medicate him. He played football, basketball, baseball, climbed trees and fished. And occasionally slept. He broke his collarbone. Our friends at Northside Baptist remember James as the one in shorts and cowboy boots running on the pews after the service. Tammy swore she would never homeschool him, because he never slowed down. That changed in fourth grade. James rode his bike all over the neighborhood. There was a hill that ran into our neighbors’, Ronnie and Gracie Wisenbaker, yard. He would come screaming down the hill through the stop sign without looking either way. Ronnie stopped him from doing that. A few years later, Gracie saw another young man doing the same thing. She asked Ronnie, “Does that remind you of James?” Ronnie said, “No. He’s going too slow.” We chased James.
After sixth grade, we moved to St. Louis and then to Sumter, South Carolina. He played basketball, baseball, soccer, and floor hockey. Tammy shuttled him to City Museum and I took him to Cardinals’ game and went to watch the Blues play hockey. He and I went to the gym together in Sumter. Tammy would drop us off, and we would plan to run back. I stayed with him for the first quarter mile or so, and he’d leave me in the dust. I chased James.
Back to Valdosta, and we chased James. To school, to church, to football, to baseball. He hunted, he fished. We tried to keep up with him. Tammy called herself a helicopter parent. We attended honors night James’ junior year because he told us at the last minute he was receiving an award. He showed up in his baseball uniform. We drove to Atlanta twice to watch him play football. We chased James. And then January 15th, 2011. Clint Eastwood produced the movie, Trouble with the Curve. This was our curve. Out of nowhere. I always had trouble in high school trying to hit a curve ball. I remember the one hit I had off a curve my senior year. It took all I had not to bail out of the box. Life is a lot like that now. Some days it takes all I have not to bail out of the box. But then there are days like today when I hear the song “Legacy,” and realize I’m still chasing James. Still chasing the example he set. James would be 24 today. We draw encouragement from how he lived, from stories shared, from old friends and new, from God who never leaves our side. We remember James’ favorite verse, Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” And so we continue on this journey, on this walk, still chasing James. Happy Birthday. I love you.