Ergo, Jackie

“I found out a long time ago… what a woman can do to your soul.”
            --Peaceful Easy Feeling. The Eagles. 1973.


She entered the world in the Nixon administration, ten days after Kent State. Jack and Jean McClaskey already had a houseful of teenagers and pre-teens. Given the age separation from her and the first five, there’s an argument to be made that she was not planned.    

But she was loved. She was supposed to be Jack E. McClaskey, Jr., but ended up as the fifth consecutive daughter.

Ergo, Jackie.

Turns out we were in the same room once, long before we met. She was student body president at K-State and led the charge for what was to become Hale Library. I was a TV news reporter, covering the bill-signing ceremony in the Statehouse. Later, she said had I been looking then, she’d have been easy to spot. Just look for the 1992-era big hair.

 Mostly, it's the purple aviators.

Mostly, it's the purple aviators.

Her work ethic borders on obsession and her passion for agriculture and young adult leaders comes naturally. She kept her father’s name to honor him. Her mother’s 90 and still comes to home K-State football games. The last few years, she’s made it a point to call her mom to debrief every Royals victory. Damn few calls in April, but Hosmer put the team on his back a couple of weeks ago.  

Neither of them second-guess the on-the-field calls or decisions. I wanna be more like her. And her mother.     

She called the other day, sick and going home, which never happens. “I can do some laundry,” feeling guilty about being home during a work day. I took her off the hook and she knew I would. Husband and wife stuff. Absolution. Forgiveness.

My God, the woman gave me time and space during the three-and-a-half years it took me to write a book, while still holding down a full-time job. In the book acknowledgments, I credited her for artistic inspiration. That’s completely legit.

She inspires me to be a better human being. I doubt I’d have had the stones to be as rigorously honest in that book, absent my wife’s moral compass and innate sense of fair play.       

She has incredibly lofty expectations of those with whom she surrounds herself, husbands included. Sometimes I fall short. She forgives me anyway. It’s forced me to up my game. I suffer from what I call ‘low idiot tolerance,’ a trait inherited from my old man. I’ve learned tolerance and patience from her. She hates repeating herself. I learn through repetition. We struggle with that one.

When we met, I was a divorced Protestant, only two years sober, with joint custody of an 8-year old. She’s a multi-generation Catholic. I converted for one reason: She wanted me to. Along the way, when the essences of Catholicism and my recovery aligned, my faith grew stronger.

She said the other day that I leapfrogged her as a Catholic. I don’t buy that. We approach our faith from different perspectives. I have lost more, which puts me able to gain more. There was no human power that could have relieved my alcoholism. Her faith was embedded early, watching her parents. Ways of being, attitudes and deeds.

I haven’t leapfrogged her. I wouldn’t even be where I am, if not for her. The longer I live, the more convinced I become that life is so much more than a random series of happy accidents.

The first time, I did not get marriage right. God gave me a second chance. It’s on me not to screw it up.

Today’s her birthday. She likes jewelry, all things canine (except ginormous poodles) and pretty much anything purple.