Tuesday, July 7, 2009

McNair: Midlife in Crisis

“Nothing is ever guaranteed in life,” Mechelle McNair told USA TODAY in 2003. “If I have to go out and work and put my skills to work, I can. There’s no guarantee that Steve and I are going to be together forever.”

Those words came to pass over the weekend when Steve McNair was murdered on Independence Day in his Nashville condominium. The body of 20-year-old Sahel Kazemi – a waitress whom McNair, a married father of four, was having an affair – was found dead next to his.

It marked the end of the celebrated life of the former NFL Co-MVP. Born on Valentine’s Day 1973, McNair’s death exposed his life off the field. He leaves behind Mechelle, his wife, and four children who will be haunted for life by the circumstances surrounding his death. They are left behind to ponder what others are asking-what was on his mind? How is it that he got caught up in a relationship with someone so young?

I’m no prude when it comes to matters of the heart. Those who have taken a few strolls around the block understand firsthand how easy it is to get tangled in a relationship that challenges logics. The list of reasons not to go there far outweigh the sensation that comes with having that person there to bring comfort. It could be that she or he makes you feel young again. Maybe he or she brings out something lost long ago.

In those moments of yearning it is easy to forget what is waiting back home. Those vows made before God and witnesses seem disposable when held against the gratification produced by the bond of the other person. It’s easy to forget the significance of reputation, the fulfillment of parenthood and the bliss that comes with getting old together. It is so easy to become mesmerized by the carnal draw of someone new.

Mine is not a critique of McNair’s actions as much as sadness for the anguish facing his wife and children. The life of a husband and father is bare for the world to critique. The front pages and TV gossip accounts are fuel for kin tears. The voices on the airwaves will remind them of the burden they must carry. He died like this. He decided to live for this. Why did he do this….?

The man born on Valentine’s Day leaves us pondering issues related to love. Few can judge the rise of urges to leave when the flame begins to die. How it happens is easy to understand. That it happened with McNair, and that it has happened in the lives of people we know and love, prompts dialogue on the nature of love and commitment; marriage and parenthood and the emotions stirred when the cheers of the crowd fade away and one is left to unravel what it means to have meaning when the game played has come to an end.

It’s hard to talk about the feeling of emasculation driven by years of affirmation. Years of exhilaration after each touchdown are exchanged for a life of tediousness existence. Some call this a midlife crisis. Those who endure it grapple with finding meaning after discovering the implications of change. Families suffer due to the grip of midlife. It is sad to hear children narrate the horror of adjusting to life after a parent discovers life isn’t working anymore.

Adult survivors are inundated with questions that can’t be resolved. The delicate battle to understand is convoluted enough when left within the circle of a family discussion. It becomes even harder to grasp and forgive when held within the context of a national discussion. This is the stuff that should be left for wife and children to process far removed from the media and public. Children should be left alone to remember the good while pondering the bad. This is a family matter that exposes the cruelty of change.

For the countless men and women who have walked down this path, thank God for the grace to find peace after things fall apart. Thank God for a few more days to apologize and grow beyond each mistake. McNair was denied that gift.

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