By now, we have all digested and dissected the death of former NFL quarterback Steve McNair. McNair’s death has been ruled a homicide at the hand of his 20-year old mistress, Sahel Kazemi; allegedly, she then positioned her body to fall across his lap and fired a single bullet into her head.
What may continue to confound us for a while, though, is the impact of his death — and life — on the role of father and husband as seen through the eyes of the sons he leaves behind.
Stories continue to abound regarding McNair’s multiple infidelities, Kazemi’s instability, the “love nest” close to the Titans stadium, but there is quite a bit that we may never know. What we can construct is that it appears to be another case of a professional athlete involved in an extramarital affair, anger/frustration/violence on the part of someone, and resultant death for both McNair and Kazemi.
McNair, 36, leaves behind one wife and four sons, at least one of whom was born either outside or prior to his marriage. What mother bore what child is irrelevant — family makeup be damned at this point.
Here is what I see, however, as perhaps the most critical question surrounding this tragedy. I can’t help but wonder what the tenor of the conversations will be when mothers are left to discuss the circumstances surrounding Dad’s death.
What positive spin can be placed on the circumstances surrounding McNair’s death – whatever the details? What is the process to ensure that his sons will not internalize the specifics of his death, but will understand that who was with whom need not be their legacy? How will his sons maintain a sense of self when seen as the offspring of a man murdered by a paramour almost half his age?
I’m a strong proponent — a warrior, if you will — promoting the banner that communication is the strategy of victory when dealing with chaotic family relationships. What strength will it take to have a positive conversation about a father labeled a champion in life but revealed, at least to some degree, lost in death?
In this case, mothers will have to communicate via a monologue. Dad’s voice, needed to explain his weaknesses and vagaries of character, has been silenced. I have no doubt that former friends, teammates, community and religious leaders, all will join to have the conversations that will remold and reshape the life of Steve McNair such that his children will see the full picture of their father. I imagine that so many will work together to ensure that his children will not forever see their father, last in a place where he need not have been and murdered by a woman he need not have engaged.
But what of the hundreds of thousands of young men whose fathers have been last hired, first fired, arrested, jailed, murdered, leaving a trail of what could have or should have been behind them? Where is the community that will work together to show them the very best of their fathers and, more critical, to show them the best of who they are.
Regardless of whose they are.
Whose son or daughter are you reshaping in conversation today?