Dear Future Stella,
As promised in my birthday tribute to your Guncle, I have another important person in your life who has a birthday today who I would like to honor, your Papa, Lennis Cowell. This is your Dad’s Father and today he turns 72.
You two have always had a very special connection. You were named after his mother, who sadly you never got to meet. Lennis relishes in being a Grandfather and he has equally spoiled his 5 grandchildren. You are the baby though, and his other 4 are all grown now, so its all about Current Stella these days.
Lennis is a very well respected, tough, intimidating man. He spent his entire professional career coaching wrestling, most of it on the collegiate level. There are many men walking around this earth who would call this man their mentor, their friend, and their hero. He is a man of integrity who doesn’t like bullshit, excuses, or whiners. He survived a rough childhood, albeit with excellent parents, surrounded by uneducated people in a scary neighborhood with almost no financial resources. He was a dedicated athlete, and the sport of Wrestling saved him from a life of God knows what. Lennis obtained a college degree while wrestling at Cal Poly. Once graduated, he immediately went into the world of coaching and as soon as the opportunity presented itself, returned to Cal Poly as the head coach, where he remained until the day he retired. He even coached your Dad when he attended Cal Poly himself. He is in the Wrestling Hall of Fame and continues to be an advocate for this sport that he hopes is still around by the time you get to read these letters.
He can be terrifying and his expectations can be so high that you literally fear his wrath. His height would be considered short, but he commands the respect of a man who stands 7 feet tall. The night I met him I watched him scream into the face of a referee roughly 3 inches from his face. I was absolutely scared to death of him. By the way, the night I met him it was at a Cal Poly Home Wrestling match on Valentine’s Day. More about the romantic gestures of your father later.
It didn’t take long to see that Lennis is actually a giant mush pot that can be brought to tears at the mere mention of his wife, kids, or anyone who he loves. He is sentimental, and values family to the point of obsession. Whatever he expected his wrestlers to do out on the mat, is quadrupled when it comes to his loved ones. However, just like that ref who unjustly scored his wrestler on Valentine’s Day, he will go to battle for his family. His support comes with no strings and no freebees, he makes his kids earn their success but he is there coaching them every step of the way. It also didn’t take long to see that he has a wicked sense of humor that borders on perverted, rightfully earning his nickname Uncle Pervy. He’s the first to notice a nice set of boobs, and a week doesn’t go by without a raunchy joke email from him. He teases the crap out of everyone all the time. He loves a good prank and can take one right back. He is allergic to technology but that doesn’t stop him from always having the latest and greatest gadgets.
Your Papa is shamelessly obsessed with your Grandma. He doesn’t even try to hide his love for that woman and knows damn well who his better half is. I hope you have witnessed this fantastic example of a loving marriage. My favorite thing he does is when a song comes on at their house that he knows your Grandma likes, he stops what he is doing (even watching an important football game) to pull her away from whatever she is doing (even if it’s stuffing a Thanksgiving turkey) and dances with her, dip and all, in the middle of their kitchen. He also cannot publicly speak about her without getting choked up, even if he’s speaking to a group of ex-wrestlers, which he does every single year when he hosts a Cal Poly Alumni event. He drives her nuts half the time, but I would imagine that sweet adoration is hard to stay mad at for long. He knows where his strength comes from.
Now that your Papa is retired, he loves to golf, spend time with his family and travel. These may not sound like really unique things- don’t all retired people like to do them? Sure, but he had to work his ass off for this to be his reality. Its so great for us to see them spending their days just enjoying life. When you are in your 20’s, its easy to not think about or plan for your future. Trust me, I remember this feeling. Retirement seems so far, far away, and there is always tomorrow to start preparing for it. Life has already been so much easier for you than it was for your Papa, and so I just want you to think of him when you are making your life decisions. Are you working hard enough? You better not have any excuses for anything in your life that you wish were better. Do your loved ones know they are loved by you?
Your Papa adores you, Future Stella. You can most often be found on his lap or in his arms. I like to watch you melt into his hugs and surrender on his shoulders. He is so proud of every single thing you accomplish and relishes in just watching you play. Its quite a sight to see a man of such strength reveal their vulnerable weaknesses, and you my dear, do this like nobody else.
Future Stella, this year your Papa will turn 92, God willing. His dad lived until 93 so I really hope he’s still around for you, but life doesn’t make any guarantees except death. I know old people are not the most fun to hang out with, especially when you are 25 years old. If he’s anything like his Dad though, my guess he’s the exception to this rule. I bet he still makes you laugh. I bet he still cries. I bet he still loves just watching you be who you are. I can guarantee he still gives great hugs and that those sturdy shoulders are just as magical as they were 20 years ago. Whatever 92 looks like for him, even if its in memorium, I hope you take the time today to honor him and reflect on how lucky you are to carry on his Mother’s name.
Future Stella, I love you. Current Stella, I want to say I love you too. You have been a pretty good kid lately.